For our final project, Taylor and I are going to be exploring the issue of abuse of administrative discharges in the military post-9/11.
During the Vietnam era, 6% of servicemembers were discharged in this way. Post-9/11, the number is 13%. Depending on the character of their discharge (generally either general or other than Honorable in the case of administrative discharges), a servicemember who would otherwise be entitled to benefits loses most (the GI Bill educational benefits being the first to go) or all (VA, housing, etc) otherwise earned benefits.
This is a problem for a variety of reasons. First, it represents a process that has the illusion of due process but in reality lacks it; second, the reasons administrative discharges are sometimes initiated show a disconnect between the things the military claims to care about and how they actually deal with it in practice (for example, administratively discharging suicide attempt survivors or those who report sexual assault); and third, there is a long, usually unsuccessful, and burdensome process for upgrading an administrative discharge to an Honorable one after the fact.
We’re looking to approach these larger, policy-based problems through a look at an individual story of a veteran (who at this moment will remain anonymous as we confirm this person’s interest and involvement in the project) who was administratively discharged after attempting suicide, was denied benefits he sorely needed as a result, and has spent 8 years unsuccessfully attempting to have his status upgraded.
Our next steps:
- Confirm individual involvement in project.
- Determine which pieces of the problem and story are most resonant with different populations of folks, especially those without any connection or interest in military issues.
- Start to map where the individual story overlaps with larger policy problems to help inform where the story would allow users a way into the wonkier big picture.
- Speak with people involved in the issue of administrative discharges and discharge upgrades to determine what the most effective last step is – what should the call to action be in an ideal world?