Mentally Ill Veterans Denied VA Benefits Can Proceed with Class Action Lawsuit

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Navy and Marine Corps veterans who developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following their service in Afghanistan and Iraq can now file suit against the military that has denied them Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. The decision follows a recent ruling by a senior judge in the U.S. District Court. A detailed article on the case is available here.

A Discharge Question

The class-action lawsuit brought by several service veterans against Navy Secretary Richard Spencer has been certified by a federal judge in New Haven, Connecticut. It alleges servicemembers received unfair discharges under less-than-honorable conditions—all following minor infractions which resulted from untreated mental health problems. The designation of a less-than-honorable discharge prohibits veterans from receiving mental health treatment and other VA benefits.

A Slim Chance of Upgrade

Veterans with mental health problems now qualify for additional leniency when seeking discharge upgrades under new rules established last year. While the Army and Air Force approved some 51% of requests for discharge upgrades, the Navy discharge review board only approved 16% of discharge upgrade applications. Federal prosecutors cite the ability of plaintiffs to reapply for these discharge upgrades as grounds to reject the class-action lawsuit.

Similar Cases in Progress

Another group of veterans in a similar class-action lawsuit against the Army has received representation from students at Yale Law School. According to them, some one-third of the nearly two million veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq now suffer from mental health disorders—including PTSD. They allege minor infractions related to mental illness lead the military to issue a high number of discharges under less-than-honorable conditions.

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