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“Chaptered Out”: US Military Seeks to Balance Budget on Backs of Disabled Veterans

The US military has been engaged in a policy of forcing wounded and disabled veterans out of service to avoid paying benefits and to make room for new able-bodied recruits.  Identifying injured combat soldiers as delinquent and negligent has lead to a practice called “chaptering out” which results in those soldiers being forced to leave the military without an “honorable discharge.” Because of this, thousands of soldiers have been chaptered out, losing federally sponsored benefits including health care, unemployment and educational programs.

Dave Phillips, a reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette, exposed this practice through his story of Purple Heart recipient Sergeant Jerrald Jensen. Jensen, a decorated two-tour Afghanistan war veteran and recovering active-duty Sergeant, was forced from the Army without benefits for what Army officials called “a pattern of misconduct.” Jensen failed to pass a urine test after being prescribed drugs for his injuries. He was also written up for being late to an appointment. Jensen made numerous attempts to be retested but was chaptered out by his superiors. “They told me that I didn’t deserve to wear the uniform now, nor did I ever deserve to wear it,” Jensen told Aljazeera America.

Phillips has followed several stories of wounded soldiers who have been kicked out of the military and left with nothing. “Many have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and some also have traumatic brain injuries (TBI), both of which can influence behavior and judgment,” said Phillips.  He estimates that 76,000 soldiers have been chaptered out since 2006 and that number has increased every year since the war in Iraq began.

While the military declined to be interviewed denying any policy that targeted disabled soldiers to be forced out without benefits, an insider from the U.S Army Medical Command confirmed that this does happen. According to Phillips, “These commanders are stuck in this position where if they try to get them out medically, they are still stuck with them, maybe for a long time. If they decide to kick them out for misconduct instead, they could be out in weeks.”  Some soldiers like Jensen have had success appealing their discharges but many others are left without any support from the nation they served.


Dave Phillips, “Left Behind, No Break for the Wounded,” Colorado Springs Gazette, May 20, 2013,

Sheila MacVicar, “76,000 Soldiers ‘Chaptered Out’ of Veterans’ Benefits Since 2006,” Aljazeera America, November 9, 2013,

Student Researchers: Carter Gaskill and Crystal Lau (DePauw University)

Faculty Evaluator: Brett R. O’Bannon and Kevin Howley (DePauw University)

  • francoise farron December 30, 2013

    This news item is too horrible to contemplate. How is it possible that anyone be so cruel to veterans who have served our country? Is it the case that those who make the decisions are too removed from those they judge? Our society is so enamored with technology that we have in many situations totally lost the personal knowledge, the personal touch. I know people who have served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) where the officers know their soldiers intimately; they fight together; the officers are with their soldiers in the field – out front. They don’t just sit in some offices, making policies disconnected from reality. If anyone wants to help these soldiers, I believe this is the way to go about it. Find out how well those who judge them know them personally??

    • Darwin26 December 31, 2013

      the audacity of bringing up US Funded Killers and Genocidal maniacs, the IDF and anything Israel perpetrators of such inhuman diabolical harm on innocent civilians the Rightful heirs and owners of all Palestine.
      One state: FREE PALESTINE

    • Mike Corbeil December 31, 2013

      IDF is no example to live by. So what if the officers are in the field with their subordinate soldiers all committing genocidal murder. What lesson is that supposed to provide to a world that should aim to be humane and just? It doesn’t lessen the criminality committed.

      Or, do you think that Israel is right and the Palestinians are wrong and shouldn’t live in their ancestral land that most Jews of today have no ancestral relation to? Most of them are from or descend from Eastern Europe, certainly not ancient Israel, that tiny place that is no sacred land in any respect, that is, no more than the rest of this planet is. Holy Land promise from God in Biblical scripture is human invention. We can even use Gensis, the part about Creation, for reference, for hard-core believers who lack common sense.

      Israel is a tiny country, population of around 7mn, 2mn of which aren’t Jews, yet western industrialized countries have criminally helped this tiny country to become the 4th or 3rd military power on this planet, armed en masse with nuclear weapons, to boot. It commits mass muderous genocide at will because of Washington.

      You want to use the IDF for illustrating some sort of good example of military and political leadership? It’s hell-bent.

  • Darwin26 December 31, 2013

    Ahhh and what of the innocent civilians these dog faces trashed at will? and the Freedom fighters in foreign lands ~ lands that those Dog Faces couldn’t find on a map ~ simply for the most part Economic Conscripts ~ They weren’t defending me or any country only Multi-national demands from Wall St. Soooo Soldiers wake up now and smell the Capitalist toast you were ready to die for ~ think about it dudes YOU were expendable from the get go. What are you going to do ? Continue to practice your stinking Banner Worship ~ march in the St Patty’s parade with grade school recruits??? Watch soon the Repugs and Neo-libs who brought you these filthy dirty Wars for Profit will try to Privatize the VA

  • Mike Corbeil December 31, 2013

    Outrageous! While I feel sad that these soldiers ever accepted to serve in Washington’s secret purpose wars, and wish that this never happened, fact is fact and these soldiers must nonetheless be treated humanely. Washington is being as inhumane as a person might be able to imagine, short of executing these veterans. How can we deceive people into gullibly serving in totally unjustifiable, therefore criminal, wars and then treat them in this manner. It’s extremely criminal to wage wars based on deceit, to begin with. To subsequently treat veterans as undeserving, now that’s truly … worse, say. I need to be careful with wording here. We don’t want to be too un-PC, here, and I’ll keep the un-PC thoughts to myself.

    The country should rise up and turn this government over, on its “heads”. That could be followed by a swift and very strong booting. Washington has long been very disgraceful towards veterans, very many of them anyway, but it seems to be aiming to be possibly worse than before. The population needs to wake up and learn to tell this governments usurpers that the simply response is NO. Yes, sir, I hear you; but, no sir, I follow not your orders! It’s aka “Not in my name!”.

    This government needs revolutionary change, improvements. Otherwise, every citizen is justified in flipping this government “the bird”. Jesus of Nazareth said to pray for our enemies and it’s a good suggestion, but the people who run this government sure make it very difficult to do this. It’s much easier to condemn these political jerks. I’ll reserve words of outrage to myself.

    It wouldn’t be very PC to pronounce them here. And I think, hope that this comment is sufficiently PC.

  • usedtobesupermom December 31, 2013

    This is unconscionable & a disgrace!

  • Lisa February 15, 2014

    I know first hand on how the military is treating war veterans. My son, a combat war veteran who served 2 tours in Iraq, is being refused treatment. He has asked the army officials at Ft. CARSON for help with his change in mental state. They have evaluated him and said nothing is wrong. He asked for a general discharge but they refused. He requested a 2 week leave due to extreme stress but was denied. He went to a private medical facility and has been diagnosed with having severe bipolar and possible TBI. The army is refusing him any testing to see whether he has one or not. He has had a recent alcohol related incident in which the army is telling the family “punishment before treatment. And then he will only get minimum treatment from them” “it is up to the family to get him help” They had him see yet another mental health official through Ft Carson and after a 5 minute consultation he was told he didn’t have bipolar he was only depressed. They took him off his current medication and prescribed Paxil. A person with bipolar taking Paxil has an extreme reaction of hyper activity. He slept only a few hours in 4 days. They have refused treatment,took his rank and have now stopped his pay. He has a wife and 3 children he supports. How can anybody be treated so badly when they are in need of help? Where are the veterans rights in all of this? They volunteer to fight for our country and come home to be kicked aside and mistreated so badly. My son was proud to serve. He is not the same person he once was.They only want to discharge him instead of helping him.

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