The U.S. Congress passed the Veteran’s Fairness Act Thursday in Washington D.C., but its effects will be felt all over the country, according to one local veteran.
By Brad Mosher
Bill Minnix was happy for thousands of veterans who will be affected by a small portion of the defense authorization bill Congress passed. It has been signed into law by President Barack Obama.
The military will be required to consider the mental health conditions for troops who receive less than honorable discharges.
That would mean thousands of veterans could be eligible for an upgrade in the status of their discharge and changes in their healthcare through the veterans administration.
“This is something myself and many, many thousands of others have been fighting for,” Minnix said Friday.
“It takes undesirable discharges and bad faith discharges and upgrades them to honorable. It also gets them veterans benefits.
“I feel like we really have gotten a wonderful victory. It is part of the Defense Act, but it is called the Veterans Fairness Act.
“This is huge. It is going to help hundreds of thousands of veterans,” he added.
Minnix has been involved in a years-log battle for a change in his veteran and service status.
He was in the U.S. Air Force in 1973 when he was sexually assaulted by military personnel at a base in Mississippi.
That led to a spiral of events where he was ousted from the service with charges of desertion and an dishonorable discharge.
The way he was removed from the service also left a stain on him personally which followed him for years and led to a point where he was parked on a mountainous road near Kalispell in Montana contemplating suicide.
Another car stopped to see if he need help on that road. That led Minnix to seek help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It took years of battling with the Veterans Administration, but earlier this year Minnix won full benefits after a Department of Veterans Affairs hearing in Portland.
Now, he is in the middle of battling for an upgrade in his discharge status with the Department of Defense. Minnix said he hopes the decision will be announced in the next few weeks.
“Definitely, this congressional act is going to help things a lot. My case is going to be heard by Jan. 13. I haven’t heard anything yet … but the VA already sees me as honorable and I have gotten all my benefits.
“Now, we are waiting on the Department of Defense who is not working well with the VA to get my DD-214. It’s embarrassing to carry a DD-214 around which says ‘Undesirable.” Minnix said. “It (the DD-214) has to be shown quite a bit, so they (the DoD) need to do it right. They need to do it at both ends (the VA and the DoD).
“The Pentagon and the Department of Defense are just now recognizing that they have to do something. Congress now has stepped up, which is going to force the DoD and force the military to reverse these discharges,” he said.
“The DoD is going to be forced to change once President Obama signs this bill. That is when this is going to become a victory,” he added. “That is what all of us have been fighting for.”
The National Defense Authorization Act included language which identified military sexual trauma as one of the aspects that a military evidence review would have to consider.
According to Minnix, the investigation into his case several years ago turned up a number of due process violations, which ultimately helped his case with the Department of Veterans Affairs.