NEW HAVEN — Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut, was presented with the 2017 Veterans Justice Award from the CT Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) on Thursday, Nov. 9, according to a press release.. The award, officials said, is the centerpiece of an annual event to raise funds for Connecticut veterans in need of legal representation. Murphy shared the stage with a second honoree, Point72 Asset Management, a Greenwich-based hedge fund. Founders Perry Boyle and Mike Towey are active with CVLC, both as providers of free representation to veterans and as significant donors.
The award coincides with a push by Murphy to move his “Honor Our Commitment Act” toward a vote. Murphy wrote the bill, which would require that all combat veterans with an other-than-honorable discharge suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) be treated, even if their symptoms caused them to leave the military under less-than-honorable circumstances, according to the release.
“Currently, only 1 in 10 veterans nationwide has access to health care from the federal Veterans Administration system. One reason so few veterans can claim the lifetime healthcare they were promised at recruitment is their discharge status,” members of the CVLC said in the release. “Any final discharge short of ‘honorable’ renders a veteran ineligible, even if that veteran served heroically in combat. CVLC is a nationwide advocate of representing veterans who believe their discharge status failed to fairly reflect the impact of mental health conditions on their actions, and has filed hundreds of claims for upgrading discharge status with the Department of Defense. CVLC staff applauded Murphy’s bill, which has as helped raise the profile of how “bad paper” discharges create life threatening problems for veterans.”
“Every day, CVLC helps Connecticut veterans recovering from homelessness and mental illness get back on their feet,” Murphy said. “I’m grateful for their work and honored to earn their recognition. I introduced the Honor Our Commitment Act because the men and women who risk their lives for our country and suffer the wounds of war should never be denied the care they need. This bill does right by our veterans - it’s the least we can do for them - and I’ll keep fighting in Congress to make sure it becomes law.”
According to CVLC’s Executive Director Margaret Middleton, the annual award is intended to highlight an individual whose long term commitment to Connecticut’s veterans is notable.
“Sen. Murphy truly never forgets the special debt we owe to veterans. Our Connecticut delegation as a whole is solidly onboard for veterans,” she said. “But this year in particular, Senator Murphy has gone the extra mile. If you go on his web site and search the word ‘veteran’ it’ll come up with 188 documents. Every single one of those mentions represents an area where he has taken action for our veterans.”
Murphy has taken up the causes of a number individuals, as well as sponsoring or co-sponsoring multiple bills responding to the needs of veterans. Recent examples include the Honor Our Commitment Act, which would require the VA to provide mental health and behavioral health services to former combat veterans who received other-than-honorable or bad paper discharges. Up until recently, the VA denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to these veterans, and now will only provide limited emergency care. The Senate Appropriations Committee recently passed the bill as part of the FY2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.
Murphy helped secure $37.8 million in federal funding for Community Health Centers in Connecticut. Such centers provide the primary, “frontline” care to many vulnerable groups, including 330,000 veterans nationwide.
Mohammed Wardeh, a Danbury man who arrived in the U.S. as an asylum seeker, served the U.S. in the National Guard, and has now, with Murphy’s help, become a citizen of the U.S.