07/16/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/16/2019 15:25
WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today secured a commitment from Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, nominated to be Secretary of Defense, to implement Peters' bipartisan legislation to help veterans who may have been erroneously given a less than honorable discharge from the military due to negative behavior resulting from mental traumas such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
The Fairness for Veterans Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2016, directs military discharge review boards to grant larger consideration to the possibility that service-related PTSD contributed to a veteran's less than honorable discharge. Peters also received assurances from Secretary Esper that if confirmed, he would work to shorten the over year long wait time many veterans have experienced while appealing for discharge status upgrades.
During Esper's confirmation hearing, Peters-a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves - said, 'In 2014, Secretary Hagel issued new guidance for upgrading certain discharges to honorable. The Hagel policy directed review boards to give 'liberal consideration' to the possibility that PTSD contributed to a veteran's less than honorable discharge. That is why I introduced legislation to codify the principles of the Hagel policy into law. The Fairness for Veterans Act was included as Section 535 of the FY17 NDAA… I think you [Secretary Esper] would agree that troops that are suffering from mental trauma associated with their service should not have their records tarnished over an episode of misconduct that may be related to the trauma that they're actually suffering from. So my question to you, sir, is can I get your assurance that this law will be executed as intended under your leadership, if confirmed?'
Esper said: 'Yes, sir. As you described it, it seems to make eminent sense. From my time in uniform - of course, I spent my time in war - I know the impacts. I think that things like that go a long way to signaling that we understand that these things happen, that damage, harm is not just physical - it can be mental. It also goes a long way for us addressing any stigmatization with regard to mental health issues.'
Click here for Peters' full exchange with Secretary Esper.
Peters has long supported efforts in Congress to expand veterans' services and support our servicemembers. Last month, the Senate passed the national defense bill including numerous bipartisan provisions Peters led or supported, including a 3.1% pay raise for servicemembers, addressing issues with privatized military housing and addressing the PFAS crisis that has affected too many servicemembers and their families. Peters also helped introduce a bipartisan bill to help reserve component members of the United States Armed Forces - including members of the Reserves and National Guard - receive the benefits they have earned following their retirement or completion of service.