Booted for smoking weed? NJ program helps ‘other than honorable’ discharged vets
The NJ Reentry Corp., headed up by former Gov. Jim McGreevey, has launched an innovative partnership to help provide clinically required psychiatric and addiction treatment services to those veterans with an "other than honorable" discharge.
There are five levels of discharge from the U.S. military: honorable, general, other than honorable, bad conduct, and dishonorable.
Other than honorable can be as minor as a veteran smoking a marijuana joint. McGreevey knew of one vet who smoked before the physical on his way out of the door of the Marine Corps. The Corps discharged him.
The problem is that VA benefits, health, psychiatric and medical benefits are all tied to the discharge. McGreevey said the concern is that these vets are returning home and having a hard time getting their lives back on track physically and mentally without any proper medical and behavioral health services.
NJ Reentry is devoted to providing the most basic, critical services to help these guys and gals who wore a nation's uniform, who got shot at, who were in the theater of combat, who was representing our national interests, so they can begin to lead their lives, said McGreevey.
NJ Reentry's Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative has teamed up with Hackensack Meridian Health at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune City, University of Pennsylvania Medicine in Princeton, and Discovery Institute in Marlboro to help.
Veterans suffering from suicidal thoughts or are in the throes of trauma will receive acute psychiatric help at Hackensack Meridian, then long-term psychiatric residential care at Penn Medicine for 30 days, followed by 30 days of addiction treatment services at Discovery, said McGreevey.
The point is that vets with zero benefits due to the OTH discharge will receive a minimum of 70 days of care. They will then be put in long-term intensive outpatient.
McGreevey said oftentimes veterans return home and perhaps make a relatively minor error in judgment. Due to that error, they are denied the psychiatric or addiction services they need.
"That's a tragedy because veterans have the highest degree of suicide, the highest degree of homelessness, and for those veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, almost a third have mental health challenges," McGreevey said.
McGreevey has always been passionate about our veterans. His father, who died last week, served in the Marine Corp and his uncle died in the Marine Corp.
"It saddens me that for these veterans that are other than honorable for relatively minor offenses, they are denied the full service of benefits," he added.
He said as Americans, we need to show respect and be grateful to the men and women who put on uniforms and fight for their country.
Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at email@example.com
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