COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Two of three Fort Carson soldiers who faced other-than-honorable discharges over the past few years say they still struggle, despite getting federal benefits to help cover medical costs, because the discharge also affects pensions and other benefits earned for service.
Joe Moore, a Maryland lawyer who argues veterans claims cases, said the agency can't change a soldier's military discharge status, but it can go ahead and award benefits.
"(The) VA doesn't like to re-characterize discharges," he said.
Jerrald Jensen and Kash Alvaro said they still struggle despite getting federal benefits to help cover medical costs. Sgt. Paul Sasse, whose case was also reviewed, moved to Washington state and declined to talk.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, says he is concerned that the Army improperly punished troops suffering from war wounds and is considering legislation that would force the Army to review past discharges for misconduct to determine if the behavior was triggered by their wounds.
"No doubt, there is a disconnect about the nature of the discharge and the ramifications relative to veterans benefits..." Coffman told the Colorado Springs Gazette.
The Army said it has a program in place to ensure that veterans get a fair hearing before an other-than-honorable discharge. The system now includes reviews for soldiers who suffered combat wounds and face misconduct discharges.
Discharge boards reviewing the dismissal of troops suffering mental illness must now by law include a mental-health professional, according to regulations passed in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.
Kash Alvaro on Sept. 22 holds his Army Commendation Medal certificate he earned while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan with Fort Carson's 4th Engineer Battalion. The decorated soldier, who suffered head injuries from a bomb in 2009, was kicked out of the Army in 2012 and is still an other-than-honorable soldier without benefits.
Photo Credit: Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP