The Lasting Effects of “Bad Paper” Discharges on Military Veterans


This is a letter to readers from Lauren Katzenberg, the editor of The New York Times’s At War channel.

On Sept. 11, At War hosted an event in Los Angeles to discuss the lasting effects of bad-paper discharges, or forced separations for service members under less than fully honorable conditions that result from the military’s interpretation of misconduct or poor performance.

More than 600,000 service members have been discharged with bad paper since 2000, and hundreds of thousands of veterans from past generations were separated for offenses that often stemmed from PTSD, traumatic brain injury or military sexual assault. In other cases, service members who were found engaging in homosexual acts were kicked out of the services before the repeal of the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011.

Bad-paper discharges are also a result of racial discrimination. In the 1960s and ’70s, black service members were administratively separated or court-martialed in disproportionate numbers, according to government studies. They continue to face forced separation at significant rates, according to Protect Our Defenders, which found that from 2006 to 2015, black service members were 1.29 times to 2.61 times as likely as white service members to have disciplinary action taken against them.

Read the full article following the event here.