Marines and sailors facing involuntary separation due to a diagnosed mental health condition will now be better guarded against leaving the military with other-than-honorable discharges.
The unprecedented change was made last week by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. It requires service members with conditions like post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury to have a disability evaluation before a final decision on their involuntary separation is made.
Veteran groups lauded the change and are calling on other military branches to follow suit.
In the past, misconduct was the predominate factor in every involuntary separation. This long-held approach adversely impacted veterans’ ability to receive benefits, and did not take into full consideration how the service member's condition may have contributed to the misconduct.
Diagnosed mental health conditions will take precedence over misconduct under the new Disability Evaluation System, which is effective immediately. Additionally, Marines and sailors with a diagnosed mental health condition who are facing other-than-honorable discharge will be referred to the first general or flag officer in their chain of command for a final determination.
The new policy was largely driven by comments heard as Mabus visited sailors and Marines, family members, and veteran groups, said Navy Capt. Patrick McNally, the SecNav's spokesman. The change required a months-long policy review and some legal steps to allow the secretary to make the change.