Is the US Army Discharging Soldiers to Avoid Paying for Their Medical Care?

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The wounds of war are devastating and life-altering in ways that last long beyond the time it takes for the body to physically heal itself. Many soldiers struggle with clearly defined mental injuries—like PTSD and TBI—or with less identifiable traumas that lead can lead to problems such as substance abuse or behavioral trouble. Yet, the Army has very strict policies with regard to those problems that can end with the soldier being discharged without benefits.

Dave Philipps, a reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette, has written a series of articles that detail the stories of soldiers who’ve been questionably discharged “as the Army downsizes after a decade of war.” Philipps estimates that 76,000 troops have been kicked out of the military since 2006 and that the numbers seem to be increasing. “When injured soldiers commit crimes,” Philipps writes, “the Army rarely offers mercy, records show.” On Al-Jazeera's America Tonight, Philipps said that for soldiers who’ve served on the most active combat posts, there has been a 67 percent increase in misconduct discharges.

Other military officials and retired Army personnel have backed up Philipps’ claim. When a commander kicks a soldier out—either for misconduct or medical reasons—it’s called being “chaptered out” of the Army. If a commander goes for a “Med 200” discharge, it can take a long time before the soldier is replaced. However, if chaptered out for misconduct the soldier can be gone in less than a month. Yet, if the latter option is pursued, they lose all medical benefits even for injuries sustained in combat.

The Army staunchly denies that this is happening at all. In a statement to America Tonight the Army asserts they  do not “and will never discharge soldiers to avoid providing the needed medical care and benefits. Standards of discipline and behavior apply to every soldier, whether assigned to a unit or to a warrior-care environment.” Still there seems to be something inherently wrong about abandoning wounded warriors at all, let alone in the name of expediency.