In the late 1970's to early 1980's i enlisted in the Army. As an Iowa farm boy from a small community of less than 1400 population I wasn't all that wordly however I was a huge hippie and was willing to try virtually any drug and was addicted to pot at the time of entrance. While in stationed in Zirendorf, Germany I became addicted to herion. I spoke to my command about it and they suggested I use my 30 leave and have some time off and that would resolve it. I was looking for a PERMANT resolution and asked for help which was ignored then asked to assigned ANYWHERE including crap duty stations as long as Herion wasn't easily accessable wherever they wanted to send me as I had no intentions in becoming a permant intra-venious user of herion! They declined EVERY EFFORT in fact I sincerely doubt it ever made it out of our command regarding reporting. I doubt anyone beyond my captain and master sargent ever knew because they choose to ignore the problem EVEN when I showed them FRESH tracks in my arm. So, after my 30 day leave was over I remained in the US and did not return. I was arrested in Orlando, Florida taken to Fort Bragg and given the choices of returning to Germany OR an other than honorable discharge. I was asking for help with addictions long before it became trendy or simply the right thing to do. I told the panel who discharged me the situation and the arm tracks and they added no other options so I took the other than honorable discharge and feel they most certainly should have taken care of the soldier, me and failed me miserably. I have NEVER put another needle in my arm since leaving Germany and am vehemtly opposed to any type of herion, morphine or similiar new crap I have however struggled my entire life with drug addiction. I have had periods of sobriety time 4 years, and 2 years 3 times. Perhaps had they taken care of me, my life would not have been such a struggle and set back after set back because I HAVE seen the different me when clean and sober which the Army could have and should have dealt with when I was young, for God's sake. So, my questions are...#1-Can someone at least get the discharge changed so I get my vet benefits? #2-Are there damages which could be collected?
Thank you for your time and consideration in this important matter. I haven't spoken of this in over 30 years to ANYONE so even getting it out is great as I have been holding the shame in for years
See Attorney Cave's recent answer to another Soldier at http://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/i-want-to-change-my-army-discharge-from-general-un-921268.html?ref=answer_question_serp_title_3 I believe it applies equally to you.
Are there DAMAGES you might collect? Short answer- No.
The government is immune in suits by service members, additionally nothing in your post indicates you were handled in an improperly--you even indicate you continue to the present day struggling with a series of addictions covering 40 years--pretty solid evidence that the Army was correct to separate you with a discharge different from the thousands of other Iowa/Indiana/Ohio farm boys who served and did not use drugs.
That being said, you MAY be able to access SOME VA benefits now--check out this VA fact sheet, http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/assets/documents/publications/FS16-8.pdf about half way down the page--contact the number at the bottom to begin the process of determining if you can access benefits now. Simultaneously contact a military attorney directly who can review your specific facts and determine if you are a candidate at Attorney Cave discussed in the other post.
READ THIS BEFORE CALLING OR EMAILING ME: I am licensed to practice before the state and federal courts in Virginia. We have not established an attorney-client relationship unless we have a signed representation agreement and you have paid me. I give a 100% effort to get you on the right track with your issue. Sometimes that means legal educational information, sometimes that means counseling and non-legal guidance. You should speak with an attorney to whom you have provided all the facts, before you take steps that may impact your legal rights. I am not obligated to answer subsequent emails or phone calls unless you have hired me. I wish you the best of luck with your situation.
Administrative Law Lawyer
Mr. Raftner is right on point.
My practice is mainly VA law, and there are provisions for VA benefits based upon "Hon. service," including character of service below Honorable. However, to receive VA benefits you have to have some sort a disability that was caused in service, a present disability, and these 2 disabilities must connect.
In your post he stated that you were addicted to marijuana, and then started using illegal drugs while in the Army. The VA most likely would first deny your claim, based on character of service, 2nd would deny your claim that this was a pre-existing condition that was not aggravated by military service, and third Cong. provided under 38 CFR a prohibition against granting benefits for illegal drug use and their resulting disabilities.
Finally, only if you were diagnosed with PTSD or some other mental condition could it normally be argued your drug use was self-medication.
In my opinion neither the Army nor the VA will grant your requests.
Military Law Attorney
First, I understand your difficultiy in asking the question you posted. It is obviously a sensitive issue in your life. Unfortunately, I have to agree with the answers already posted my colleagues.
Even assuming you are able to have your character of disharged upgraded, VA benefits are not available where the claimed disabilty is as a result of willful misconduct. VA regulations state that “the progressive and frequent use of drugs to the point of addiction will be considered willful misconduct.” Unless a veteran can show that the drug addiction is as a result of some other service-connected disability, an application for service-connected disability benefits for drug addiction will not be granted by VA.
Thank you for posting your question, and I wish you the best of luck in your recovery.
Disclaimer: Transmission or receipt of information does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.