At least 125,000 post-9/11 veterans have been denied services by the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a new report.
Roughly 6.5 percent of post-9/11 veterans, including more than 33,000 who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, are not receiving benefits such as healthcare, housing help for the homeless, and disability services, because they have "bad paper" discharges, the report found, according to Stars and Striped.
The report, which was released on March 30, was put together by two veteran advocacy groups -- the National Veterans Legal Services Program and Swords to Plowshares -- with assistance from Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic.
“Veterans who have served since 9/11 are being excluded from the VA at a higher rate than any other generation of veterans,” Dana Montalto, the study’s author and a Liman Fellow with the Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic, said, Stars and Stripes reports.
“They’re being denied very basic services.”
The study finds that some of the "bad paper" veterans, who left service with less-than-honorable discharges, are not being provided benefits because, in part, the VA’s rules contradict the original GI Bill of Rights passed by Congress in 1944.
The congressional law states that all veterans who leave service without a bad conduct discharge shall receive benefits, but the VA is labeling "bad paper" veterans as ineligible for benefits.
Some of the veterans were removed from service because of mental health issues, and others are disabled.
The report reviewed 70 years of data from the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, The New York Times notes.
It found that post-9/11 veterans were nearly twice as likely to be denied benefits than those who served during Vietnam, and four times more likely than veterans of World War II.
“It has gotten worse with every generation, and it appears to hit the veterans Congress intended to protect,” Bradford Adams, a lawyer and an author of the report, told The Times. “They knew these folks had been through combat, and wanted to make sure they had help. The V.A. doesn’t seem to be doing that.”
Upon release of the report, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson released a statement in which he praised its findings.
“I believe the report provides us, as a department, an opportunity to do a thorough review, take a fresh look this issue and make changes to help veterans,” Gibson said, according to Stars and Stripes. “Where we can better advocate for and serve veterans within the law and regulation, we will look to do so as much as possible.”
Swords and Plowshares has filed a petition for the VA to have their regulations on veterans with les than honorable discharges revised. Before issuing a legally required response, the VA said it is reviewing the organization’s recommendations.