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Senator seeks probe of military dismissals

Nov. 7, 2013 - 02:49PM   |  
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COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado filed legislation Thursday demanding an investigation into reports the military kicked wounded soldiers out of the service for behavior that could be related to their injuries, saying wounded soldiers deserve better treatment.

"This bill will help us learn if service members are losing their benefits because of behavior related to mental trauma from combat. It can serve as a basis for discussion about potential policy changes. There is no reason we shouldn't be able to strike a balance between providing for our veterans and allowing the military to effectively enforce discipline," the Democrat said in a statement after the legislation was introduced.

An investigation by the Colorado Springs Gazette in May showed that as the military downsizes, the number of soldiers discharged for minor misconduct had surged 25 percent since 2009. The newspaper reported many troops had so-called "invisible injuries" including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury that could have caused their bad behavior, but they were discharged in ways that stripped them of veterans' benefits, leaving some struggling and others homeless.

Bennet's bill requires the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether service members are being discharged for conduct related to combat-related mental health issues. Bennet said Congress needs more information about training, counseling, and treatment to determine if policy changes are needed.

The House version of the act includes an amendment by Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman requiring congressional hearings on the issue of misconduct discharges of wounded veterans.

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