While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides healthcare to many troops, some servicemembers encounter trouble when seeking treatment. Specifically, soldiers who left service with anything but an honorable discharge may not qualify for healthcare, even if they meet the physical standard, The Seattle Times reports.
The issue is one that affects a large portion of today's most recent vets. About 20,000 troops may face challenges when it comes to gaining access to healthcare due to certain blemishes on their record.
Among those who have encountered such trouble is 26-year-old Jarrid Starks. Despite earning a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq and Afghanistan, having post-traumatic stress disorder and suffering from a spinal cord injury, Starks was initially denied treatment because of a tumultuous last year in the service. His case is pending a review of his military records.
"We are creating a class of people who need help the most, and may not be able to get it," Maj. Evan Seamone, chief of Military Justice at Georgia's Fort Benning, told the newspaper. "And, when you do that, there are whole families torn apart, and higher levels of crime. It's a public-health and public-safety issue."
The problem is especially relevant now, as there is a renewed focus on the mental health of soldiers. Some experts estimate around 20 percent of recent veterans have symptoms of PTSD.