Mental health and the justice system are broken in the DOD (Department of Defense). I’ve written and talked about this subject numerous times, but time after time we’re presented with new instances of a system that allows leaders to subjectively punish its troops either by weaponizing mental health against them, or using it as leverage to punish them when they seek help for themselves.
Sergeant First Class (SFC) Matthew Beam is a member of the Army’s elite Special Forces, otherwise known as the “Green Berets,” who also served as a Ranger in 75th Ranger Regiment. In 2019 he was struggling to keep his head above water as he dealt with depression and thoughts of suicide. SFC Beam was deployed to Afghanistan in 2015 when his ODA (Operational Detachment Alpha) was sent as a QRF (Quick Reaction Force) for another ODA that was pinned down by enemy fire. SFC Beam was the turret gunner for his vehicle when they struck a 250lb IED (Improvised Explosive Device). The explosion ejected SFC Beam from the vehicle resulting in a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).
When he returned to the states shortly after, he discovered that his Hypothalamus was not producing enough testosterone. After a referral to an endocrinologist and blood work that showed his testosterone was severely below the normal levels for a male his age, SFC Beam was twice denied a prescription for testosterone and claims the doctor said it was an “epidemic in SOF” (Special Operations Community).
Fast forward to the fall of 2019. SFC Beam was assigned to B Company, 4th Battalion, 1st SWTG(A) as an instructor with the 18B Weapons Committee. By this time, Beam was depressed and constantly struggled with thoughts of killing himself. He had been self medicating with drugs and alcohol. It got to a point where he knew he couldn’t continue to live that way anymore. He reached out to his chain of seeking help. His Sergeant Major, SGM Dave Hagness, told him to take 30 days and get himself checked into a facility. The unit chaplain, 1SG Rondall Blackburn and the SGM found Saint Simons by the Sea in Georgia. He was driven to the facility by his wife, not put on TDY, and when he asked to be put on leave, he was told “don’t worry about leave; take this 30 days, do what you need to do, get the help you need, and get yourself better.”
After entering the facility for what he thought would be 27 days, he was soon informed by the head doctor they weren’t set up for a month long inpatient mental health program, and they were only a detox facility. Before he entered the facility, he hadn’t used any alcohol or taken any drugs for almost a month. He wasn’t in need of detox; he needed mental health treatment for his depression and suicidal thoughts. 1SG Blackburn set up mental health for SFC Beam on Fort Bragg, and he checked himself out of the facility.
SFC Beam went to his appointments with the mental health provider on Fort Bragg, but he didn’t come back to work during this time. He insists it was not his intent to get out of work. Based on the understanding he had with his chain of command, he thought he was in the clear to work on himself and take 30 days away to get treatment. Despite what was agreed upon, when he came back to work, a new 1SG was in place and stated that SFC had been AWOL for the last month.
His leadership told him he wouldn’t be allowed to seek mental health anymore while stating “that ship has sailed” in reference to him having already attempted to do so. Despite having self reported his drug and alcohol abuse to his leadership, not having failed a UA (urinalysis) for drug use and being sober for 3 months at this point, SFC Beam was command referred to SUDCC (Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care) then told “maybe we’ll talk about mental health later down the road.”
Though the investigation states that SFC Beam’s duties and responsibilities were minimized to allow him the opportunity to participate in outpatient programs, SFC Beam contends that he was put in an office by himself for a month which made his depression even worse. He was sober, but he had to wrestle with an agonizing depression on a daily basis without being allowed to seek treatment for it.
The 15-6 investigation states that SFC Beam began the Addition Medicine Intensive Outpatient Program (AMIOP) on 10 December 2019 while stating that he requested a less intense program with more individual freedom and accountability.
SFC Beam claims that statement is false and he never asked for a less intense program. In fact, he was referred to Behavioral Health Intensive Outpatient Program by his medical doctor, but his command denied the referral and opted to send him to SUDCC and AMIOP instead.
Throughout this time period, SFC Beam was given regular UA tests and passed all of them. He told 1SG Clayton (whose name is redacted at the bottom of the document) that he had taken testosterone which he got from his friend. SFC Beam was under the impression that it wasn’t an issue since the medical officers at SUDCC had told him it was medically permissible based on his low testosterone
SFC Beam had also requested an endocrinology analysis with the intent to once again pursue getting a prescription for testosterone to combat his low levels. He willingly provided the results to his unit.
Even though he had taken this UA on January 13, SFC Beam was no longer part of B Company when this probable cause memo was written by MAJ Elliot, the commander of B Company. According to his ERB (Enlisted Record Brief), he had already been assigned to HHD on January 20.
That didn’t stop B Company from telling him he was still on their books and he had to take another UA on January 24.
Despite his best efforts to be forthright and open with his chain of command, and the fact that he was successful in getting a testosterone prescription only a couple of weeks later, his former command still came down hard on him.
His former commander, MAJ Elliot, signed a letter of intent to separate SFC Beam from service. The issue with this letter is that MAJ Elliot wasn’t his commander anymore, and he didn’t have the authority to do this.
In August of 2020, SFC Beam was given a GOMOR (General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand) from the Commanding General of SWCS, Major General Patrick Roberson. However, it was filed locally in December of 2020. This means it’s a reprimand that won’t follow the soldier with potentially career ending consequences like it would if it was filed in their permanent file. When SFC Beam was given his GOMOR, he was also given a list of the allegations and charges against him. He contends the portions highlighted in the picture below are inaccurate.
Many quotes attributed to SFC Beam’s medical provider, Mrs. Yanez, were never made according to Beam. In fact, the official 15-6 investigation even stated that the MFR (memorandum for record) used to recommend SFC Beam receive a GOMOR contained “errors and misquotes,” but then it went on to dismiss these as misunderstandings and not a deliberate attempt to deceive, obfuscate or mislead the reader.
SFC Beam believed that the entire incident was behind him after this, however, in June of 2021, he found out he had a separation board scheduled for September. SFC Beam’s new chain of command, to include the company, battalion and group command teams, wrote memorandums in an effort to retain him in the Army.
When the commander of HHD (the company he was assigned to when he was illegally given a UA) found out about it, he wrote a memo on behalf of SFC Beam requesting the UA be thrown out with prejudice based on the director of SUDCC and the medical review office deeming his use allowable due to his medical condition and the fact that SFC Beam was under his command at the time and the UA was not legally allowed to be conducted by B Company.
Notably, when SFC Beam’s board convened, Mrs. Yanez was not allowed to testify at the proceedings due to Womack Army Medical Center refusing to allow her to attend. SFC Beam and his attorney maintain that all quotes attributed to Mrs. Yanez were entirely fabricated.
The board decided to separate under honorable conditions but to suspend the separation for 12 months. This means if SFC Beam didn’t have any disciplinary issues during that time, the separation would go away and he’d stay in the Army. However, MG Roberson denied the recommendation.
In December of 2021, SFC Beam was eligible for a MEB (Medical Evaluation Board) to evaluate him for medical retirement due to injuries he’d sustained in the Army, but MG Roberson denied his MEB and ordered his command to transition him out immediately.
Let’s recap really quick:
- Matt was blown up while serving his country and diagnosed with medical issues that are known to cause depression.
- After years of not receiving the medical care he sought, he fell into drug and alcohol abuse.
- Upon making the decision to fight for his health again, he approached his chain of command and told them what was going on.
- After a series of incidents in which the system failed him, new leadership took over and used his admissions against him.
- He was declared AWOL by his new leadership regardless of the guidance given by his previous leadership.
- He failed a UA by testing positive for testosterone, but the UA was not legally administered, he had already told his chain of command of his use (which is the reason they specifically sought the additive in testing for testosterone), and he was given a prescription for testosterone only a couple of weeks later anyways.
- His command lied on official documents.
- The 15-6 investigator determined the memo supporting his GOMOR contained “errors and misquotes” to which Matt’s attorney claimed were outright fabrications.
- His commander while he was assigned to HHD wrote a memo requesting the UA be thrown out with prejudice due to its illegality
- His current command, from company to group leadership, have all written memos in an effort to retain
I’ve even received over two dozen character statements from former teammates, colleagues and friends of Matt who all reinforce the fact that Matt is, and has been, a man of character who has continually taken care of others before himself, even while he was deteriorating mentally from lack of care.
Even though Matt was struggling with his own demons and years of combat, he always made sure to show up for everyone else and put their needs before his own… I can single handily credit Matt to saving my life back in October 2020 when I tried to kill myself in my own home. Matt didn’t hesitate to show up at my house at 2AM on a Wednesday night, just to be there for me and watch over me. The kind of life saving actions that nobody in my chain of command even attempted to do. Failing to take care of our soldiers and do what is right by them is directly contributing to the suicide epidemic plaguing the military. Failure to do what is right by Matt Beam will directly contribute to this epidemic and atmosphere of distrust by the soldiers still active duty….Ryan Cowley
Green Beret (Ret.)
Matt’s situation is far to common in todays military as leadership is no longer concerned with the well being of their subordinates, only that they do what they are told and don’t make any waves. Special Forces is no exception to that reality and in all likelihood is worse than the regular Army. Matt has been fighting a seemingly dead end battle for his own well being for a number of years now and the very people who should be looking out for him are his toughest adversaries…Travis Denman MSG USA (Ret.)
US Army Special Forces
Almost every time I have seen or spoken to he and his wife he is either involved in or spearheading a fundraiser geared to helping VA, Veterans or a local military family in need. All this while going through some very rough times in his own life. This I believe speaks volumes to his character… He has been nothing but an upstanding human being and an honorable individual, putting those in need above himself.Michelle C. Bowman
SFC, USA (RET)
SFC Beam is a decorated combat veteran, a proud soldier and a true warrior. I admire his willingness to speak out and seek medical and mental health assistance, something that too many service members over the years were hesitant in doing out of fear that it would stigmatize them in the eyes of their peers and superiors. As a career officer myself with 32 years of service, I find it reprehensible that the Army would react in such a negative way towards this professional non-commissioned officer, particularly at a time when the Department of the Army and Department of Defense publicly profess to be genuinely concerned about recognizing and treating the very real mental health issues suffered by so many of our soldiers. I stand with Matt Beam in his efforts to obtain the help he needs and trust that the Department of the Army and his chain of command will step up and do the right thing for this dedicated, professional soldier.Vincent B. Sittnick
CW3 (Ret), US Army
SFC Beam is known for volunteering his time with wounded warriors. He has helped with all three of the annual Adaptive Athlete Fundraisers. He has also raised 10s of thousands of dollars for vets through raffles and charitable shooting matches that he organized. SFC Matthew Beam takes care of those around him as good if not better than any other SNCO I’ve seen to date. More SNCOs should aspire to take care of the men and women around them like SFC Beam does.Mark Monroe
Mathew Beam is a married man who loves his wife more than anything else in the world. Just like his work and personal life, Matt puts the health, welfare, and happiness of his wife before his own. Amanda has several debilitating health issues that requires extensive health care, and Matt can be found right by her side supporting her in every way he can…Not allowing SFC Matt Beam to continue on with his medical retirement and receive the long term treatment he will continue to need would be a travesty, and speaks of a continuing toxic environment where soldiers will continue to be broken by the same command that says they have the soldiers health and welfare in mind when making such decisions.Chris – Special Forces (ret)
Penalizing troops who seek mental health will continue to create a stigma that will leave them feeling isolated and alone. Having to suffer in silence and try to figure things out alone often leads to harmful behavior, even to the point of suicide. Rogue leaders who enact personal vendettas against troops and fabricate information is a further symptom of the lack of accountability in our armed forces. Our troops see this behavior and don’t want to serve in an institution that supports it, while those on the periphery contemplating service don’t want to join at all. Our retention and recruiting are indicative of this. What’s being done to SFC Beam is a staggering miscarriage of justice. While senior leaders smile on camera and say they got help so you should too, these are the stories and incidents our troops are all too familiar with and why they ultimately choose not to seek mental help. Our system is broken.