Outgoing ABA President Linda A. Klein advocated Aug. 15 for the improvement of outcomes for veterans who receive other than honorable (OTH) discharges in cases where invisible trauma may have played a role.
In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Klein explained that having an OTH discharge can lead to a servicemember not receiving care for the same trauma that led to the circumstances for which they were discharged. Traumas correlated to specific types of misconduct resulting in OTH discharges include post-traumatic stress (PTS), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and military sexual trauma (MST).
During the Annual Meeting in August, the ABA House of Delegates passed a policy that, among other things, supports improving and reforming the processes by which discharge petitions are reviewed. Klein said the ABA believes there may be a role for the Trump administration to play in the limited exercise of clemency in such cases to prevent an unjust result.
The policy also urges Congress to allocate new and adequate funding to support Department of Defense (DoD) special panels for correction of military records in OTH cases and provision of counsel for petitioners, and to identify new sources of funding to be administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Legal Services Corporation to support civil legal services and pro bono organizations for delivering free legal assistance to petitioners.
In her letter, Klein applauded recent initiatives by DoD and the VA to address OTH discharges and mental health, including a VA initiative recently announced by VA Secretary David Shulkin that would make mental health services available to those in crisis even if they received OTH discharges.
During her one-year term as ABA president, Klein elevated Veteran Legal Support to a priority and pledged that the legal needs of veterans will continue to be a top issue for the association going forward.