WNPR

Defense Department Settles Suit Over Discharge Upgrades

Jan 20, 2016

Almost two years ago, advocates filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Defense seeking records for how often veterans with "other than honorable" or "bad" discharges applied for discharge upgrades due to their PTSD diagnoses. Now the DOD will be turning over that information.

Last week, the U.S. District Court in Connecticut approved a settlement which requires the Department of Defense to disclose on a quarterly basis the number of applications each military branch receives when a veteran is seeking a discharge upgrade and the outcome of each.

This is important because veterans without honorable discharges don't get service connected benefits like health care and disability compensation.

The Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Vietnam Veterans of America and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress. The VVA said that thousands of Vietnam veterans were wrongfully discharged because they suffered from PTSD, at a time when the disorder was not medically accepted.

Michael Wishnie is the Director of Yale's Veterans Legal Services Clinic. In a statement, he said the settlement will allow the public to know whether the DOD is fulfilling its obligations under what's known as the Hagel memo.

In 2014, then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a directive that required military record correction boards to give "liberal consideration" to veterans with PTSD who were seeking discharge upgrades.

The settlement will also require the DOD to reach out to veterans who may now be eligible for service connected benefits.