TO MY FELLOW LAWYERS: IT’S OUR TURN TO DEFEND THOSE WHO DEFEND US
“One of the most invisible and devastating costs of the post 9/11 wars for United States veterans is the denial of benefits and services to a growing portion of former service members who are most in need of support. An increasing percentage of veterans have been discharged from the military in such a way as to leave them effectively ineligible to receive Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare, veteran benefits such as education and housing support, and other resources. Colloquially referred to as “bad papers,” these discharges have seen a sharp spike since 9/11, with almost six percent of the entire veteran population of this era excluded from care in comparison with one percent of such discharges among post-WWII veterans.
“These military discharges are often the result of minor disciplinary infractions that are actually symptomatic of trauma sustained during military service. An example of a “bad paper” discharge would be a service member suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injury who is administratively discharged by his or her Commanding Officer for self-medication with drugs or alcohol. . . .”
“Veterans who received bad-paper discharges are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 23.2% of veterans in prison and 33.2% of veterans in jail were discharged with bad-paper, compared to less than 5% of the total veterans population.”
“. . . The VA created a Veteran Justice Outreach (VJO) program with staff who provide case management and other supportive services to veterans to help them avoid unnecessary incarceration. However, the VJO Program can only assist VA-eligible veterans, . . . one-third of Veteran Treatment Courts do not allow veterans who are not “VA eligible” to participate in their programs at all.”
Legal Services Center, Harvard University, National Veterans Legal Services Program, & Swords to Ploughshares. (2016, March). Underserved: How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper. Cambridge, MA: Harvard. https://law.yale.edu/system/files/area/center/liman/document/underserved_liman_program.pdf