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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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GOOD NEWS FOR VETERANS-New Regulations Promote Hiring of Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities.

On August 27, 2013, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs ("OFCCP") released its Final Rules under the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act, as amended ("VEVRAA") and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended ("Section 503"). These Final Rules are expected to substantially impact federal contractor compliance obligations under VEVRAA and Section 503 by imposing significant new reporting, records management, administrative and affirmative action obligations on contractors.

The VEVRAA Rule will require federal contractors to adopt a benchmark for hiring veterans which is to be based on the national percentage of veterans in the workforce. (that number is currently 8%) In the alternative they can set their own benchmark based on the best available data.  The rule also clarifies job listing and subcontract requirements.

The SECTION 503 Rule sets an aspirational goal for federal contractors and subcontractors that 7% of each job group in their workforce be qualified individuals with disabilities.  While the rule doesn't establish a quota, it does require contractors to take specific actions in the areas of recruitment, training, record keeping, and policy dissemination similar to those previously required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities. 

Final Rules-Just the Highlights:

VEVRAA (Veterans Regulations)

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