Methods: A total of 847 veterans living the in the San Francisco Bay and greater Chicago area participated in the study. The sample comprised honorably discharged (n=731) and non-honorably discharged veterans (n=116). Two sequential multivariable logistic regression models were specified to test associations between legal problems, combat experiences, PTSD symptoms, and discharge status. In model 1, pre-service legal problems and demographic characteristics were entered simultaneously into the model. In model 2, demographic characteristics were retained and in-service legal problems as well as combat experience and PTSD symptoms were entered into the model.
Results: In model 1 examining associations between pre-service predictors and discharge status, pre-service DUI (OR= 7.88, 95% CI: 2.27, 22.83), arrest (OR= 2.56, 95% CI: 1.12, 5.85), and DV (OR= 9.74, 95% CI: 3.80, 25.02) were significantly associated with non-honorable discharge. In model 2 examining associations between in-service predictors and discharge status, in-service DUI (OR= 5.36, 95% CI: 2.13, 13.44), and DV (OR= 5.72, 95% CI: 1.72, 14.57) remained significant. In addition, PTSD symptoms (OR= 1.04, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.06) were significantly associated with non-honorable discharge status, though combat experiences were not. For both non-routine and routine discharge status groups, a greater percentage of study participants reported DUI, arrest, DV, and substance use legal problems in-service than pre-service. Also notable is that the mean PCL-5 (PTSD) score was roughly twenty points higher for those with non-honorable (51.44) compared to honorable (31.19) discharge status.
Conclusion: Both in-service and pre-service legal problems significantly predicted non-routine discharge status. In addition, each additional unit of increase in PTSD symptoms was associated with a 4% increase in the odds of non-honorable discharge status, and non-honorably discharged veterans endorsed substantially higher PTSD burdens than honorably discharged veterans. This suggests that in-service process and characteristics may be prime drivers of non-honorable discharge, and that PTSD symptom burden may be a core component of this risk.