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June 27, 2023

King, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Veterans with Mental Traumas

WASHINGTON, DC –U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC), along with Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Thom Tillis (R-NC), has introduced bipartisan legislation to help veterans who received a less than honorable discharge due to behavior tied to service-related mental conditions. Currently, veterans can appeal their discharge status and access the full benefits of an honorable discharge, however, data shows that veterans who make these requests involving mental health concerns are only successful 10-20% of the time. The Discharge Review Board Accountability Act would study the current reconsideration process and make suggestions for how it can improve.

“America has a solemn responsibility to care for the men and women who sacrificed for our nation,” said Senator King. “Unfortunately, the invisible scars of service have held some veterans back from receiving the benefits, support, and recognition they deserve. This bipartisan effort will help give better consideration to those with other-than-honorable discharges by improving how we evaluate the impacts of service-related traumas. I appreciate the partnership of my colleagues on this effort, and look forward to our continued work to serve America’s veterans.”

In 2016, the bipartisan Fairness for Veterans Act was signed into law requiring that Discharge Review Boards give fair consideration to veterans petitioning to change their discharge status to honorable if the servicemember had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), military sexual trauma (MST), or other mental health conditions connected to their military service. Unfortunately, the review process has not worked as effectively as it was designed to in 2019. The Discharge Review Board Accountability Act would help improve review board compliance with the Fairness for Veterans Act and several other existing Department of Defense (DoD) memoranda by directing the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study and report back to Congress on recommendations to ensure fair consideration for veterans who struggled with mental health conditions during their service.

The Government Accountability Office study required by the Senators’ Discharge Review Board Accountability Act would include:

  1. Assessment of the Discharge Review Boards’ compliance with the Fairness for Veterans provision;
  2. Data on the percentage of cases considered by Discharge Review Boards that reference armed forces policies requiring fair consideration or the memos discussing it;
  3. Barriers that appear to prevent Discharge Review Boards from employing fair consideration;
  4. Recommendations for reforms that would improve Discharge Review Boards’ implementation of the Fairness for Veterans provision.

Representing a state with one of the highest rates of veterans per capita, Senator King is a strong advocate for America’s servicemembers and veterans. Senator King is a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where he works to ensure American veterans receive their earned benefits and that the VA is properly implementing various programs such as the PACT Act, the State Veterans Homes Domiciliary Care Flexibility Act, and the John Scott Hannon Act. Earlier this month, King celebrated President Biden signing his legislation into law, which increases benefits for veterans and military families.

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