U.S. Veterans Comprise 10% of Death Row Inmates, Report Finds


About 300 former military personnel are awaiting execution

One in 10 death row inmates are veterans, according to a new report, which estimates that roughly 300 former military personnel are awaiting execution in the U.S.

The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) released a report Tuesday detailing death row veterans, some of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s unclear whether the number of condemned veterans is higher over the last several decades, but those numbers may have grown recently considering the many veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says DPIC Senior Program Director Richard Dieter.

DPIC, which advocates for more transparency surrounding executions, based its numbers on information collected from five states with the death penalty as well as the percentage of current prisoners who are veterans, which the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates at roughly 10%.

According to the National Center for PTSD, roughly 10% to 20% of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, and 30% of Vietnam veterans have experienced PTSD in their lifetimes. The disorder, however, doesn’t disqualify someone convicted of murder from being sentenced to death in the same manner as an intellectual disability or severe mental illness can. Dieter said PTSD is oftentimes not brought up at trial because it can sometimes work against a defendant, since juries often don’t know how to account for the role PTSD played in a crime.

“A jury doesn’t know what to make of it,” Dieter said. “But this is a strong reason to sentence them to life,” as opposed to the death penalty, he added.

The first person executed this year was Andrew Brannan, a Vietnam War veteran diagnosed with PTSD who killed a deputy sheriff.

Only half of the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan receive the recommended PTSD therapy, according to an Institute of Medicine report released last year. And the Department of Veterans Affairs routinely saysthat the majority of veterans with PTSD are not violent.

Josh Sanburn

Government To Stop Requiring Veterans To ‘Prove’ PTSD

Well it’s about time…

Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — The government is making it easier for combat veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder to receive disability benefits.

The Veterans Affairs Department plans to announce Monday it will no longer require veterans to prove what might have triggered their illness. Instead, they would have to show that they served in combat in a job that could have contributed to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Veterans advocates and some lawmakers have argued that it sometimes could be impossible for a veteran to find records of a firefight or bomb blast. They also have contended that the old rule ignored other causes of the disorder, such as fearing a traumatic event even if it doesn’t occur. That could discriminate against female troops prohibited from serving on front lines and against other service members who don’t experience combat directly.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the change in policy “long overdue.” Last year, Schumer and Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., proposed legislation similar to the new rule.

“It is so unfair to put the burden of proof on the brave men and women who have already put themselves in harm’s way,” Schumer said Thursday. “These guidelines rectify that and should bring more veterans who’ve served their country the help they need.”

A study last year by the RAND Corp. think tank estimated that nearly 20 percent of returning veterans, or 300,000, have symptoms of PTSD or major depression.

The change in regulations was first reported by The New York Times.