Ft. Carson Soldiers Punished for Mental-Health Problems

Soldiers who experience mental-health problems upon returning from Iraq are sometimes punished by the U.S. Army, National Public Radio reported Tuesday. NPR investigated the treatment of Ft. Carson soldiers who reported problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The investigation found soldiers experiencing mental-health issues don’t receive the help they need, are often harrassed and are sometimes kicked out of the Army.

But, the Army usually gives another reason for dismissal because soldiers discharged for mental-health problems are entitled to special benefits. Instead, soldiers are discharged for “patterns of misconduct.” From the report:

Evidence suggests that officials are kicking soldiers with PTSD out of the Army in a manner that masks the problem.

Richard Travis, formerly the Army’s senior prosecutor at Ft. Carson, is now in private practice. He says that the Army has to pay special mental-health benefits to soldiers discharged due to PTSD. But soldiers discharged for breaking the rules receive fewer or even no benefits, he says.

Alex Orum’s medical records showed that he had PTSD, but his officers expelled him from the Army earlier this year for “patterns of misconduct,” repeatedly citing him on disciplinary grounds. In Orum’s case, he was cited for such infractions as showing up late to formation, coming to work unwashed, mishandling his personal finances and lying to supervisors — behaviors which psychiatrists say are consistent with PTSD.

Sergeant Nathan Towsley told NPR, “When I’m dealing with Alex Orum’s personal problems on a daily basis, I don’t have time to train soldiers to fight in Iraq. I have to get rid of him, because he is a detriment to the rest of the soldiers.”

Doctors diagnosed another soldier named Jason Harvey with PTSD. At the end of May this year, Harvey slashed his wrists in a cry for help. Officials also kicked Harvey out a few months ago for “patterns of misconduct.”

A therapist diagnosed Tyler Jennings with PTSD in May, but the Army’s records show he is being tossed out because he used drugs and missed formations. Files on other soldiers suggest the same pattern: Those who seek mental-health help are repeatedly cited for misconduct, then purged from the ranks.

Most of these soldiers are leaving the Army with less than an “honorable discharge” — which an Army document warns “can result in substantial prejudice in your civilian life.” In other words, the Army is pushing them out in disgrace.