March 23, 2012-An analysis of Department of Defense records shows that hundreds of veterans have been wrongfully discharged since 2008. The Vietnam Veterans of America allege that service members were incorrectly diagnosed with “personality disorder.”
The Veteran’s group is represented by Yale Law School's Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Student intern, Rob Cuthbert says Defense Department regulations say a servicemember can be discharged for “personality disorder” if he or she is diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist and concludes the disorder will significantly impair them from functioning effectively in the military. Research by the Yale clinic shows these guidelines were often not followed. Cuthbert says this kind of discharge is detrimental to veterans. "The problem is that PD is considered a pre-existing condition meaning the government will not cover symptoms which they attach to PD that might be causing a disability. And our concern is that veterans have been discharged with PD which alleviates government from paying for healthcare, for their disability benefits when in fact they suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury." Cuthbert says an internal DOD review found more than 31,000 servicemembers were discharged since 2001 on the basis of having a personality disorder. A few years ago Congress asked for an investigation into illegal discharges and it prompted new DOD rules. But Cuthbert says since that time, an analysis of DOD records finds PD discharges are up twenty percent. He says the goal is to get the DOD to review every PD discharge between 2001 and 2010. "Because every time anyone has looked at the individual personality disorder discharges they've found violations on multiple levels for multiple files." Another Freedom of Information request for DOD records by Vietnam Veterans of America and Yale's Veterans Legal Services Clinic remains in litigation. Ultimately they want to see the federal government offer these veterans the benefits they earned from their service.