Bad Paper or Deserved Discharge?
By Toby Nunn
I keep hearing the term “Bad Paper” in the sense that those who have Other Than Honorable Discharges deserve the same access to benefits especially for mental health as those that earned their Honor Discharge. The term “Bad Paper” insinuates that everyone with an Other Than Honorable Discharge has been wronged.
Let’s be very clear, both of these Discharges are earned. It’s not the same argument that some adolescent tries to sell his or her parents that “the teacher didn’t like me that’s why I failed”. No, You were straight up kicked out from the military because you didn’t meet the excessively easy standards of conduct.
I speak only on my knowledge of the Army so all you Sailors can call me ignorant but this is how the Army does it. Most of the behavioral separations are based in Chapter 14 of Army Regulation 635-200, while some are Chapter 12 (entry Level Failure to adapt) and Chapter 13 (Performance Based) the lion share of Other Than Honorable discharges from the Army come from Chapter 14. The qualifying metrics for this type of separation are; multiple minor misconduct infractions, pattern of misconduct, commission of a serious offense (including drug use) and civilian conviction of a crime that no longer enables service.
I struggled when trying to separate bad soldiers as a leader because of the lengths needed to earn the separation. As a force though we could not afford to have them in our ranks especially during a time of war. I dedicated an entire chapter of my poorly written book to the “Shit Bag Express”, myself and my peers had to deal with. I would have guys repeatedly go AWOL for 30 plus days at a time and only return when their pay was shut off, guys that repeatedly failed drug tests, found themselves in civilian jail (I could go on and on) and I still had a hard time getting them an Other Than Honorable discharge yet I was considered “good” at trimming the fat.
Earning an “Other Than Honorable” (OTH) Discharge takes tremendous talent. They are not based on the opinion of a singular leader and require extensive supporting documentation. This documentation is not just in the form of counseling statements but also sworn statements from that was evidence accompanying UCMJ or judicial action for the civilians reading this. They also contain thorough evaluations from Mental Health Professionals, a known and documented pattern of misconduct and the list goes on.
Although there are the cases of Drug Abuse to which pay grades E-5 through E-7 can have separation hearings initialed for a first offense of failure to comply with the Army Substance Abuse Program covered by AR 600-81. I do feel for those with addiction problems but by the time you reach the rank of Sergeant (E-5 Pay Grade) you know and understand the risks of engaging in drugs and your career. However the Chain of Command can recommend a General Discharge that can be upgraded to an Honorable discharge after a period of time or depending on the body of work the service member has displayed can be separated with an Honor Discharge despite the failed drug program.
So as you see there has already been a catch basin emplaced for a “case by case” analysis of who to award what type of discharge to. Many Wounded Warriors fell victim to prescription drug abuse but were separated with their Medical Packet, not a disciplinary packet, as a result of lessons learned from the Warrior Transition Program and Units climate of failed leadership and drug abuse.
Try not to sell your piss poor service with a victimhood vignette that starts with a “one time at Army camp my squad leader hated me”. You got exactly what you earned. The VA system is a broken and struggling system clogged with deserving veterans killing themselves in the parking lots trying to get help and we have lawmakers trying to add to the problem instead of leaning forward and digging into the problem to get those that deserved and need the help first. Before we as a collective help the undeserving “Bad Service” not bad paper, those that wasted their chance at an honorable entry into society, let us help those that answered the call and gave what they could and still do.
I hear the keyboard warriors typing the death threats like they did on a piece of mine a while ago or those that chose to ignore the facts and truths about their situations. If what I just wrote is upsetting you and triggering you perhaps that’s because I touched on something personal. If you were that rock star Squad Leader that took too many Percocet’s to dull the pain so you could stay with your men and serve, I feel for you Brother.
However you attended the same mandatory briefings I did and knew help was available but your pride kept you from seeking it. That prideful action was the decision that led you to your current situation. The good news is there are a plethora of Non Profits out there that don’t care or research the category of service separation and can get you the true and real help you need without it being robbed from those that did it right the first time and need it now. Let’s focus on fixing the VA System so it properly serves those that it was designed for since 1921 when the Veterans Bureau was established.