Jim Johnson, Antler
While this probably comes too late to help me personally, maybe it could help other service members along the way. I have been an active duty service member for the last 19 years and 2 months and have noticed an unsettling trend concerning members being discharged. I am only speaking to discharges in regards to the Medical Evaluation Board/Formal Physical Evaluation Board process.
I understand the basis for being discharged after an unfitting medical condition or conditions are discovered. I do not however, understand the growing trend of separating service members who have served their nation honorably for 16, 18, or 19 years being given zero benefits. Yes we keep our education benefits, but we are given a Discharge With Severance Pay. No retirement, no medical benefits, nothing but a handshake.
How are my education benefits going to pay any medical bills, refills, or clinic visits? Then come to find out that if we are going to receive a VA rating for our service connected disabilities, we will end up paying the difference between the service rating and VA rating. This is yet another kick while the member is down! In my case the service rates me at 20 percent disability and the VA rates me at 70 percent. So I would only receive 50 percent from the VA and the other 20 percent is withheld until the severance amount is paid back. That does not meet the definition of severance, does it? That is a no-interest loan.
I realize that each case is different and the factors of each must be countless. With that being said, I personally met with another service member who had over 19 years and five other members who were at 16-plus years of active duty service in the same situation. The shocking thing was this occurred in only a three-day time period last week. I met these people while I was appealing to the FPEB about their initial findings and offer of DWSP. All of the other service members were, of course, there for the same reason.
All of us were from different duty locations. Another scary fact is that the FPEB process/hearings are scheduled Monday through Friday every week. Could I have been there during an abnormally busy timeframe? Yes, it is possible. But when speaking with these other service members they all knew others from their home stations who have already gone or are going through the MEB/FPEB process too. The exact numbers must be staggering.
I have served for 19 years and 2 months as of today's date. For all 19 years, excluding 11 Sept 2001 Aug 2005, I have been assigned to a career field that maintains critical components. I am the reason our nation's deterrence functions as designed, if ever needed to do so again. From 9/11 2005 I served as an enlisted recruiter. I consider these two of the most stressful, non-stop, and family unfriendly career fields this service has.
While they may be non-deployable, they do place a huge amount of stress and strain on the member and in turn his or her families. In what other career field can a brand new service member not only cause injury or death to himself, but to countless others? That is a major responsibility to say the least. I have been blessed to have a very supportive family. I believe that during the last 19 years of service, through all the ups and downs, my family has more than earned their benefits. To be discharged without retirement is not only disrespecting me, but more importantly disrespecting my family. I joined in 1993 when I learned that my daughter was on the way. I enlisted for the security, benefits, brotherhood, and of course a steady career. The U.S. military has provided me everything I have. I am extremely thankful and would not change that fact.
But to be released and sent on my way is making the statement that the past 19 years have been worth nothing to this organization and we are in fact not brothers and sisters as claimed but just numbers. I have been through many rounds of budget cuts over the years, but this is the most obscene slap in the face I have ever seen.
How can we in good faith recommend to people inquiring about enlisting, our brand new service members, or even our own subordinates that it is all worth it? The service will provide and take care of you, at least until you are of no use to them any longer. Those years ago I thought I enlisted in a military that had a long bloodline of tradition, faith, camaraderie, and brotherhood. It looks like all of that has given way to a corporation mentality. The only place left to find all of those qualities is a motorcycle club, and that's fine by me.