Readjustment to civilian life can be difficult for many military members, but change can be even more difficult for those who leave the military with “bad paper.” Bad paper is military slang for military discharge paperwork that can hinder a veteran’s chances for a stable job, and could even set up barriers for veterans to receive healthcare through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA.)
Now those veterans have some relief in sight thanks in part to two Colorado legislators. U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R) recently introduced legislation to the US House that would help veterans receive mental health care through the VA is the need is “urgent.” At the same time, U.S. Senator Michael Bennett (D) has joined other Democrats in introducing a bill to the Senate that would expand access to mental care for veterans.
The two pieces of legislation come on the heels of a Veterans Affairs Committee meeting in March where VA Secretary David Shulkin pointed out that hundreds of thousands of veterans leave with these “bad papers,” and have much more trouble finding adequate mental health care. Bad papers, more formally known as an “other than honorable” discharge, are somewhere between an honorable and dishonorable discharge and are used in the case of troubled troops.
Previously bad papers restricted access to health care options, but the VA Secretary wants to expand access for veterans with bad papers. “We are going to go, and we are going to start providing mental health care for those that are other than honorably discharged for urgent mental health,” Shulkin said. Shulkin cited an estimate directly from the VA that 20 veterans take their lives daily to help urge action.
Both Bennet and Coffman have publicly lauded Shulkin for the new found focus on veterans after several troubling years for the administration. Shulkin has stated that he wants to work with Congress to help find solutions for the troubled program, including help from Coffman who is himself a member of the House Veterans Committee and a veteran himself.
Groups like the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America also praised Shulkin, stating the help for bad paper veterans if long overdue. For now, veterans watch dog groups are tracking the legislation as it makes it was through the legislative body and committees.