The AP reports that on November 15, 2018, Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Haight Jr. in New Haven, Connecticut certified a class-action lawsuit against Navy Secretary Richard Spencer by veterans who say they were unfairly given less-than-honorable discharges for minor infractions linked to their untreated mental health problems. As a result of certification of the class, thousands of Navy and Marine Corps veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who developed post-traumatic stress disorder but were denied Veterans Affairs health benefits may seek those benefits in the lawsuit.
The class action lawsuit alleges that veterans with less-than-honorable discharges prevents them from getting VA benefits including mental health treatment.
The lead plaintiff’s attorney stated after the class action was certified, “This decision is a victory for the tens of thousands of military veterans suffering from service-connected PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury). The fact that the Court has now recognized this class of veterans is further evidence of the Department of Defense’s disgraceful violation of the legal rights of the men and women who have served their country.”
The named plaintiff in the class action lawsuit alleges that he had developed PTSD after serving in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and received an other-than-honorable discharge for a single incident of self-medicating himself with an illegal drug. The Naval Discharge Review Board rejected his request for a discharge upgrade, as it has done with similar applications by thousands of other veterans.
The Yale Law School students who are representing the veterans in the certified class-action lawsuit have filed a similar lawsuit against the Army in which they allege that nearly one-third of the more than 2 million Americans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD and related mental health conditions, and that the military is issuing less-than-honorable discharges at historically high rates, often for minor infractions attributable to undiagnosed mental illness.
According to reports, the discharge review boards for the Army and Air Force granted about 51 percent of discharge upgrade applications involving PTSD, while the Navy board granted only 16 percent.
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