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Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against the Navy for Unfair Discharges

Tyson Manker

By Debbie Gregory.

A marine veteran has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Navy, alleging that post-traumatic stress disorder and other traumatic mental health issues were the reason he and veterans like him received less than honorable discharges.

Due to these “bad paper” discharges, the veterans have been denied VA benefits and other support.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Connecticut by Tyson Manker, seeks class-action status for thousands of Navy and Marine Corps veterans.

“The American public needs to know that hundreds of thousands of military veterans with service-connected PTSD and [traumatic brain injuries] are being denied support and VA resources because of an unfair discharge status,” said Manker.

The plaintiffs are being counseled by the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic.

“In 2017, the Army and Air Force Discharge Review Boards granted approximately 51 percent of discharge upgrade applications involving PTSD, while the NDRB [Naval Discharge Review Board] granted a mere 16 percent of applications during the same period,” said Samantha Peltz, a law student intern in the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic. “The disparity is staggering.”

Manker is joined in the lawsuit by the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress, a Connecticut-based organization whose members include marines and other veterans with less-than-honorable discharges.

In a statement released by the plaintiffs, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said  that the unfair discharge status is “based on antiquated policies that fail to recognize invisible wounds like post-traumatic stress.”

“Systemic failures of the military departments have led to widespread legal rights violations of our most vulnerable men and women in uniform, myself included. It is a national disgrace,” Manker said. “By taking this action with the courts we intend to restore the rule of law along with honor for thousands of patriots who were treated so poorly by the nation they served.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

New VA Online Wizard Aims to Upgrade Your Discharge

va vets

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has launched a new online wizard that will assist veterans who are seeking to upgrade their military discharges.

By going to the VA’s Vets.gov benefits website, participants go through a series of questions that guides them, step by step, through the upgrade process based on their individual situation.

This is an especially good tool for veterans who are trying to correct or upgrade “bad paper” discharges. Veterans with bad paper discharges have long complained that they were drummed out of the service with no consideration of their invisible wounds.

All branches of the military consider a strong case for a discharge upgrade if applicants can show their discharge was connected to any of these categories:

Mental health conditions, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Sexual assault or harassment during military service

Sexual orientation (including under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy)

By answering a series of questions, users get customized step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a discharge upgrade or correction. If their application goes through and the discharge is upgraded, these veterans will become eligible for the VA benefits they earned during their period of service.

If a previous upgrade application was denied, users can apply again, especially if the application is significantly different from the original. For example, the applicant may have additional evidence that wasn’t available during the original application was processed, or the Department of Defense (DoD) may have issued new rules regarding discharges. (DoD rules changed for discharges related to PTSD, TBI, and mental health in 2014, military sexual harassment and assault in 2017, and sexual orientation in 2011.)

The wizard will also assist those who require an updated DD214 or DD215 to reflect an upgrade.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

New DoD Guidance Gives Veterans With Bad Paper Good News

Bad-Paper

By Debbie Gregory.

The Pentagon is helping some veterans with other-than-honorable discharges, also known as “bad paper” discharges, increased direction on obtaining a record review and upgrade.

Last month, the Department of Defense announced that it will direct the review boards for each service branch to consider a more liberal criteria to give veterans the opportunity to plead their cases and explain the extenuating circumstances of their discharge. This is especially beneficial for bad paper discharges received while suffering from traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of military operations, sexual assault, or sexual harassment.

Veterans with bad paper discharges have long complained that they were drummed out of the service with no consideration of their invisible wounds.

According to Air Force Lt. Col. Reggie Yager, the acting director of legal policy in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, “Liberal consideration, in our view, is the right balance to ensure we are making fact-based decisions while also giving appropriate leeway to the challenges posed by these invisible wounds.”

A General Accountability Office report released earlier this year found that of nearly 92,000 service members discharged for misconduct between 2011 and 2015, nearly two-thirds were suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury or mental health issues such as PTSD, anxiety, bipolar or substance abuse disorders.

Vietnam-era veterans also had a large number of bad paper discharges for misconduct

Veterans seeking a discharge upgrade will need to provide evidence to support their claim.

Under the new DoD guidance, the reviewing authorities will need to ask:

  1. Whether the veteran had a condition or experience that may excuse or mitigate the discharge;
  2. If the condition existed or experience occurred during military service;
  3. If the condition or experience excuses or mitigates the discharge; and
  4. If the condition or experience outweighs the discharge.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.