Servicemembers Lose Benefits after Improper Discharges for Alleged Personality Disorders

By Stephen Spotswood

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military continues to use improper processes to diagnose significant numbers of servicemembers with pre-existing personality disorders (PD) and then discharge them, according to government documents obtained by an advocacy group.

The Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) cited new documents released from DoD under the Freedom of Information Act to show the problem is continuing and may be increasing. Personality disorders are considered pre-existing conditions, and servicemembers discharged with those diagnoses are ineligible for financial or medical benefits.

VVA and other veterans’ advocates have spent years advocating reform of DoD’s procedure for identifying and diagnosing PD, contending the disorder can be confused with service-connected mental-health conditions. They also maintain that improper diagnosis of PD has cut hundreds, perhaps thousands, of servicemembers off from the benefits and healthcare services they are owed.

According to a report released by VVA that breaks down information the organization obtained from DoD, the number of PD discharges may be going up, and many of those discharges are still being conducted improperly.


Recruits go on patrol during basic training at Fort Jackson, SC, earlier this year.
Even if recruits meet the physical rigors, they could be forced out of the military
because of improper diagnoses of personality disorders. Photo by Air Force Staff
Sgt. Shawn Weismiller

Wrongful Discharges

Personality disorders are a class of mental-health disorder characterized by individuals’ inflexible, socially inappropriate behaviors across diverse situations. It cannot be caused by any other major psychiatric disorder, medical disorder or substance abuse. Neither is it necessarily incompatible with military service but deemed that only when it interferes with the proper execution of a servicemember’s duties.

In 2008, after a series of reports in the media about the inappropriate use of PD discharges by DoD physicians, including allegations that the diagnoses were made to cut down on benefit costs, Congress asked DoD to establish a moratorium on  PD discharges. 

According to DoD documents, 31,000 servicemembers were separated from the military with a PD diagnosis between FY 2001 and FY 2010. Records obtained by VVA and investigations conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicate that hundreds of these discharges were done in violation of DoD instructions establishing protections against wrongful discharge.

According to VVA’s report, those wrongful — or at least poorly conducted — discharges are continuing. One Navy report on 2008-2009 PD discharges states only that only 8.9% of PD discharges were properly processed.

A 2008 GAO investigation had looked at a sample of soldiers discharged for PD and found that between 22% and 60% of those had not actually been diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist as having a PD that interfered with their duties. Additionally, 60% of them never received counseling about their PD before leaving the service.

The report concluded that the military had no way of confirming that military commanders were meeting DoD separation requirements.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Sgt. Austin Bell says:

    Are there groups who defend soldiers whose “command” knowingly
    and willfully commit such actions as recommending “personality discharges”
    to cause Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

    • Matthew says:

      If you feel there is a deeper issue such as depression/PTSD, you will have to do a lot of research on your own behalf to make the case that the discharge is unjust. This happened to me and I was eventually able to make contact with the Wounded Warrior Project, they were able to advocate for me and eventually got my admin sep overturned so I could have a Medical Evaluation Board package submitted.

    • Susanne says:

      actually there is. me and my husband have just submitted all the paperwork to them to hope they will take the case.
      http://www.nvlsp.org/what-we-do/lawyers-serving-warriors/ this is there website…

      I have done some researches myself the past 3-4weeks on how the BCMR changes the narrative and the REC.. You really need to be prepared and have sufficient evidence if you want to fight the PD discharge… But in most cases the BCMR will change the narrative reason to ‘secretarial authority’ which should help finding proper employment without the PD stamp on your DD214

    • SrA Dawson says:

      Yes, there are multiple organizations out there. I had to find them myself after being retaliated against by a Maj in mental health because I requested for a different provider after she violated HIPAA, DoD regulations, & AFIs and tried to cover it up. Some of these organizations include Disposable Warriors, who Chuck Luther is the founder of. He is personal victim of being wrongfully discharge for PD in a combat zone and was tortured by our own military to sign documents stating he agreed to the discharge. He has been more beneficial to me then any other organization. There is also the CMRN and IG Rights Hotline. If you go to joshuakors.com/military there is numerous amounts of info that may be able to help you. Another list of resources can be found on his site under: joshuakors.com/list. Hope this information helps.

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    Servicemembers Lose Benefits after Improper Discharges for Alleged Personality Disorders : U.S. Medicine

  3. Guy Gambill says:

    You may want to check out the Uniformed Services Justice & Advocacy Group (USJAG).

  4. Eliot says:

    I received a PD discharge in 88. This hasn’t prevented employment or caused other problems.
    However, I received the remainder of my reenlistment bonus after separation.
    Mine was a way for my command to cheat me since I wouldn’t give in to the politics and bullshit to which I was subjected. I challenged another administrative discharge and they went with this. There was no shrink involved…just personnel stamps on the paperwork.
    I’m applying to the VA for benefits…do you them it will create a problem?

  5. Greg A says:

    I have been dealing with this same issue for close to 20yrs, over wounds from Nam. Said what happened to me wasn’t ‘traumatic’ enough. Well the 4 months I spent in 3 different hospital was traumatic to me. Ended up calling the DC headquarters of the DAV saying that I was getting the run around from the local office. 3 days later every thing started to change, hopefully for the better. In that I never saw, talked to or knew a phys. until 3 years after I retired….

  6. John Russell DeVore jr. says:

    I was and the Navy in 1975 October 19, 1975 I was beaten by for African-Americans the next day I was discharged unsuitability – duly diagnosed behavior disorder. At the time I discharge was under other then honorable conditions . It took me 10 years to finally get it upgraded to a general under honorable conditions.
    At that time they told me it was easier to discharge one white person then it was to discharge for African-Americans I was the only one punished, I was discharged on December 19, 1975.
    At the time this was the height of the immigration law where they tried to integrate whites and blacks and all of the nationalities .
    This started the worst days of my life that have never been the same since I joined the Navy to make a career out of it and it was cut short because of this incident .
    I haven’t said anything about this for a while now it’s time for me to speak up I think it was wrong but I got punished for something I didn’t do because I was white now I think it’s time to speak out.
    I was wondering if there’s anything you could do to help me to get back disability for this incident if not I think I’m taking this to the press to let him know what it was like back then in the 70s .
    Ever since then my life is been in ruins , for instance not been able to hold down a job I’m 61 years old and that still haunts me to this day .
    I would like to know if I am eligible for disability my next step is the VA advocate .
    I did not get to see a psychiatrist or psychologist they just discharge me .
    I was hoping there was someway you could advise me if not I’m getting attorney and I believe island titled to back disability pay and all of its amenities .

  7. Carl Kem says:

    I was in the army back in ’92, and they gave me a Chap. 5-13 PD. Problem is, I have no such disorder and never have had such disorder. And unless I have $40-50,000 to sue, there is nothing I can do and no lawyer will help me.

    I have injuries I received while in, but those are nothing compared to the humiliation of a PD.

    How do I change this? How do I fix it? Who can help me, if there is anyone?

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