By Debbie Gregory.
U.S. military Veterans don’t like it when anyone tarnishes the reputation of their country, their branch of service and their traditions. Some Veterans take considerable offense when one of their own steps out of line. For decades, many Veterans, even decorated combat Veterans, have been considered outsiders if their discharges were dis-honorable in nature. These Veteranswere often banned from private Veterans clubs and even denied VA benefits. Some would argue that these “initiated” Veterans should have known better and acted appropriately.
But what if these Veterans’ actions were not the result of dis-honorable intentions? What if these Veterans couldn’t control their own behavior due to symptoms of an affliction that was not yet recognized when they were separated? What if these Veterans damning actionswere actually symptoms of PTSD?
In March, five Vietnam Veterans (3 former Marines and 2 former Army Soldiers), along with the Vietnam Veterans of America, filed a suit that seeks to have their Other Than Honorable discharges reviewed and potentially reconsidered by the Boards for Corrections of Military Records from the Army and Marine Corps.
The suit claims that the military has unfairly denied applications for discharge upgrades from those with less-than-honorable discharges who likely had PTSD when they were kicked out of service, in an era when the disorder was much less understood than it is today. The plaintiffs hope that the suit will be granted class-action status, which could pave the way for thousands of other Veterans to have their discharges reexamined.
According to the suit, less than 20 of the 375 requests for discharge upgrades involving PTSD have been granted to Vietnam veterans since 1993. The five plaintiffs in this suit all have applied for discharge reviews and were denied or never heard back from their branch’s boards.
The five Veterans in the suit claim to have suffered considerably due to their OTH discharge status. They were denied VA benefits for service-connected injuries and were unable to find sustainable income due to employers seeing their OTH status.
The DOD has until May 2, 2014 to respond to the suit.
Stronger than the dislike that Veterans have for someone tarnishing their reputation is the compulsion to take care of their own. It is seen as a great injustice if any Veterans were denied anything, especially because of injuries sustained in service to their country. If this is the case, let us hope that these wrongs are corrected and these Veterans are given the overdue support that they earned.