By Brad Mosher
Bill Minnix got some good news on March 1.
He was told that a Department of Veterans Affairs hearing in Portland recently had decided his service from February to July in 1973 in the U.S. Air Force is considered honorable for VA purposes.
The hearing was focused on the character of Minnix’ discharge from the military in 1973, when he was given a less than honorable discharge.
The decision doesn’t change the discharge, but it opens the door to Minnix receiving full veterans benefits.
It also is considered to be a ground-breaking decision which could impact other veterans who were victims of sexual assault while in the service.
“I am quite excited. I talked to Tiffany Kelley, the attorney for the National Veterans Legal Services Program, and she said this is huge because they have had these veterans just waiting. She said that this was a huge precedent,” Minnix said.
“Monetary-wise, that is not the thing. What I am getting out of this and I feel really good about is all the people this (decision) is going to help from here on out.
“They are many other ‘other than honorable’ discharges. Some are called undesirable. Some are called personality disorder discharges,” he added.
There are some pretty good people who got discharges they didn’t deserve, Minnix explained.
“This is going to help thousands of other people who got other than honorable discharges,” he said.
His next step on the battle with the military will be with the Department of Defense as he fights for a new DD-214 separation status. The recent decision by the Veterans hearing will help with that battle, Minnix added. “We are going to get my actual discharge papers changed and when that happens, I will be eligible for pension and benefits all the way back to 1973,” he said.
Minnix heads to Congress
Minnix said he is a big advocate for the Military Justice Act.
In coming months, Minnix said he will be traveling to Washington D.C. to speak before Congress.
“That is my goal and I have to try and get that bill passed,” he said.
One thing Minnix likes about the bill is that is changes the impact unit and command personnel can have on a case. It will put investigation and prosecution of military sexual trauma in the hands of a civilian authority. “That way, we don’t have anything like what happened in my case where the commander, a general and a lieutenant covered up,” he said.
According to Minnix, he is not the only veteran who has had to deal with sexual trauma. But, the recent outcome of his hearing could really help others in getting recognition and action from not only the VA, but the military as well.
He also praised all the people who have been supported him in his battle to get benefits from the Veterans Administration, including Dan Dennis at C.A.R.E. Inc. and Diane Niflis with the Tillamook County Veterans Services office.
“I’m just very grateful,” he said. “They’ve worked hard on this for me.”
He also wanted to thank his friends in Pacific City who helped him recently after he was injured and recuperating for about nine months.