In “Leaving Other Than Honorable Soldiers Behind,” McClean, with co-author Dan Scapardine, discussed the plight of the roughly 16 percent of soldiers who received other-than-honorable, or OTH, discharges.
McClean served in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps from 2003 to 2014 and held positions as a prosecutor, defense attorney, law professor and assistant general counsel.
Scapardine, a 2L at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, has a related article forthcoming in the Maryland Law Review (Vol. 76, Issue 4).
An OTH discharge bars veterans from receiving most military benefits and generally prevents them from benefiting from legislation that supports veterans, McClean and Scapardine wrote, adding that veterans with an OTH discharge carry the label for life unless it is corrected.
Many “bad paper” veterans suffer from PTSD or depression, and many have been discharged for disciplinary reasons when proper mental-health care was needed but not provided, they said.
The practice of wrongfully discharging veterans has placed the burden of caring for them on the criminal justice system.
Wrote McClean and Scapardine: “The military has shifted the burden of care for these veterans to civilian society, which at large does not fully understand issues facing the veteran community. The result is that more veterans are homeless, incarcerated, or without healthcare than in previous decades.”
While law clinics like UB’s help these veterans understand the rules governing their cases and also help them collect evidence crucial to the presentation of their cases, more work is needed, the authors said:
“A comprehensive remedy that addresses the shortcomings of the discharge process for veterans with mental health issues needs to be developed. This remedy must go further than the limited remedies available to veterans with OTH discharges, and must attempt to give these veterans a second chance.”