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Rice Law Office Blog

This blog reviews important legal issues including: personal injury, employee compensation, workers compensation, discrimination and wrongful termination.

U.S. Military Mishandling Mental Illness

U.S. Military Mishandling Mental Illness

Is the U.S. military in the dark ages when it comes to the treatment of mental health illnesses among its veterans? Some critics would say yes based on its recent discharge rates of veterans suffering from mental health disorders for alleged “misconduct”.

Since 2009 the U.S. military has discharged over 22,000 soldiers for misconduct when in fact, they may have only been displaying expected symptoms caused by their military service and injury.

These dismissals come despite a law passed in 2009 requiring that the military consider carefully whether the misconduct leading to discipline was a manifestation of a service related injury such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Further, this is happening despite the devastating impact which this kind of dismissal has on veterans. Dismissal for misconduct results in the loss of health and retirement benefits and can make it very difficult for these veterans to find future employment.

The irony is that these are the very soldiers who are most in need of these benefits. Instead of giving them the care and support they need in the wake of their service and injury, the military is abandoning them according to an NPR story titled Missed Treatment and released in October of 2015. The NPR piece examined the military’s treatment of veterans suffering from mental health conditions and found that despite the 2009 law, dismissals of these veterans for “misconduct” are still widespread. 

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PTSD and Employment for Veterans Returning Home

PTSD and Employment for Veterans Returning Home

A recent ruling from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has expanded protections to allow for extended recovery for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The decision from the Eleventh Circuit Court means that protections for injury or illness must now include PTSD. Employers are required to accommodate veterans who need extended recovery time for PTSD, reflecting the growing appreciation and recognition for this serious challenge.

The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs estimates that between 11% and 20% of all U.S. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. Department of Defense data indicates that 2.5 million men and women were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2013, meaning there are 275,000-500,000 veterans who have struggled with PTSD as a result of the two conflicts. 

Military veterans enjoy certain protections and privileges when it comes to reemployment following a period of military service. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) all enshrine this status in statutory law. 

Under USERRA, an employee returning from a period of uniformed service lasting longer than 180 days has 90 days to apply for reemployment following the completion of their service, at which point the employer must allow the returning employee to resume work.

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