Veterans/Veterans’ Benefits/One Woman’s Opinion
By – Sheri de Grom


My opinion about Veterans with ‘bad paper’ has changed over the years. Having worked in The Office of The Staff Judge Advocate (JAG) for many years [all during times of peace] legal was by the book and shades of gray were rarely allowed to shadow my thoughts.

Varying levels of bad paper discharges exist within the Armed Services:

[1] GENERAL DISCHARGE – For those whose service was generally satisfactory, but who engaged in minor misconduct or received non-judicial punishment.

[2] OTHER-THAN-HONORABLE DISCHARGE – An administrative action for those with behavior problems such as violence or use of illegal drugs.

[3] BAD CONDUCT DISCHARGE – Punishment for a military crime.

[4] DISHONORABLE DISCHARGE – For offenses such as murder or desertion.

Jim Salter with the Associated Press expressed his opinion on December 24, 2015, “There is a small percentage of folks who were court-martialed and convicted, and they have earned their bad paper.”

Exiting the military with a less-than-honorable discharge follows the service member for  the rest of their lives: into the workforce, background checks, social relationships and perhaps most of all it precludes them from getting the benefits other veterans receive upon their discharge.

Never before have we seen combat situations where we’ve deployed our military an excessive number of times. Returning to combat zones requires more than a hug and a pat  on the head. These men and women suffer injuries and anguish in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. If they’ve turned to drugs and alcohol to relieve their pain, who am I to judge?

Ex-military members who’ve sacrificed so much can’t turn to the Veterans’ Affairs for mental health problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, TBIs or any other injury. Those who want to go to college aren’t eligible for the GI Bill, the jobless get no assistance for career training and the homeless are excluded from vouchers.

The Department of Defense reported that more than 18,000 people left the military last year with ‘bad paper.’ More than 352,000 have been discharged with ‘bad paper’ since 2000.

Studies show those who are less-than-honorably discharged are far more likely to end up in prison than honorably discharged Veterans. They are also more likely to be suicidal and jobs are harder to get because background checks highlight an undesirable military discharge.

We’ve created a population that’s been segregated from the numerous agencies that serve Veterans. In the cases where intervention might have helped the soldier, it’s our responsibility to help, not turn them away. We owe these battle-fatigued Veterans a hand in returning to a civilian life wherein their hopes and dreams might become reality.

What do you think? Have times changed and should we bend the rules for some of the ‘bad paper’ returning after so many deployments or simply see these veterans as individuals who made bad choices?


I’d originally thought I’d continue blogging about Tom’s and my journey through our latest medical nightmare but I’m too close to it on a daily basis. I learn something new about the mystery of Medicare everyday and I’m alarmed by how many see it as the answer to the U.S. healthcare crisis.

I’ll write more about our trip down death’s lane later. I cannot relive all that happened when BAPTIST HEALTH MEDICAL CENTER of LITTLE ROCK discharged Tom to home knowing without a doubt he probably would not survive! BAPTIST HEALTH advertises they provide amazing care for patients. If a hurried trip to death’s door is their definition of ‘AMAZING CARE,’ I can say they exceeded their goal beyond expectation.


Let’s focus on the men and women of the Armed Services, both past and present. Please join me as we not only strive to change legislation for all Medicaire recipients’ but continue the fight for our Veterans and the benefits they rightfully earned.

Thank you for reading with me and I look forward to hearing from you. For those that believe Medicare is the answer for universal healthcare, please consider how long you wish to live.




About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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  1. kkessler833 says:

    Great post! We owe so much to the military but oftentimes they are not given the respect they deserve.

  2. We should definitely bend the rules for veterans who are discharged because of psychological issues or drug addiction.

    As always, the stories about Toms and your journey are jaw-dropping. Glad to hear you have a new pup to bring joy into your lives, and hope this year is better than last.

  3. As always you share enlightening information….I do think we should take another look at bad paper vets and lighten up the rules….what these people have been through for our country….on a personal note….sounds like you have had your hands full…my thoughts and prayers go out to you and Tom. Take Care…

  4. Inese Poga Art plus Life says:

    I missed you and didn’t see for quite a while, it’s probably my own condition which didn’t allow doing much and I am scared from a surgery. It’s always interesting to read how you are speaking out about painful subjects.
    I thought you might like my other blog which doesn’t show up but still exists, it’s just the WP silly policy that two blogs are sort belonging to one account and they cannot be both visible. Have a great day!

    • Hello, Inese – Yes, it’s nice to see you once again. I was gone for a long while and return to the blogging community as time permits. My days seem to slip away with caregiving for Tom and taking care of all the other chores a household requires. I’ll check out your other blog. It seems a bit silly to me that it doesn’t come up as a legitimate blog for you.

  5. I didn’t know so many categories of discharge existed. What you shared is informative and good to know. Perhaps some needed changes in “The System” will bring about reforms.

    • Hi John – How nice to see you here. I don’t believe we will see change until legislation requires the military and then the VA to make the changes needed. At present, we don’t know exactly how many of these men and women commit suicide but we know it’s higher than any other grouping of individuals connected as a grouping in the Armed Services.
      I believe the cause of their suicide is directly related to their lack of guidance and assistance once they have ‘bad paper.’

  6. Off the top of my head I might have said, “Too bad. You broke the rules,now suffer the consequences.” Giving myself a moment to think, I cannot say this because I don’t feel turning away veterans because they’ve fallen into drugs or alcohol as you mention. I had NO idea so many may be turned away. Again, the question arises if the inappropriate behavior had been cased due to stress, pain and suffering due to tour(s) of duty. What an eye-opener, Sheri. I had no idea. My heart goes out to ours and your veterans. They deserve our help. Please. ❤ ❤ ❤

    • Hi, Tess. Like you, in those early days of my career with JAG, it seemed easy to think in terms of black and white without a single shade of gray in-between. This is the first time we’ve asked our battle weary soldiers to return to war time and time again. The human body wasn’t made to withstand this type of assault on the mind (brain) or the physical body. I can see how these men and women snap time and time again because they are a part of something they had no idea they were signing on for.
      Thank you so much for signing in to read with me.

  7. Hello, Kitt. How nice to see you hear and I do hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend. I see the haunted faces of Veterans everywhere and in doing so, it’s easy to be drawn to distraction. Many of these men and women joined the Armed Services because it seemed the right thing to do after 9/11 and it didn’t take them long to discover they had made a choice not fitted to their unique skills and personalities. Most of the men I knew from the Vietnam era have long ago gone to their graves thinking their country didn’t care about them. Their wasn’t as much bad paper during Vietnam as we needed every individual we could get to keep our quota up of soldiers. The economy is so bad now, many are drawn to the military believing they’ll have a steady pay check.

    As for Medicare and Blue Cross – I think I get along with Blue Cross because every provider loves to see the Federal Blue Cross carrier show up at their door. The provider of care knows they will receive whatever is billed. The policy cost me a lot now that I’ve retired but we would be on the street if I hadn’t stayed enrolled in the program when I retired.
    As for Medicare, if they can figure out a way not to pay something, they will. Medicare as an agency, and then providers that interpret the laws without formal training can and do kill patients. I’ve learned much reading Federal Registers and talking with elder law attorneys.

  8. inesephoto says:

    That is very sad. Not everyone is strong enough, and can snap in such circumstances. Army is a hell of a place, and what happens there, stays there – no need to punish the bad paper holders with denying them good medical care.

    • Hello Inese – It’s good to see you. I’ll admit, I would be one of ‘those with bad paper.’ When you think about a few soldiers getting into a friendly game of one on one and it leads to a game of us against them – well – soon you have a friendly brawl. I’ve seen commanders withdraw 3 day passes for such when what the soldiers really needed was time away to blow off steam and have a good time.
      Think about a seasoned Master Sargent having an idea of how to do something better than his new LT just out of school. The LT thinks he knows it all but the MSG won’t give up and pushes for his own idea. Soon the MSG can be written up for any number of violations. It’s a sham and abused more often than I want to remember.

      • inesephoto says:

        So true, Sheri. To earn the ‘bad papers’ in the Army is too easy. Investigators could be more thoughtful, but their schedule must be tight, and they want to show that they are working hard for their paycheck. They wouldn’t let anything go.

        • I know in some cases the soldier will do most anything to get kicked out of the military because they can’t take the stress any longer.
          I’ve heard officers actually say, “I’m going to make an example out of you.” There’s nothing right about the system used to declare who gets bad paper and who doesn’t.

          • inesephoto says:

            Yes, not everyone can take such stress. There are many reasons why people join the Army, but many of them are bad decisions. Anyway, papers or not, but the vets have to be entitled to medical support from the Government they served.

  9. lbeth1950 says:

    Our service people should get the best.

    • I so agree. I think of the knowledge base you have. I’ve been working on Tom’s medical records [with some big breaks because of his illness] in hopes of increasing his VA Disability benefits. That means I have 50 years of medical records I’m reading and categorizing. If I remember correctly, you used to be a nurse and I need someone that reads handwritten medical records. Thankfully, his medical care for the past 30 years has been on the ‘outside’ and is all typed but that 20 yrs of handwritten military stuff is a nightmare. Then there’s my trying to figure out which of his current diagnosis [chronic] are connected to the conditions he received disability for when he retired. There’s nothing easy about this process.
      I do hope you had a great weekend.

        • Oh, yes. Thank you. I know the legal and some medical as I worked medical malpractice for awhile – just long enough to be dangerous. It was never my ‘cup of tea.’
          I have general questions about certain parts of the body affecting other parts of the body and then if I can weave them into becoming a new disability for Tom, for indeed they have.
          I was so excited last night when I read your, “Can I help?” I would have gladly sent you a flight ticket if I’d had the money!
          Anyway – let me get my questions together and I’ll be getting them to you. I’ll also get the recognized disabilities per Tom’s original adjudication. Thank you, thank you.
          My e-mail is: Home 501-327-2233 and Cell 501-513-7130.
          I need to get Tom up and breakfast and all that. It will be a few hours before I send anything your way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

      • lbeth1950 says:

        I can certainly she’d some light skin n diagnoses if that helps.

  10. I’ve come across a few veterans with ‘bad papers’. I have to ask folks if they are veterans and about their insurance. Those who have been other than honorably discharged are usually uncomfortable telling me so. Though one fella did own up to causing a whole lot of trouble and deserving it.

    Truth be told while others list a myriad of dilemmas facing our elderly, I’ll stick to ‘insurance’ as being the downfall of old age.

    I send warm thoughts and well wishes to both you and Tom.

  11. Another great post that highlights the failure in our system. It was good to get an update from you and hope your personal situation is better. Be blessed.

    • Hi – Thanks for checking in. I always look forward to checking out the wonderful fantasy you create in each of your settings.
      Life is a lot calmer now but still more hectic than I like. Tom has made remarkable progress. When he told me he doesn’t remember anything of Jan, Feb and most of March, I decided it was probably a good thing.

      • I’m glad to hear that life is at least calmer, if not altogether quiet. It’s also good news to hear that Tom is making good progress, every little improvement is a God sent. Best wishes and prayers that things continue to go positively. Be well and look forward to the next update.

  12. This isn’t something I even knew about Sheri, but it strikes me that it’s highly unfair at least for the less serious misconduct. In normal life people generally get the chance to put things behind them. Yes, many jobs ask people to declare convictions and then it’s up to the employer whether they employ them, but it seems as though these types of discharge are like a bad reference that would negate any good service they’ve had.

    • Andrea – I totally agree with you. We have an all volunteer force and these men and women didn’t have to join the military. No one ordered them to sign on the dotted line. I wouldn’t trade my career life-style [and at times my schedule was pure hell] for there’s any day of the week. I would probably do more than back-talk if I had to follow orders all the time. I’m not so good in that department!
      Like you, I always told my staff, if they did something wrong, I took the blame as I probably didn’t explain the task or whatever properly. The 2nd time I would more than likely ask for a good explanation from them but the 3rd time – well, then we’re getting serious. Additionally, it’s so different with Veterans. They have such serious issues that most individuals cannot even imagine and they certainly don’t belong on the streets or in prison.

  13. As Elyse said, we push them beyond the breaking point then when they break, we punish them? Makes no sense to me. I want to cry for all the veterans who have physical and mental problems who are being ignored and treated badly by the very people they were trying to help out. Sickening. By the way, I am also saddened to hear what must have been a horrific experience for Tom and you. My God…will it never end?

    • Patti – I’m with you. Veterans without ‘bad paper’ are having a really tough time of it and then you throw in Veterans with no assistance of any kind and that’s a recipe for an immediate disaster. The VA will count the number of suicides we have among the retired Armed Services but never among those with ‘bad paper.’ The VA has turned their back on these men and women who need their assistance to transcend into American society.
      I’m journaling what’s been happening in Tom’s and my world. I often feel as though I’m talking to a stone wall when I ask for a particular service.
      Your daughter’s photos were exquisite on Facebook. Congratulations to you and your husband for raising a beautiful young woman. I know it’s not an easy job to fulfill those parenting roles and even harder to cut the strings when it’s time to let them go.

  14. I had never thought about this until reading your post. I guess I assumed even those dishnorably discharged got VA support.

    Happy Memorial Day, efriend. My thoughts will be with you today.

    • Hello Jacqui – I feel happy and honored that so many of my e-friends find me when I’ve been away for so long and I’m on such a hap-hazard schedule. Now that you’ve successfully sent me to the open stacks of mysteries out there, Tom is pleased. He ask me about once a week for a recommendation from you. He’s made such great progress that I gave him your site and told him to read your blogs. Last night he was reading one of your reviews to Bailey [I tried to get a photo of them to post in this blog] and then they pretended as if they were putting the novel on my shopping list.
      Bailey has turned into a companion shih tzu that loves to be read too! He’s not particular of the genre! (the dog that is).
      I’ve been meaning to tell you that your site is also making it around the campus of UCA [University of Central Arkansas]. One of the students I used to mentor had a terrible time with writing [I don’t work with her in writing, obviously] and I referred her to your site [because you cover so many different categories and have such great tips] and now the cat is out of the bag! In hind site, I should have called you and maybe you could have worked out something on-line with her individually or the University – never know what might work out. Often the students I mentor [I’ve had to give it up this semester and the summer semester but many of the kids stop in to check on Tom and to help me with chores]. It almost always turns into a lasting friendship.
      Or – are you even interested in that type of arrangement?

  15. Elyse says:

    A fitting post for Memorial Day, Sheri. How can we push people past the breaking point — through multiple deployments — and then pretend they won’t break? We as a society wear blinders.

  16. Just Plain Ol' Vic says:

    Thank you for pointing this out. Perhaps we would show our humanity better by extending a helping hand to those that need it the most.

    • Hi, Vic – I hope you and your family had a wonderful weekend. I agree with you completely. It’s not enough that our veterans entitled to care don’t receive it in a timely manner but that we have another population of veterans with ‘bad paper’ and they receive no care at all – our military justice is one more system that’s broken. However, I hate to admit, nothing is going to change anytime soon.

  17. The Poetry Channel says:

    I remember a lot of people saying they enlisted to prevent them from getting into trouble back home. The problem was that you could get into worse trouble in the service. People with authority issues seemed to get NJP, what we called, “Office Hours,” for even looking at someone the wrong way. The Military Code of Justice does NOT provide the same protections as civilian law. Racism, Sexism, etc. are very present in the microcosm that is a cult by strict definition.
    Regardless of the responsibility for their troubles, a troubled Veteran, a Veteran in trouble, does not exist in a bubble. They are IN society, even if they live under a bridge and stay high the majority of their day and/or night. Moreso in fact. Good or bad paper, Veterans can easily be marginalized when all they want is to be left alone, the last thing most human beings need. And despite the amount of their humanity put on the shelf, they are our fellow human beings.

    As always, a great post, Sheri.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a true and just reply for all of us, not just the service member. Working civil service could sometimes be the same as being in the military, especially if you work within one of the military branches. I was DoD and more than once I felt it only proper to remind a general he was dealing with civilians and not soldiers. There shouldn’t be a difference in the way people are treated but unfortunately it still stands.
      Keep on with that awesome poetry you write. You keep getting better and better!

  18. ksbeth says:

    i love your perspective on the ‘bad paper’ dilemma. it is so sad that these labels follow these brave people throughout the rest of their lives and make civilian life even that much harder. i am a big believer in the gray areas of life, i know few things are truly black and white when you are dealing with humans, and it’s awful that so many people are brushed aside based on the old way of thinking and classifying people without regard to their story. for them, and for you and tom, the situation is disgraceful and i’m so sorry for that.

    • Hello Beth. I so wish the Armed Services would get a grip on reality. Those investigating charges often are afraid to think for themselves and rubberstamp an investigation simply to keep the process moving. It’s nothing to learn of a first time enlistment receiving ‘bad paper’ due to something stupid they know they shouldn’t have done. Others face punishmenet but when the punishment has been served, let them return to duty. It’s oh so not right – we learn of high ranking officers comitting crime after crime, yet they don’t receive ‘bad paper’ and they continue receiving all benefits including full pay. This seems like a double standard to me.

  19. GP Cox says:

    I have known in part some of the horrors you’ve endured while trying to get Tom the medical care he deserves, and the government should be ashamed of the way their veterans are treated (or NOT treated). I sincerely hope things have improved since your last update to me and Tom is seeing some improvement. Give him my best wishes.

  20. Thank you, Sheri. Our service people do deserve better, far better, whether or not they were discharged with bad paper.

    As to Medicare, I’ve experienced nightmares with both Medicare and private insurance.

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