More than 500,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been given administrative “Other Than Honorable” discharges since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Unlike the two punitive discharges, Bad Conduct and Dishonorable, which can only be given after a court-martial conviction, administrative OTH discharges are given for minor infractions with little oversight. Yet administrative OTH discharges have lifetime consequences for employment, benefits, and more.
Veterans who are punished for life with administrative Other Than Honorable discharges are unsurprisingly destined for failure. Aside from lost benefits, an OTH discharge is a scarlet letter that impacts a person’s basic dignity. “OTHER THAN HONORABLE” is a stigma. Thousands of these veterans are no longer alive, like Vietnam Veteran Peter Roberts, who hung himself in 1978 after being denied his discharge upgrade twice, and Iraq Veteran Icarus Randolph, who was fatally shot by police on the Fourth of July, 2014. We have to do better for those who continue to struggle on their own.