Wounded in Combat, Denied Benefits
My thanks to Joshua Kors for his truthful reporting on these fraudulent "personality disorder" discharges ["Disposable Soldiers," April 26]. I am happy my story has been told. After the mortar blast, when I reached out and asked for help from my chain of command, I had no idea that my comrades would turn on me. I joined the military to serve like both my grandfathers, to do my part for America. I never thought that this could happen to me.
This article triggered a huge outpouring of support, including e-mails and phone calls from other soldiers who said, "That happened to me."
With the support of my family and friends, I have been able to pull myself up, and I will continue to fight for my brothers and sisters in arms. I will never forget the things that happened to me. To make sure it never happens to anyone else, I have founded Disposable Warriors. We provide support for other soldiers wounded then denied benefits. Since the article was published, we have had more than 200 e-mails and fifty phone calls. I encourage anyone who has had this problem to contact us and keep fighting, because there is hope. I have seen how widespread these personality disorder discharges are. They need to stop. Too many warriors have been wronged.
SGT. CHUCK LUTHER
In 2001 they used the personality disorder discharge on me. I was 19, and my commander said the discharge was my sole way out. I was threatened that if I didn’t take that discharge, he would have me thrown out with a dishonorable discharge.
I was having physical medical problems. I should have been honorably discharged. I was verbally assaulted and humiliated. I received threats from fellow enlisted marines and began to fear for my safety. My commander attempted to put me in confinement "for my medical safety." Out of desperation, I tried to kill myself. After the attempt, I was offered the personality disorder discharge. I took the discharge and didn’t look back, for a little while at least. I was just so happy to get out of there. Sometime later I began dealing with the experience. Doctors have since confirmed that I do not have a personality disorder.
Even though I have been successful in the days since the discharge, the experience still haunts me. I have told very few people what really happened to me. I feel guilt and shame for the type of discharge I was given. Despite what I know, at some levels I feel that it’s my fault. I am too afraid to apply for my dream career in law enforcement because I know they will see my discharge status. Now I wish I had just endured the suffering while I was in the Marines. It has made my life a living hell.
I was shocked and saddened when I read Joshua Kors’s article. I consider myself pretty well informed, but I had never heard of the disgraceful practice of discharging physically wounded soldiers without benefits by claiming they had a pre-existing personality disorder. I was amazed at how Chuck Luther was not only called a liar but treated as a prisoner of war by our own military. I felt that if people knew about this tragic practice they would demand that it be stopped.
That night I started a group on Facebook called Stop Personality Disorder Discharges for Our Wounded Soldiers. The response has been overwhelming. I have been flooded with e-mails from soldiers and families who thought nobody knew or cared about them. Two weeks later, we had more than 2,300 members. We are organizing an e-mail and telephone campaign for Memorial Day, May 31, to let our government know how ashamed we are of this national disgrace. I encourage readers to join the group. I believe we can, and will, stop the use of personality disorder discharges for our wounded soldiers.
Overland Park, Kan.
"Disposable Soldiers" was absolutely heartbreaking. How could this man, wounded in combat, not only be misdiagnosed but treated in a manner unbefitting a human being? To hear that his superiors’ careers "flourished" after this incident is unacceptable. I hope someone with more clout than me can help these soldiers. At least The Nation is listening.
These pre-existing personality disorder discharges: they did the exact same thing to me! I have all the documents to prove it but have not found any attorneys with the courage to help.
New York City
There is no such diagnosis as an "adult onset personality disorder," as Army doctors have alleged in the case of Sgt. Chuck Luther. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders makes this clear. Sergeant Luther’s symptoms are classic signs of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s troubling to think that he, a decorated soldier who has proven himself in combat, would be deemed ineligible for benefits.
ROBERT LICHTMAN, PhD
Professor of psychology
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
As a clinical psychologist who trained in the Veterans Administration, I am particularly chagrined to read of the abuse of diagnostic practices that Joshua Kors describes. Personality disorder is not one diagnosis but rather a category of diagnoses, with extremely broad manifestations. The assertions of certitude by the doctors who labeled Sergeant Luther with "personality disorder" would be laughable were their consequences not so tragic.
MARGARET HORNICK, PHD
If doctors found them fit for duty at enlistment time, then they were either lying at discharge or incompetent. The doctors should be dealt with accordingly—i.e., discharged with no benefits.
WARREN E. SMITH
I was a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne, one of the first deployed to Iraq. When we were clearing out of the country, there was a lot of paperwork to fill out. Most of it was crap, and most of us were more than happy to sign anything just to get out of there.
But there was one document that was very important. It asked, "Have you ever fired your weapon at a combatant? Have you ever taken fire? Did you at any time fear for your life?" Ninety-nine percent of us checked yes. Then, as they gathered up the forms, they gave us this gem of wisdom: "In case any of you want to change your answers, remember this: there is a two-month backlog to see the mental health providers. If you checked yes, you will be held here for two months before you are allowed to leave. But if you fill out a new form, I am sure we will be able to clear you out of here with no issues."
Every single one of us filled out a new form and left the country. This comes back to bite you in the ass if you later seek help from the VA for PTSD. I’m thankful for reporters like Joshua Kors who get the word out. I hope we can get the government to own up to these shady, underhanded tactics.
DANIEL A. CLARK