Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13

A very interesting article came out through The Nation magazine titled, "How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits" by Joshua Kors. Within the article the reader learns how Specialist Town was discharged from the Army after several months recuperating from a near fatal run-in with a rocket in Ramadi, Iraq. Three years pass by and both the Army and Jon Town realize that he will not be making his way back to active duty. One would presume that suffering great physical harm from a rocket attack would logically need some form of medical disability or benefits from the military, but that is where the story changes.

Enter Regulation 635-200 of the United States Army, Chapter 5 section 13 (PDF link, page 66 of the PDF | page 52 in the manual). That section follows:
5–13. Separation because of personality disorder Under the guidance in chapter 1, section II, a soldier may be separated for personality disorder (not amounting to disability (see AR 635–40)) that interferes with assignment or with performance of duty, when so disposed as indicated in a, below.
a. This condition is a deeply ingrained maladaptive pattern of behavior of long duration that interferes with the soldier’s ability to perform duty. (Exceptions: combat exhaustion and other acute situational maladjustments.) The diagnosis of personality disorder must have been established by a psychiatrist or doctoral-level clinical psychologist with necessary and appropriate professional credentials who is privileged to conduct mental health evaluations for the DOD components. It is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) of Mental Disorders, 4th edition.
b. Commanders will not take action prescribed in this chapter in lieu of disciplinary action solely to spare a soldier who may have committed serious acts of misconduct for which harsher penalties may be imposed under the UCMJ.
c. Separation because of personality disorder is authorized only if the diagnosis concludes that the disorder is so severe that the soldier’s ability to function effectively in the military environment is significantly impaired. Separation for personality disorder is not appropriate when separation is warranted under chapters 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, or 18 of this regulation; AR 380–67; or AR 635–40.
d. Nothing in this paragraph precludes separation of a soldier who has such a condition for other reasons authorized by this regulation.
e. Separation processing may not be initiated under this paragraph until the soldier has been counseled formally concerning deficiencies and has been afforded ample opportunity to overcome those deficiencies as reflected in appropriate counseling or personnel records. (See para 1–16.)
f. When it has been determined that separation under this paragraph is appropriate, the unit commander will take the actions specified in the notification procedure. (See chap 2, sec I.)
g. For separation authority, see paragraph 1–19.
h. The service of a soldier separated per this paragraph will be characterized as honorable unless an entry-level separation is required under chapter 3, section III. Characterization of service under honorable conditions may be awarded to a soldier who has been convicted of an offense by general court-martial or who has been convicted by more than one special court-martial in the current enlistment, period of obligated service, or any extension thereof.

The premise is that if the soldier has a mental disorder unrelated to injuries sustained in combat then the Army need not follow through with medical benefits and treatment, but may discharge the individual nonetheless on said disorder. By the article, the way this regulation is being presented to wounded veterans is as follows: A doctor tells the veteran, "You can get out of the service if we discharge you on a personality disorder. You'll keep your benefits and keep the signing bonus, too. It is just quicker this way." If that were true and documented, that in itself is an epic tragedy to the wounded soldier as they do not keep VA medical benefits with such a discharge, and some face the prospect of owing the Army money because they will have to return a portion of a signing bonus based on time served in the Army.

From the article:
"In the last six years the Army has diagnosed and discharged more than 5,600 soldiers because of personality disorder, according to the Defense Department. And the numbers keep rising: 805 cases in 2001, 980 cases in 2003, 1,086 from January to November 2006. "It's getting worse and worse every day," says the official who handles discharge papers. "At my office the numbers started out normal. Now it's up to three or four soldiers each day. It's like, suddenly everybody has a personality disorder." "

And across all armed forces, 22,500 soldiers have been discharged in this manner. While there are certainly cases to find where the individual soldier, sailor, or marine had a real disorder which could be cause for the 5-13 discharge, it appears there are going to be several cases where veterans are being whisked out of service to save benefit costs to the Department of Defense.

If one is not for the quagmire in Iraq, it takes little intelligence or humanity to understand that those who dedicate themselves to the military need better treatment and care than this. There was the obvious case of neglect at Walter Reed Hospital which was quickly seized upon by the national media outlets, but something innocuous such as this might not make the headlines. It is imperative that further investigations be conducted into the matter to ensure that the Administration is honoring the promises of those it sends into harm's way.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Scandals Until 2009 And Beyond

While the President fought vigorously to hold on to the reigns of power in 2004 and succeeded, it may have been a better plan to exit after just one term and avoid the nearly daily barrage of new charges, whistle blowers, and scandalous revelations that now fill the press. Many of these scuttlebutts which were only hinted at during the latter part of the first term are now open to the public.

Contorted pre-invasion intelligence; perverted reconstruction contracts and oversight in Iraq; revisions of scientific information; abuse of civil liberties on the basis of extra security; breaching a CIA agent's cover for political retribution; secret illegal wire-tapping; the FBI and National Security Letters; and the firing of 8 U.S. Attorneys for political motives. All of these might have been swept under the rug or not have happened had President Bush lost. Yet now they all sit in a pile on the desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue awaiting a Congressional investigation, of which there are many coming.

Of the recent two-term Presidents, all have had their most serious issues in the second term (which makes sense, since if a President has their worst issue during the first term, they are more than likely not to be rewarded with a second 4-year term). Reagan, Clinton, and Nixon, took severe bruisings and suffered humiliation while presiding over the last four years and obviously in the case of Nixon, not seeing the last years at all. On the surface with President George W. Bush, the tight seal that the Administration kept on all political and operational details prevented the public and Congress from knowing what it was doing. As the lid has come off (most recently with the I. Lewis Libby trial, the Justice Department's rebuke of the FBI's handling of National Security Letters, and Justice's own dilemma with the firing of non-compliant attorneys) the White House must concentrate more and more effort on defending itself and less time from actually accomplishing political goals.

If this near-term history is a measuring stick, the modern President who successfully claims a second term has at most five years of time to move the national debate - beyond that there is little room left to breathe before the subpoenas come strolling in. This President should see a fair share of them quite soon.

Friday, March 09, 2007

NSL - (Not To Be Confused With SNL)

Glenn Greenwald has yet another excellent post regarding the National Security Letters the Federal Bureau of Investigations have been issuing since the Patriot Act's inception. With the report from the Justice Department investigation it appears the FBI has been playing a little bit loose with the rules regarding the issuance of said NSLs.