1. Applicants Name:
a. Application Date: 20 July 2016
b. Date Received: 20 July 2016
c. Counsel: None
2. REQUEST, ISSUES, BOARD TYPE, AND DECISION: The applicant requests an upgrade of his general (under honorable conditions) discharge to honorable. The applicant seeks relief contending, in effect, when he returned from Bagdad in December 2009 he was on the fast track to being promoted to Sergeant. After the things he seen while in Iraq, the applicant contends that he had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but tragically went undiagnosed by his division psychiatric team. Not knowing how to cope with his PTSD, he like 95% of people with PTSD, turned to substances to ease his pain. Of course his behavior went downhill fast and within one year he was being discharged because of his bad conduct. He contends, his doctors and social workers at the VA know that the underlying reason of why he did what he did in his last years in the Army was directly related to his undiagnosed PTSD. He contends he has been sober for over a year and truly believe he deserves to have his discharge upgrade because of the changes he has made in the last few years.
Evidence in the record shows the applicant had a prior records review on 31 July 2013.
Per the Boards Medical Officer, based on the information available for review at the time to include the military electronic medical record, the applicant did have a mitigating medical or behavioral health conditions for the offenses which led to his separation from the Army. The Active Duty electronic medical record was reviewed and revealed treatment for Opioid Dependence. Although, the applicant had a pre-existing substance abuse history prior to enlisting in the Army, his combat exposure, particularly his duties as a broadcast journalist, appears to have exacerbated drug use in response to coping with undiagnosed PTSD. Because PTSD can be associated with poor decision making, maladaptive behaviors (making a false statement, failing to report, forgery), and use of illicit substances for self-medication, there is a nexus between this applicants misconduct and his mental health symptoms. Supportive post-service documentation includes a letter from the Phoenix VA Healthcare System, dated
23 April 2015, which indicated applicant was diagnosed and treated since March 2011 for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder secondary to combat.
In a personal appearance hearing conducted at Arlington, VA on 17 October 2016, and by a 5-0 vote, the Board determined the discharge is now inequitable. The Board found the overall length and quality of the applicant’s service, to include his combat service, the circumstances surrounding his discharge (i.e. in-service undiagnosed PTSD), his personal testimony, and his post service VA diagnosis of PTSD mitigated the discrediting entry in his service record. Accordingly, the Board voted to grant full relief in the form of an upgrade of the characterization of service to honorable, a change to the separation authority to AR 635-200, paragraph 14-12a, and the narrative reason for separation changed to Misconduct (Minor Infractions), with the corresponding separation code of JKN.
(Board member names available upon request)
3. DISCHARGE DETAILS:
a. Reason / Authority / Codes / Characterization: Misconduct (Serious Offense) / AR 635-200, Paragraph 14-12c / JKQ / RE-3 / General (Under Honorable Conditions)
b. Date of Discharge: 3 December 2010
c. Separation Facts:
(1) Date of Notification of Intent to Separate: 28 October 2010
(2) Basis for Separation: The applicant was informed of the following reason: wrongfully making a false official statement
(3) Recommended Characterization: General (Under Honorable Conditions)
(4) Legal Consultation Date: 28 October 2010
(5) Administrative Separation Board: NA
(6) Separation Decision Date / Characterization: 4 November 2010 / General (Under Honorable Conditions)
4. SERVICE DETAILS:
a. Date / Period of Enlistment: 27 August 2007 / 4 years
b. Age at Enlistment / Education / GT Score: 19 years / HS Graduate / 111
c. Highest Grade Achieved / MOS / Total Service: E-4 / 46R1P, Broadcast Journalist / 3 years, 3 months, 7 days
d. Prior Service / Characterizations: None
e. Overseas Service / Combat Service: SWA / Iraq (1 December 2008 15 November 2009)
f. Awards and Decorations: ARCOM, AAM, NDSM, ICM-CS, GWOTSM, ASR, CAB
g. Performance Ratings: None
h. Disciplinary Action(s) / Evidentiary Record: CG Article 15, dated 13 July 2010, for failing to go at the time prescribed to his appointed place of duty on two occasions (4 June 2010 and 18 June 2010) and violating a lawful general order by wrongfully storing his TA-50 in a privately owned vehicle between (19 May 2010 and 26 May 2010). The punishment consisted of a reduction to E-3, forfeiture of $423.00 pay per month for one month (suspended), and 14 days extra duty.
FG Article 15, dated 1 September 2010, for failing to report on two separated occasions on (23 July 2010), making a false official statement on (23 July 2010), and forged a note from SPC M stating that the applicant was treated for insomnia on (23 July 2010). The punishment consisted of a reduction to E-1, forfeiture of $723.00 pay per month for two months, and 45 days extra duty and restriction.
Several counseling statements for being absent without leave, insubordinate conduct toward a warrant officer, noncommissioned officers, making false statement, malingering, not being at his appointed place of duty, missing movement, and securing his equipment.
i. Lost Time / Mode of Return: None
j. Diagnosed PTSD / TBI / Behavioral Health: Behavioral Health Evaluation which reflects the applicant was diagnosed with (Axis 1) for opiate dependence-in early remission. It was noted on the evaluation form that the applicant was screened for PTSD and mTBI per 10-040 regulation and was cleared.
VA Letter, dated 23 April 2015, signed by A.W., PhD OEF/OIF/OND Psychologist, indicates the applicant completed a comprehensive mental health evaluation and was diagnosed and treated for PTSD secondary to his combat related activities in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
5. APPLICANT-PROVIDED EVIDENCE: Two DD Forms 293; three character reference letters; college transcript; a copy of a movie he made as a film student; copy of a short film; letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs, signed by A.W., PhD OEF/OIF/OND Psychologist; certificate of recognition; and a DD Form 214.
6. POST SERVICE ACCOMPLISHMENTS: The applicant states, in effect, that since his discharge he has put in countless hours of hard work to overcome his trials and have since gotten married, had children and is a full time college student with a 3.8 GPA.
7. REGULATORY CITATION(S): Army Regulation 635-200 sets forth the basic authority for the separation of enlisted personnel. Chapter 14 establishes policy and prescribes procedures for separating members for misconduct. Specific categories include minor disciplinary infractions, a pattern of misconduct, and commission of a serious offense, to include abuse of illegal drugs, convictions by civil authorities and desertion or being absent without leave. Action will be taken to separate a member for misconduct when it is clearly established that rehabilitation is impractical or unlikely to succeed. Army policy states that an under other than honorable conditions discharge is normally considered appropriate; however, a general, under honorable conditions or an honorable discharge may be granted.
Paragraph 14-12c states a Soldier is subject to action per this section for commission of a serious military or civilian offense, if the specific circumstances of the offense warrant separation and a punitive discharge is, or would be, authorized for the same or a closely related offense under the Manual for Courts-Martial.
Secretary of Defense Memorandum for Secretaries of the Military Departments (Subject: Supplemental Guidance to Military Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records Considering Discharge Upgrade Requests by Veterans Claiming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, dated September 3, 2014), provided guidance to help ensure consistency across the military services in consideration of PTSD relevant to Service Members discharges.
Liberal consideration will be given in petitions for changes in characterization of service to service treatment record entries which document one of more symptoms which meet the diagnostic criteria of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or related conditions. Special consideration will be given to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determinations which document PTSD or PTSD-related conditions connected to military services. In cases where Service Records or any document from the period of service substantiated the existence of one or more symptoms of what is now recognized as PTSD or PTSD-related condition during the time of service, liberal consideration will be given to finding that PTSD existed at the time of service. Liberal consideration will also be given in cases where civilian providers confer diagnoses of PTSD or PTSD-related conditions, when case records contain narratives that support symptomatology at the time of service, or when any other evidence which may reasonably indicate that PTSD or a PTSD-related disorder existed at the time of discharge which might have mitigated the misconduct that caused the under other than honorable conditions characterization of service. This guidance in not applicable to cases involving pre-existing conditions which are determined not to have been incurred or aggravated while in military service.
Conditions documented in the record that can reasonably be determined to have existed at the time of discharge will be considered to have existed at the time of discharge. In cases in which PTSD or PTSD related conditions may be reasonably determined to have existed at the time of discharge, those conditions will be considered potential mitigating factors in the misconduct that caused the under other than honorable conditions characterization of service. Correction boards will exercise caution in weighing evidence of mitigation in cases in which serious misconduct precipitated a discharge with a characterization of service other than honorable conditions. Potentially mitigating evidence of the existence of undiagnosed combat related PTSD or PTSD-related conditions as a causative factor in the misconduct resulting in discharge will be carefully weighed against the severity of the misconduct. PTSD is not a likely cause of premeditated misconduct. Correction Boards will also exercise caution in weighing evidence of mitigation in all cases of misconduct by carefully considering the likely causal relationship of symptoms to the misconduct.
8. DISCUSSION OF FACT(S): The applicant requests an upgrade of his general (under honorable conditions) discharge to honorable. The applicants record of service, the issues and documents submitted with his application were carefully reviewed.
The record confirms the applicants discharge was appropriate because the quality of his service was not consistent with the Army’s standards for acceptable personal conduct and performance of duty by military personnel. It brought discredit on the Army, and was prejudicial to good order and discipline.
The applicant provided no independent corroborating evidence demonstrating that either the command’s action was erroneous or that the applicants service mitigated the misconduct or poor duty performance, such that he should have been retained on Active duty.
The applicant contends, when he returned from Bagdad in December 2009 he was on the fast track to being promoted to Sergeant. After the things he seen while in Iraq, the applicant contends that he had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but tragically went undiagnosed by his division psychiatric team. Not knowing how to cope with his PTSD, he like 95% of people with PTSD, turned to substances to ease his pain. Of course his behavior went downhill fast and within one year he was being discharged because of his bad conduct. He contends him, his doctors and social workers at the VA know that the underlying reason of why he did what he did in his last years in the Army was directly related to his undiagnosed PTSD. He contends he has been sober for over a year and truly believe he deserves to have his discharge upgrade because of the changes he has made in the last few years.
The independent document submitted by the applicant from the Department of Veterans Affairs, indicating the applicant completed a comprehensive mental health evaluation and was diagnosed and treated for PTSD secondary to his combat related activities in Operation Iraqi Freedom was noted. However, this information does not support a conclusion that these conditions rendered the applicant unfit for further service at the time of his discharge processing. The available medical evidence in the record is void of any indication that the applicant was suffering from a disabling medical or mental condition during his discharge processing that would have warranted his separation processing through medical channels.
The applicants post-service accomplishments have been noted as outlined on the application and in the documents and tapes with the application. The applicant is to be commended for his post-service accomplishments.
It should be noted; by regulation, a UOTHC discharge is normally appropriate for a member separated by reason of misconduct (serious offense). It appears the applicants generally good record of service was the basis for his receiving a GD instead of the normal UOTHC discharge.
The record does not contain any indication or evidence of arbitrary or capricious actions by the command and all requirements of law and regulation were met and the rights of the applicant were fully protected throughout the separation process. The character of the applicants discharge is commensurate with his overall service record.
The discharge was consistent with the procedural and substantive requirements of the regulation, was within the discretion of the separation authority, and the applicant was provided full administrative due process.
9. DOCUMENTS / TESTIMONY PRESENTED DURING PERSONAL APPEARANCE: In addition to the evidence in the record, the Board carefully considered the additional documents and testimony presented by the applicant at the personal appearance hearing.
a. The applicant submitted the following additional documents:
Department of Veterans Affairs letter, dated 7 July 2016 1 page
Eastern Arizona College letters, dated 11 February 2016 & 14 June 2016 2 pages
Arizona Department of Public Safety letter, dated 13 July 2016 1 page
Northern Arizona University letter, dated 21 June 2016 1 page
Arizona Counseling & Treatment Services, LLC, dated 12 October 2016 2 pages
PTSD and Substance Abuse in Veterans printout 1 page
b. The applicant presented no additional contentions.
c. Witness: Yes (Father)
10. BOARD DETERMINATION: In a personal appearance hearing conducted at Arlington, VA on 17 October 2016, and by a 5-0 vote, the Board determined the discharge is now inequitable. The Board found the overall length and quality of the applicant’s service, to include his combat service, the circumstances surrounding his discharge (i.e. in-service undiagnosed PTSD), his personal testimony, and his post service VA diagnosis of PTSD mitigated the discrediting entry in his service record. Accordingly, the Board voted to grant full relief in the form of an upgrade of the characterization of service to honorable, a change to the separation authority to AR 635-200, paragraph 14-12a, and the narrative reason for separation changed to Misconduct (Minor Infractions), with the corresponding separation code of JKN.
11. BOARD ACTION DIRECTED:
a. Issue a New DD-214: Yes
b. Change Characterization to: Honorable
c. Change Reason to: Misconduct (Minor Infractions)
d. Change SPD / RE Code to: SPD Code to JKN, AR 635-200, paragraph
14-12(a) / No Change to RE-Code
e. Restore (Restoration of) Grade to: NA
COL, US ARMY
Army Discharge Review Board
AWOL – Absent Without Leave GD – General Discharge NCO Noncommissioned Officer SCM – Summary Court Martial
BCD – Bad Conduct Discharge HS – High School NIF – Not in File SPCM – Special Court Martial
BH Behavioral Health HD – Honorable Discharge NOS Not Otherwise Specified SPD – Separation Program Designator
CG – Company Grade Article 15 IADT – Initial Active Duty Training OAD – Ordered to Active Duty TBI Traumatic Brain Injury
CID – Criminal Investigation Division MP Military Police OMPF – Official Military Personnel File UNC – Uncharacterized Discharge
ELS Entry Level Status MST Military Sexual Trauma PTSD Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder UOTHC – Under Other Than Honorable Conditions
FG – Field Grade Article 15 NA – Not applicable RE – Reentry VA Veterans Affairs
ARMY DISCHARGE REVIEW BOARD CASE REPORT AND DIRECTIVE