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Pentagon Continues to Use “Personality Disorder” Discharges to Cheat Veterans Out of Benefits

* By Sherwood Ross *

An army sergeant who had received 22 honors including a Combat Action Badge prior to being wounded in Iraq by a mortar shell was told he was faking his medical symptoms and subjected to abusive treatment until he agreed to a “personality disorder”(PD) discharge.

After a doctor with the First Cavalry division wrote he was out for “secondary gain,” Chuck Luther was imprisoned in a six- by eight-foot  isolation chamber, ridiculed by the guards, denied regular meals and showers and kept awake by perpetual lights and blasting heavy metal music—abuses similar to the punishments inflicted on terrorist suspects by the CIA.

“They told me I wasn’t a real soldier, that I was a piece of crap. All I wanted was to be treated for my injuries,” 12-year veteran Luther told reporter Joshua Kors of “The Nation” magazine (April 26th). “Now suddenly I’m not a soldier. I’m a prisoner, by my own people. I felt like a caged animal in that room. That’s when I started to lose it.” The article is called “Disposable Soldiers: How the Pentagon is Cheating Wounded Vets.”

Luther had been seven months into his deployment at Camp Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad, when a mortal shell exploded at the base of his guard tower that knocked him down, slamming his head into the concrete. “I remember laying there in a daze, looking around, trying to figure out where I was at,” he said. Luther suffered permanent hearing loss in his right ear, tinnitus, agonizing headaches behind his right eye, severe nosebleeds, and shoulder pain.

The sergeant took a Chapter 5-13 PD discharge in order to escape his confinement, becoming one of 22,600 soldiers so separated since 2001, a discharge that relieves the Pentagon of the responsibility and cost of long-term care for the wounded. An Army major told Luther to sign the discharge papers or “you’re going to be here a lot longer.” Luther recalled, “They had me broke down. At that point, I just wanted to get home.” Many of the PD discharge recipients are soldiers who have served two and three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, author Kors writes.

Sgt. Angel Sandoval, who served under Luther, said Luther’s insistence on his wearing ceramic plates strapped to his bulletproof vest saved his life and described Luther as “one of the greatest leaders I had.” Yet this is the man the Army imprisoned when he requested medical treatment. “This should have been resolved during the Bush administration. And it should have been stopped now by the Obama administration,” Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, is quoted as saying about PD discharges. “The fact that it hasn’t is a national disgrace.”

Luther’s case is no isolated example, writes Kors, noting that in the past three years “The Nation” has uncovered more than two dozen such cases. “All the soldiers were examined, deemed physically and psychologically fit, then welcomed into the military. All performed honorably before being wounded during service…Yet after seeking treatment for their wounds, each soldier was diagnosed with a pre-existing personality disorder, then discharged and denied benefits,” Kors writes.

This past December, he reports, VA doctors found Luther to be suffering from migraine headaches, vision problems, dizziness, nausea, difficulty hearing, numbness, anxiety and irritability—and diagnosed him with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, declaring the veteran 80 percent disabled. The diagnosis cleared the way for the sergeant to receive disability benefits and lifetime medical care.

With his health improving, Luther has vowed to fight the military on behalf of other soldiers who got a raw deal like himself.  He founded Disposable Warriors, a one-soldier operation near Fort Hood, Texas,  that assists soldiers fighting their discharge and those appealing their disability rating, Kors reports. Luther says the base had 12 suicides last year as of June 2nd but reported only two. Luther is quoted in a November 21, 2009, article on “Truthout” as saying there is only one mental health professional for every 1,263 soldiers “and that is the first failure.”

After opening Disposable Warriors, Luther found a threatening note on his car windshield that read: “Back off or you and your family will pay!!” Whoever wrote that note doesn’t know Chuck Luther very well. #
#
(A U.S. Air Force veteran, Sherwood Ross is a free-lance writer and publicist residing in Coral Gables, Fla. He formerly reported for the Chicago Daily News and worked as a wire service columnist. Reach him at sherwoodross10@gmail.com.)

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Posted by on Apr 20 2010, With 0 Reads, Filed under Military. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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27 Comments for “Pentagon Continues to Use “Personality Disorder” Discharges to Cheat Veterans Out of Benefits”

  1. Can you please take a moment to sign this petition? We are getting some momentum and could really use your help! WE THE PEOPLE can make a difference!

    Please pass this on to your friends.
    A facebook page http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=110053505698279 has been created and now we have a web site: stoppersonalitydisorder.com

    PETITION LINK: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/stop-personality-disorder-discharges-for-our-wounded-soldiers

  2. I’M NOT BUYING THIS—-AT ALL!!

  3. As a rough rule of the thumb, any veteran who has performed well for two years in the military DOES NOT have a personality disorder. Reagan brought in the 2 year rule precisely to weed out the personality disorder types that invaded the Hollow Army in the late 70’s. Anyone who has survived a years combat duty with good and courageous behavior likewise is MOST UNLIKELY to have PD by reliable criteria. (DSM IV) People can exhibit some odd behaviors, quirks and worse from head injuries, unrecognized PTSD and chemical exposure. To diagnose them as PD is bad psychiatry and worse: unethical. You should be able to find psychiatrists or psychologists thru one of the better VSOs who will evaluate you; you can also go to the Vet Centers that can help with these flawed discharges.
    This note comes from a retired VA psychiatrist and reservist who still volunteers at a VA MEDICAL CENtER.

  4. I know that living here in California, the only lawyers I could find to represent me was either in Michigan, or Florida.. I hired the one in Florida… After dealing with the VA through the worthless American Legion in Los Angeles for over 9 years on my own, if finally desided to try it whith the help of a lawyer now… I know that giving up 20% is costly, but at this point it’s more about the point than it is the money… They have had me jumping through hoopes with apeal after apeal, I did find out one thing though, if you do finally do get a hearing with a live person, your chances of winning in much higher, but even if you do get something service connected they still make you do more jumping to get a % rateing..
    EXAMPLE: I have had 3 heart attacks, with other complications, finally after 5 years of going back and forth, they finally made my cardio service connected, but as secondary to my PTSD which is only 30%, but with NO increase… So now I have two appeals pending, and sitting on someones desk for over 3 years now…
    As of 4 months ago I put it in the lawyers hands and they seem pretty sure that they can get me the increase that I should be getting for the past 9 years, minus 20% of corse…. It’s like they force you to either loose interest, or go out on a limb and hire a lawyer in order to get through the system, and don’t bother sending letters to anyone in Washington, save your money, NO ONE cares there either…

  5. ANOTHER PROBLEM ARISES EVEN AFTER YOU GET YOUR BENEFITS THE VETERANS ADMINSTRATION IN COLLBORATION WITH THE VETERANS HEALTH ADMINSTRATION IN THE DES MOINES IOWA REGIONAL OFFICE WILL DISCOURAGE YOU FROM HANDLING YOUR OWN BENFITS WITHOUT A CONSERVATOR OR FUDIARY;WILL NOT RELEASE YOUR BENEFITS WITHOUT AN ASSIGNED CONSERVATOR AN WILL SEEK TOTAL CONTROL OVER HOW YOUR V.A. MOINES WILL BE HANDLED:ANOTHER PLOY TOO DISCUARAGE VETERANS AFTER THEY RECEIVE BENEFITS HERE IN CENTRAL IOWA:THE SAD PART IS YOU CANNOT GET LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE IN THE STATE OF IOWA TOO FIGHT THEM IN COURT BECAUSE THE CONSERVATOR IS AN WHITE-COLLAR CRIMMINAL ATTORNEY:ITS TOTALLY RIGGED IF YOUR REQUIRED TOO GET AN CONSERVATOR AN AN APPOINTTED GUARDIAN BY THE V.A. AN A.H.A.

  6. We need to start putting these ass holes in prison, starting with Bush jr, and that sick f–k Cheney, and than work down the list.. They together have killed and wounded more people than any others in history over LIES and for the the sake of putting more money in their pockets.
    If this isn’t war crimes, than nothing is… A decade of all this is going to mean decades of suffering for all involved…. And they have the balls to complain about the care costs, they should have thought about that in the beginning…
    Between the contractors, and wall street, they can pay for everything with money to spare…. Let them pay for it, they profited from these worthless actions…

    • THERE IS THE LEGAL ACTION BEING TAKEN IVE MAIL THEM THOUSAND OF DOLLARS TOO FIGHT BUSH AN CHENEY:GOTOO>WWW.INDICT BUSH:THEY HAVE THEYRE OWN WEB-SITE AN HAVE A WASHINGTON D.C. OFFICE:

  7. Just how deep is pile of crap going to finally be???
    How many of the worthless desk jockeys in Washington are real combat veterans???
    I’d bet the farm NONE of them….
    This country Is in worst shape than we all realize, It doesn’t matter what side of the isle they are on, it all come down to the all mighty DOLLAR… How they live with them selves knowing what kind of low life crap they pull on their fellow man just to put that all mighty DOLLAR in their fat ass bank accounts…
    I don’t care how many stars, and how many medals these jerks wear on their chests, to let this kind of thing go on is nothing short of a DISCRACE to their uniforms and the thought of the idea that they are the ones incharge is sickning…
    They shoud all be put in a federal prison, for the rest of their life….

  8. Good post, S.R.; I know exactly where Luther is coming from. Luther has no idea what he has in store for himself (medically) down the road. But the military Dr. who wrote that “nasty” entry does. He should be criminally charged.

    Tom Texas Vet, 1st Cav Div

  9. 1.) Company Commanders don’t want a soldier/Marine under their command discharged honorably with PTSD, it still looks bad on their OER.
    2.) The chain of command utilizes PD discharges because its painless for the admin staff, easier and quicker than actually doing their jobs to protect the affected personnel by DOING THE RIGHT THING.
    3.) The stigma of PTSD is still a silent pariah in the military. “Weakness” might be contagious and NO ONE with a career ahead of them wants to get involved in properly treating the affected personnel. For some twisted sense of logic, its easier to ignore the symptoms and deny the disease.
    4.) BN IG’s should be monitoring troops with PD paperwork processing before they are discharged to accurately gauge a proper course of action. Fat chance that will happen any time soon. Data will be manipulated to protect careers, not the
    troops who need counseling, therapy, excellent medical care ( TBIs) and better
    respect.

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