Former Gov. Jim McGreevey, the chairman of the New Jersey Reentry Corporation (NJRC), held a rally with a number of state legislators today announcing a partnership to provide health services for members of the armed forces who received “other than honorable” (OTH) discharges.
“All those individuals who wear our nation’s uniform and proudly serve this country, people in the theater of combat – we have a moral and ethical obligation to help heal those individuals, particularly overcoming trauma,” McGreevy said on the steps of the New Jersey statehouse.
The OTH status is conferred on veterans who don’t receive an honorable discharge (which is what most servicemembers receive) but haven’t gotten a bad conduct discharge or a dishonorable discharge following a court-martial. In essence, it’s a limbo status.
Servicemembers who abuse drugs or are convicted of a crime in a civilian court, for example, might receive an OTH discharge; so too did gay servicemembers during the era of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, though they now have the ability to apply for full benefits. Most of those who receive OTH discharges are limited from receiving veterans’ services and must confront the stigma of having so-called “bad paper.”
According to the NJRC, more than 1,000 New Jersey veterans have OTH status. The partnership announced today, which includes NJRC, Hackensack Meridian Health, Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health, and Discovery Institute, will work to provide mental health, medical, and addiction services for those veterans.
“We have to ensure that access to care, access to treatment and recovery, is available to our veterans who have OTHs and bad paper discharges,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City), a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. “This initiative is incredibly important, and governor, you have the support of the legislature.”
“[My son] lost his life because after he served us, we did not serve him,” added Stephanie Keegan, whose son struggled heavily with addiction after leaving the Army. “We need to do better, and there should be no excuse good enough to keep our veterans from getting the care they need.”