Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced supplemental guidance to military records boards to ensure consistency in considering veterans’ discharge upgrade requests related to post-traumatic stress disorder, Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren told Pentagon reporters today.
“Recent attention has been focused on the petitions of Vietnam veterans to upgrade their discharges based on claims of unrecognized post-traumatic stress disorder,” Warren said. “In these cases, post-traumatic stress was not recognized as a diagnosis at the time of service, and in many cases, diagnoses were not made until decades after service was completed.”
This supplemental guidance, Warren said, issued in a DoD memorandum, applies to veterans who assert that they suffered post-traumatic stress related to their service.
“It will help review boards ensure fair and consistent results across the military services and ease the application process for veterans who are seeking redress,” he said.
The DoD memo says the supplemental guidance is not intended to interfere with or impede the Military Department Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records’ statutory independence to correct errors or remove injustices through the correction of military records, and that it will help to ensure consistency across the military services.
Hagel notes in the memo that the boards are neither courts nor investigative agencies. Therefore, he wrote, his supplemental guidance details medical considerations, mitigating factors and procedures for review.
According to the memo, the policy guidance also will assist the boards in carefully considering every petition brought regarding discharge upgrade requests by veterans claiming post-traumatic stress disorder, including a comprehensive review of all materials and evidence provided by the petitioner.
Hagel’s guidance also mandates liberal waivers of time limits, ensures timely consideration of petitions, and allows for increased involvement of medical personnel in board determinations.
The defense secretary’s guidance also provides in petitions for changes in characterization of service, boards should give liberal consideration to service treatment record entries that document one or more symptoms that meet the diagnostic criteria of post-traumatic stress disorder or related conditions.
Hagel has directed the military services to implement his guidance within 45 days.
"This is our responsibility and the right thing to do for veterans," Hagel said. "This new guidance reflects our commitment to those who served our country during times of war many decades ago."
(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallDoDNews)