Up to 80,000 vets diagnosed with PTSD could qualify for discharge upgrades

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has advised the boards for correction of military records to “fully and carefully consider every petition based on PTSD brought by each veteran.”

In an extensive article by Stars and Stripes, it has been reported that up to 80,000 veterans that suffer from post-traumatic stress and have also received an Other Than Honorable discharge can use evidence of their disorder to appeal to service boards to upgrade their bad paper discharge.

Hagel released a memorandum earlier this month providing Army, Navy and Air Force “supplemental guidance” to use when a veteran pursues a discharge upgrade and claims that unrecognized Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder caused the misbehavior that led to an Other Than Honorable discharge.

The Defense Secretary advised boards to review medical records closely, giving consideration to any symptoms that could be related to PTSD, even when a veterans’ civilian provider may have diagnosed the disorder or one related to it.

As reported by Stars and Stripes, when PTSD “is reasonably determined to have existed at the time of discharge,” it is to be “a mitigating factor” in the misconduct that generated an Other Than Honorable, also then called Undesirable, discharge.

The new initiatives were most likely a reaction to a federal class action lawsuit filed last spring. The complaints said that undiagnosed veterans were not able to complete assignments and were discharged for behavior caused by the disorder.

Senator Richard Blumenthal stated that many veterans went to war at a time when PTSD was not readily recognized. Due to this, many veterans were given less than honorable discharges, especially during the Vietnam era.

According to Stars and Stripes, advocates for Vietnam vets point out the huge difference between the treatment of servicemen of their era and the treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan vets today. Due in part to a policy change, PTSD victims are more protected and armed forces cannot separate a member with undesirable discharge without screening for PTSD and traumatic brain injury.

Not “every veteran with PTSD and a bad discharge deserves an upgrade,” Lawyer Rebecca Izzo wrote in an analysis of dilemma, which was published in the Yale Law Journal. “However, under current practice, the [Army Board for Correction of Military Record] consistently disregards later evidence of PTSD, making it nearly impossible for veterans with bad discharges arising from conduct due to undiagnosed PTSD to get discharge upgrades.”

The lawsuit will remain active until plaintiffs are satisfied with how the services are implementing new guidelines which must include outreach programs that advise veterans on how and why to petition boards for better discharges.


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