WASHINGTON — A proposal by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., to help make sure traumatized troops retain their veterans benefits passed the Senate on a voice vote Tuesday.
Peters, along with several other senators, had requested the measure as an addition to the annual National Defense Authorization Act. If it is part of the final law at passage, it would write into law a policy that Discharge Review Boards consider petitions to change the discharge status of service members if they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental trauma linked to their military service.
"This amendment will help ensure veterans are treated fairly when petitioning their discharge status, and in turn, upholds America's commitment to our men and women in uniform, who answered the call of duty in defense of our nation," said Peters, a former lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve.
Other senators proposing the amendment were Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; and Thom Tillis, R-N.C. The measure now will be considered as part of the overall defense authorization act, which still has to be passed by the Senate before differences are hammered out between its version and that passed by the House.
Peters also proposed the measure last year as a way to make sure traumatized veterans who were dishonorably discharged for minor infractions can effectively petition the military to change their status and keep their veterans benefits. Being dishonorably discharged can cost service members benefits such as being eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs home loans.
Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in 2014 issued a memo to military records boards to provide for a consistent manner of dealing with veterans' discharge upgrade requests related to PTSD. This change from Peters and the others would effectively codify that memo.