Can you get discharged for depression?

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Page last updated: 10/11/2022

Can you get discharged for depression?

In this article we will answer the question “Can you get discharged for depression?”

We will also discuss what are the various types of depression that can get you discharged, and what are the steps you need to take to get a Medical Discharge for Depression.

Can you get discharged for depression?

Yes, you can get discharged for Clinical depression or Major Depressive disorder.

In the military, serious mental health disorders such as major depression, anxiety or schizophrenia are grounds for medical discharge or early retirement.

The criteria for discharge usually depend on the severity of the disorder, the impact the disorder has on the safety of the person and others, and receptiveness to treatment.

Depression is a serious mental health disorder that has caused widespread disability in the lives of those it has affected. WHO estimates that close to 300 million people are affected world wide. 

It can severely impact an individual’s quality of life and cause distress and dissatisfaction in the lives of those who live with it. Depression among military personnel is a major cause for concern. 

As of recent years, there have been changes in procedures related to medical discharge and retirement related to mental disorders such as psychiatric disorders such as major depressive disorders, PTSD, other anxiety disorders, schizophrenia etc.

In the case of Personality disorders, individuals may have grounds for administrative discharge, but not medical discharge or retirement because the disorder is almost impossible to cure. 

It has to be mentioned that Short-term or less serious conditions such as adjustment disorders or situational depression- due to loss, marital disillusionment, divorce etc are also common grounds for administrative discharge.

The eligible Criteria for Disability Discharge and Retirement for mental disorders like depression in very broad terms, is when the disorder is severe enough to:

  • Interfere significantly with performance of duties
  • Require continued and intensive psychiatric support
  • Possibly and seriously endanger the servicemember’s as well as other servicemember’s health or well-being
  • Is against the best interests of the government. 

According to the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force, the controlling regulation is DoD Instruction 1332.18.

This Instruction is set out in Enclosure 3, Appendix 2, and provides very general standards for determining whether a certain medical condition render a servicemember unfit for military service:

 The instruction is as follows:

A Service member will be considered unfit when the evidence establishes that the member, due to disability, is unable to reasonably perform duties of his or her office, grade, rank, or rating, including those during a remaining period of Reserve obligation. (TNLG LTF)

A Service member may also be considered unfit when there is evidence, usually from a physician or psychiatrist under whom they are cared for, establishes that:

  • The Service member’s diagnosis of depression is a medical risk for the health, welfare or safety of the military member as well as that of other members
  • The Service member’s diagnosis of depression requires unreasonable requirements on the military to protect and care for the Service member who is diagnosed.
Can you get discharged for depression?

What types of depression can get you discharged from depression?

According to the Department of Defence, there are certain rules regarding a medical discharge for depression.

The eligible Criteria for Disability Discharge and Retirement for mental disorders like depression in very broad terms, is when the disorder is severe enough to:

  • Interfere significantly with performance of duties
  • Require continued and intensive psychiatric support
  • Possibly and seriously endanger the servicemember’s as well as other servicemember’s health or well-being
  • Is against the best interests of the government. 

Some of the various types of depression disorders that can lead to a discharge include:

Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder is a mood disorder and leads to a medical discharge for depression.

Depending on the disorder’s severity, a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder leads to a disability discharge or administrative discharge.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) was once called dysthymic disorder and will likely lead to a medical discharge for depression.

Atypical Depression 

Atypical Depression is often confused with Major Depressive Disorder but they are different disorders and the main difference being that in this type of depression that ranges from severe to mild, the person may experience the mood lifts during a positive event.

While it is difficult to say for sure, Atypical Depression is possibly disqualifying especially since it shares some common symptoms as Major Depression.

According to Operation Military Kids, Depressive disorders that might not lead to a discharge include:

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD); related to the changing of the seasons.
  • Postpartum Depression because it remains treatable, however, if the symptoms are evident and persistent, it may lead to a medical evaluation to determine fitness for service.
  • Situational Depression, as there are branches to support service members during situational depression.

What You Need to Do to Get a Medical Discharge for Depression?

If you seek a discharge for depression under the Other Designated Physical and Mental Conditions Discharge, you can follow the steps provided by writers at Operation Military Kids:

  • The first step is to convince your commander that your discharge best suits the interest of your health and safety, that of your fellow service personnel, and the military’s interests.
  • Provide evidence of your condition from a psychiatrist who has evaluated your condition and has diagnosed you and the severity of your condition.

It has to be mentioned that If you are under the care of a civilian psychiatrist, you will likely need to see a military psychiatrist, as well.

When you see a military psychiatrist for assessment and diagnosis, there is no confidentiality that protects you so everything that happens between you and the psychiatrist will most likely be informed to the higher ups. 

  • You should also provide documentation that proves how your condition impacts other parts of your life. This can be done by procuring statements from your religious leaders, family members, or other community members.
  • When you speak to your commander, make sure that you stick to facts and that you speak openly without minimising the impact of your condition in your life and health. 
  • After this, your commanding officer has full discretion regarding supporting your request for a discharge or not, as well as under what to discharge you with- disability, medical, or administrative. 
  • If your case is for a potential disability discharge, you will be recommended to an evaluation to determine the degree of disability by a medical officer.
  • You must be prepared as there will likely be numerous trips to the doctor for various kinds of paperwork and documentation and after you have submitted your paperwork, your case will be sent to the Medical Evaluation Board to determine the next steps of your discharge.

What to do if you have been discharged for depression?

Seek out  professional help

Depression is not just low moods, it won’t simply “go away”. There needs to be an active effort to work through your condition as well as pharmacological support that you might need in the case there are neurological causes to your condition. 

Talking to a therapist and engaging with them to understand what is happening to you does not mean that you have failed in life. It simply means that you need help like everyone else and that does not make you any less of a person. 

Your therapist will help you understand what is happening to you, might prescribe you medication if needed, and can help you tap into your own strengths that can help you adapt to challenges, changes, and overcome them.

Understanding your condition, diagnosis and Engaging with a therapist, being diligent with your medication, and making the changes you need to make to get better will help you during this difficult time. 

Focus on self-care

While it might be hard to take care of yourself- you might find it hard to eat, wash, wake up, and do other basic things. 

Taking care of your physical needs is very important as it is a way to care for yourself. Taking care of your emotional needs is also important and you can work towards emotional self care after taking care of your physical needs first. 

You can choose to make new changes that help you feel better or healthier like going to the gym, changing your diet to a more healthy one, going for wants. Sometimes change in routines can also be your way of caring for yourself. 

Join a support group

Another thing you can do for yourself is to join a support group of people struggling with depression in the military so that you can experience emotional support first hand within these communities and over time learn how to manage your challenges by learning from each other. 

It is possible that people with depression can also struggle with a sense of worthlessness, a feeling that you have nothing of value to offer. 

By joining a group that is open, empathetic, and growing towards healing, you and your experiences can be an excellent sense of support to someone else who is also in their early part of their journey. 

Conclusion

In this article we have answered the question “Can you get discharged for depression?”

We have also discussed what are the various types of depression that can get you discharged, and what are the steps you need to take to get a Medical Discharge for Depression.

FAQ related to can you get discharged for depression

What are the grounds for discharge for mental illness?

The eligible Criteria for Disability Discharge and Retirement for mental disorders like depression in very broad terms, is when the disorder is severe enough to:

  • Interfere significantly with performance of duties
  • Require continued and intensive psychiatric support
  • Possibly and seriously endanger the servicemember’s as well as other servicemember’s health or well-being
  • Is against the best interests of the government. 

Who should you talk to for discharge for depression?

You should talk to your commanding officer and this should be your first step- to convince your commander that your discharge best suits the interest of your health and safety, that of your fellow service personnel, and the military’s interests.

You can do this along with various documented proof of your diagnosis and severity of your diagnosis from a doctor- preferably military doctors. 

What disorders are grounds for discharge?

In the military, serious mental health disorders such as major depression, anxiety or schizophrenia are grounds for medical discharge or early retirement.

References

Can You Get An Early Discharge From The Military For Depression? Operation Military Kids. Retrieved on 19th April 2022. https://www.operationmilitarykids.org/can-you-get-an-early-discharge-from-the-military-for-depression/

Military Psychiatric Policies And Discharges – An Introduction For Attorneys And Counsellors. NLG LTD. Retrieved on 18th April 2022. https://nlgmltf.org/programs-and-services/military-law-library/memos/military-psychiatric-policies/#:~:text=In%20the%20military’s%20scheme%20of,severity%20and%20 amenability%20to%20treatment.