Crazy, But Not Dishonorable

By Ray Parrish

Let’s get right to the bottom line. According to 38 USCS, section 5303(b): “if it is established to the satisfaction of the Secretary that, at the time of the commission of an offense leading to a person’s court-martial, discharge, or resignation, that person was insane, such person shall not be precluded from benefits under laws administered by the Secretary based upon the period of service from which such person was separated.”

Wow! Veterans can’t be denied VA benefits even if they left the military with “bad” discharges, down to and including DD’s (Dishonorable Discharges), if they can present a “credible” psychological evaluation that shows that they were “insane” at the time of the misconduct! They don’t have to show that the misconduct was “caused” by the mental disorder and it can be any diagnosis (PTSD, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc.). You don’t need to get the military to “upgrade” the discharge or wait for Congressional or Presidential clemency.

A “credible” evaluation is one that bases its conclusions on the veteran’s military records and explains how they show the symptoms of “insanity,” using the VA’s definition of insanity printed below. The evaluation can also use medical records (military or civilian) and previous evaluations, and can make reference to notarized statements of friends and family to verify facts and the veteran’s behavior. Free evaluations and treatment are offered by volunteer mental health professionals at The Soldiers Project (877-576-5343). To find someone who’s ready to do the evaluation, call the VVAW therapist, Hans Buwalda at 773-370-4789. File a claim with the VA, be prepared to appeal denials, and don’t miss any deadlines.


Insanity Definition for VA Claims
38 CFR & 3.354
Determination of Insanity

(a) Definition of insanity. An insane person is one who, while not mentally defective or constitutionally psychopathic, except when a psychosis has been engrafted upon such basic condition, exhibits, due to disease, a more or less prolonged deviation from his normal method of behavior; or who interferes with the peace of society; or who has so departed (become antisocial) from the accepted standards of the community to which by birth and education he belongs as to lack the adaptability to make further adjustment to the social customs of the community in which he resides.

(b) Insanity causing discharge. When a rating agency is concerned with determining whether a veteran was insane at the time he committed an offense leading to his court-martial, discharge or resignation [38 U.S.C. 5303(b)], it will base its decision on all the evidence procurable relating to the period involved, and apply the definition in paragraph (a) of this section.

The public and the military have become more aware of the “invisible wounds of war,” thanks in large part to decades of work by VVAW members on this issue. We can hope that more veterans will seek treatment for mental health problems as we win the battle to de-stigmatize all mental disorders, especially PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). So spread the word far and wide about this.

Ray Parrish is the Benefits Director at VVAW’s Military and Veterans Counseling Service.

Helping Veterans Obtain VA Benefits Saves Local Healthcare Budget Dollars

By Ray Parrish

Many veterans use non-VA healthcare facilities because VA regulations place bureaucratic hurdles in front of the veterans who are least able to overcome them and the people that these veterans go to for help either don’t know how or simply refuse to serve them because of their own prejudice.

There’s an ever-growing population of veterans, from ALL eras, with severe, untreated mental disabilities, especially PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). So severe, in fact, that the most out-of-control veterans commit some kind of misconduct while still in uniform and they end up with an “other than Honorable” military discharge. The VA has rules that allow them to grant benefits to these vets, but veterans are told the opposite by everyone they go to for help, until they come to our office. The VA denies the claims in the beginning and many veterans don’t know that they need to appeal and ask for a “character of service determination.” They can then win full benefits with an appeal if it includes a properly worded psychological evaluation explaining that the veteran was insane at the time of the misconduct. It doesn’t have to be a PTSD diagnosis and it doesn’t have to have caused the misconduct. However, if either is the case, this is an opportunity to make those claims.

Since disciplinary charges for misconduct pre-empt the medical disability retirement process, many vets end up with these “bad” discharges even after being recommended for military medical retirement for PTSD or another mental disability. The veteran may simply have given up on the military’s inadequate, inappropriate or nonexistent treatment and gone AWOL (Absent Without Leave). Misconduct involving drugs, alcohol or violence are also common. In addition, many veterans with PTSD are discharged for a “personality disorder” which the VA says is non-service connected. Once again a properly worded psychological evaluation can correct the diagnosis and the veteran can then get full VA benefits. It should be noted that many of these veterans have chronic medical conditions or illnesses that the VA will not treat until a favorable “character of service” determination is made.

We have “VA Claims Agents” accredited by the VA to represent veterans and their families in VA disability claims. They have the patience to deal with this population of veterans, the experience to write successful appeals and experience working with healthcare professionals in this specialized area. No other veterans group has a therapist on staff. This therapist, Hans Buwalda, does individual, couple, and group counseling for veterans and their loved ones. She also writes these psychological evaluations and trains volunteer mental health professionals, mainly from The Soldiers Project, which has 40,000 volunteers nationwide.

Our objective is to get these disabled veterans the treatment and housing that they so desperately need. For this to happen we need to make them eligible for benefits from the VA. Because the VA recognizes its limitations, they are funding non-VA, community-based service providers for healthcare, housing, job training and, most importantly, veteran-run peer-counseling. The actual number of such veterans and the cost savings to state, county and city budgets is a simple research task. These results may indicate that it would be cost effective for state and local healthcare providers to employ people in their facilities who can help these veterans win their claims for federal benefits.

Ray Parrish is the Benefits Director at VVAW’s Military and Veterans Counseling Service.

Next CVO Meeting at the National Veterans Art Museum on June 21st

The Coalition of Veterans Organizations (CVO) will meet on  Saturday, June 21, from 10 AM to 12:30 PM, on the North side of Chicago at the National Veterans Art Museum (NVAM) at 4041 N Milwaukee Ave in Chicago. We are very excited to be meeting there and to find such a fine venue as we move our meeting around to meet the needs of different veterans.

There is plenty of paid parking on the street and in the parking lot west off of Milwaukee Ave on Cuyler. There is free parking in the Sears lot across Cicero.

The agenda will start with a Power Point presentation on the CVO Veterans Program by the Chair, Dr. Bruce Parry. This is a great opportunity to learn more about what CVO does and to discuss our next steps.

We’ll be discussing the current crisis in the VA, the Crisis Hot Line campaign, the success of the recent Fundraiser and the success at the Memorial Day Parade.

There will be a tour of the museum at the end of the meeting.

As usual, coffee and donuts will be served! See you there!

VA Point Of Contacts


Comment: Someone has gone to a lot of trouble. If this helps one person, then it was worthwhile.

Please pass this on to all veterans on your e-mail list. 

Below are web-sites that provide information on Veterans Benefits and how to file/ask for them. Accordingly, there are many sites that explain how to obtain books, military/medical records, information and how to appeal a denied claim with the VA. Please pass this information on to every Veteran you know. Nearly 100% of this information is free and available for all veterans, the only catch is: you have to ask for it, because they won’t tell you about a specific benefit unless you ask for it.
You need to know what questions to ask so the right doors open for you and then be ready to have an advocate who is willing to work with and for you, stay in the process, and press for your rights and your best interests.

War-Related Illness and Injury Study Center – New Jersey


Board of Veteran’s Appeals

CARES Commission

CARES Draft National Plan

Center for Minority Veterans

Center for Veterans Enterprise

Center for Women Veterans

Clarification on the changes in VA healthcare for Gulf War Veterans

Classified Records – American Gulf War Veterans Assoc

Compensation for Disabilities Associated with the Gulf War Service

Compensation Rate Tables, 12-1-03

Department of Veterans Affairs Home Page

Directory of Veterans Service Organizations

Disability Examination Worksheets Index, Comp

Due Process

Duty to Assist

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

Emergency, Non-emergency, and Fee Basis Care

Environmental Agents

Environmental Agents M10

Establishing Combat Veteran Eligibility


See also, Depleted Uranium Fact Sheet



Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependants 2005 OR,

Forms and Records Request

General Compensation Provisions

Geriatrics and Extended Care

Guideline for Chronic Pain and Fatigue MUS-CPG

Guide to Gulf War Veteran’s Health

Gulf War Subject Index

Gulf War Veteran’s Illnesses Q&As


Homeless Veterans

HSR&D Home

Index to Disability Examination Worksheets C&P exams

Ionizing Radiation

Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom Veterans VBA

M 10 for spouses and children <

M10 Part III Change 1

M21-1 Table of Contents

Mental Disorders, Schedule of Ratings

Mental Health Program Guidelines

Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers

MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Centers of Excellence

My Health e Vet


National Association of State Directors

National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders, Schedule of Ratings

OMI (Office of Medical Inspector)

Online VA Form 10-10EZ

Parkinson’s Disease and Related Neurodegenerative Disorders


Peacetime Disability Compensation

Pension for Non-Service-Connected Disability or Death,


Persian Gulf Registry

This program is now referred to as Gulf War Registry Program (to include Operation Iraqi Freedom) as of March 7, 2005:

Persian Gulf Registry Referral Centers

Persian Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Research 1999, Annual Report To Congress Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Research 2002, Annual Report To Congress

Phase I PGR

Phase II PGR

Policy Manual Index

Power of Attorney

Project 112 (Including Project SHAD)

Prosthetics Eligibility

Public Health and Environmental Hazards Home Page

Public Health/SARS

Publications Manuals

Publications and Reports

Records Center and Vault Homepage

Records Center and Vault Site Map


Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses April 11, 2002

Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses

Research and Development

Survivor’s and Dependents’ Educational Assistance

Title 38 Index Parts 0-17…tpl

Part 18…tpl

Title 38 Part 3 Adjudication Subpart A “Pension, Compensation, and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

Title 38 Pensions, Bonuses & Veterans Relief (also § 3.317 Compensation for certain disabilities due to undiagnosed illnesses found here)


Title 38§ 4.16 Total disability ratings for compensation based on unemployability of the individual. PART A “SCHEDULE FOR RATING DISABILITIES Subpart “General Policy in Rating

U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

VA Best Practice Manual for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

VA Fact Sheet

VA Health Care Eligibility


VA Life Insurance Handbook ¬” Chapter 3

VA Loan Lending Limits and Jumbo Loans

VA MS Research

VA National Hepatitis C Program

VA Office of Research and Development

VA Trainee Pocket Card on Gulf War



VAOIG Hotline Telephone Number and Address

Vet Center Eligibility – Readjustment Counseling Service

Veterans Benefits Administration Main Web Page

Veterans Legal and Benefits Information

VHA Forms, Publications, Manuals

VHA Programs – Clinical Programs & Initiatives>

VHA Public Health Strategic Health Care Group Home Page http: //

VHI Guide to Gulf War Veterans ¬(tm) Health

Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational Rehabilitation Subsistence

VONAPP online

WARMS – 38 CFR Book C

Wartime Disability Compensation

Welcome to the GI Bill Web Site

What VA Social Workers Do

WRIISC Patient Eligibility

Print this out and save it in your VA files. There may be a time for use in the future.

Chicago Memorial Day Parade 2014 Photos Part I

The Coalition of Veterans Organizations marching at the Chicago Memorial Day Parade, May 24, 2014.
Photos courtesy of Dale Tippett.