Veteran War Hero Banned From Office After PTSD Break Even After He Recovered

War Hero and Veteran Advocate Bradley Lavite

War Hero and Veteran Advocate Bradley Lavite

(9-8-16) I was disappointed when AJ French described to me in an email how her friend, Bradley Lavite, a war veteran, is currently being treated. I asked her to share the story with you while I am in India touring mental health facilities.

Guest Post by AJ French

How do we thank a Veteran?

In my local community, the answer is: shamefully!

Bradley Lavite is a highly decorated war veteran for his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom I and II. Plus, he has more than twenty years of military service as a reservist.  He was an ideal choice to work as the Superintendent of the Madison County Veteran’s Assistance Commission here in Illinois, just northeast of St. Louis.

Unfortunately, an incident on March 5th has threatened my friend’s career and damaged his reputation. It also has revealed intolerance and ignorance by our local public officials.

I met Bradley about ten years ago when we both were elected to serve on the Executive Committee of the Madison County Continuum of Care.  Despite a war related hip injury that often caused him pain, he was an energetic and tireless advocate for veterans. My interest was mental health and his interest was purely veterans’ assistance.  Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive. 

I remember when Bradley accompanied me to the home of a Vet who had schizophrenia and trouble maintaining his property. He offered that Vet a helping hand.  I remember when he arranged for a social worker from the Salvation Army to be publicly recognized for her good work in our community.  I remember several times when he made financial donations to our community.  Never once has this patriot sought recognition for the many beautiful ways he blesses people.

I was not immediately aware he was struggling with his own demons brought on by post traumatic stress.  In 2014, Bradley had entered a private hospital that billed him some $30,000 for three days of substandard treatment that would discourage anyone from seeking psychiatric hospitalization.  Like many individuals and families, this was not something that was openly shared with others.

One year later, 911 was called to the Lavite household when Bradley experienced a highly agitated state.  Instead of an ambulance, he found himself in the back of a police cruiser.  Instead of the going to the Veterans Administration Hospital, he discovered he was headed to the same private hospital that had discharged him without helping him.  He responded by kicking out a window and was charged with a felony disorderly conduct charge but that was later made into a misdemeanor.  

Bradley was embarrassed and regretful. He paid restitution.

But his outbreak was captured on video and that was distributed to the media. A police officer can be heard laughing on the video while Bradley was in crisis. All of us who care about him were saddened when we discovered that there was no recourse for him to stop that video from being shown over and over again in the media.

Although his doctor explained that his break was related to his PTSD and a change in medication, county officials have refused to allow him to enter the building where his veterans office is located. They claim he could still be dangerous. 

Exiling him from his own office due to “safety concerns” – while individuals with violent felony convictions report to a county probation office located in that very same building – appears to be a rather personalized attack. 

This nonsense has gone on for 18 months, during which time Bradley has fully invested in his recovery. He has filed a suit to force the county to let him return to his job.

The real danger here is using mental disability as a platform to fuel public fear and perpetuate prejudice in our community.  This discriminatory ban sets an egregious standard that it is okay to violate the civil rights of persons with psychiatric disabilities.  It’s not okay.  It’s illegal.    

The Illinois Project for Local Assessment of Needs (IPLAN) is a community health assessment and planning process that is conducted every five years by local health jurisdictions.  Like a majority of public health departments throughout Illinois, Madison County has identified mental health as a priority health concern.  This workgroup has been led by a county administrator who cares deeply about public health.  

I invited Bradley to participate in the development of the IPLAN, not knowing he had been banned from all county property.  The workgroup meetings are held in the same building where we previously met for Continuum of Care meetings.  When he told me he wasn’t allowed on any county property, I realized that the person most motivated and qualified to structure real systemic solutions was furthest from the power. 

The Madison County Mental Health Board and the Madison County Public Health Department stand to lose a substantial amount of public trust because of the hurtful treatment of my friend and fellow advocate.  Their work is significantly negated when their own county board has perpetuated fear about one person with a mental health condition; subsequently cultivating communities which discourage people from asking for, and receiving, deserved quality healthcare.

How can we care about veterans health when one of our own is treated so badly?

Worse than any psychiatric symptom one might experience, is the profound depth of disgrace that lingers after a mental health crisis.  How long must people wait to regain good standing in our neighborhoods?  How long will outsiders compare their best day against our worst day?  When will we be welcomed back into society’s good graces?  The time has come.  The time is now.  

Veterans are speaking out about county government using a mental health episode to scapegoat a Superintendent who had the audacity to question financial decisions.  I am speaking out because when local government fails to restore the civil rights of a citizen with the integrity of Bradley Lavite, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of us who live with psychiatric disabilities.

To me this is a fight not only about what’s right and what’s wrong, but good and evil. Please join me in protesting Bradley’s treatment by contacting Madison County Board Members urging them to immediately restore Lavite’s civil rights so evil will not prevail.

AJ French is an Illinois mental health advocate who has experienced homelessness, hopelessness, hallucinations, and hospitalizations in her road to becoming an activist for persons experiencing poverty and in need of healthcare and human services. In 2014, she organized the first-ever Recovery & Empowerment Day at the Illinois State Capitol. That same year, she participated in a White House briefing about suicide prevention. You can reach her at


About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.