Posted on 27 Feb, 2018
On the surface, it may make sense that if someone is not honorably discharged from the military that they lose their health care and VA benefits. However, all too often they may have been discharged because of behaviors that were caused by a condition they developed while serving. Fortunately, there are organizations such as the Veterans Advocacy Project out of the University of Denver who are working to fight on behalf of veterans.
When a veteran is discharged, they are entitled to several benefits related to health care. They can carry these benefits for as long as they want. They can also receive retirement and disability pay if they qualify. However, some, like Larry Morrison, a veteran of 4 tours, end up getting discharged and being denied those benefits.
Morrison was a veteran of 15 years when he was about to be medically discharged in 2015. However, just two hours before he was to leave, his orders were rescinded and he was instead other than honorably discharged. Gone were his retirement and disability pay. He now works for a little above minimum wage and struggles to get by.
The Veterans Advocacy Project was founded by Ann Vessel of the Stum College of Law at the University of Denver. She started the project because of her son, Sean. He spent 8 years in the marine corps, including 3 deployments to the middle east. He returned home with classic symptoms of PTSD, but had to wait for his benefits. He lived with his parents while waiting for his application to work its way through the system. It took more than a year for him to eventually get his benefits.
Vessel realized that while she was able to help her son until those benefits materialized, there were many veterans who did not have such a support system. She created the project to help veterans navigate the application process and advocate for the rights of those veterans who end up in similar situations to Sean and Larry Morrison.
She built the project while on sabbatical from the university, and then was able to provide school credit to students who helped. She also received donations and built partnerships with the Sturm Family Foundation and the Colorado Bar Foundation. Because of this project, veterans have a voice to help them fight for their rights.