A lawsuit has been filed in Connecticut by Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic accusing the army of conducting biased reviews and discharging thousands of members without doing its due diligence with regard to checking into soldiers’ mental health and the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The lawsuit specifically names Army Secretary Robert Speer as the defendant. The two plaintiffs, Stephen Kennedy, 30, and Alicia Carson, 28, are Army veterans from Connecticut who had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kennedy, who served as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in biochemistry, claims he developed depression and PTSD after fighting in the war. He began to cut himself and abuse alcohol. He eventually was listed as having gone AWOL and subsequently discharged. Although he was later diagnosed with PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Kennedy’s general discharge disabled him from receiving the proper medical benefits only made available to those honorably discharged. “As my PTSD became impossible to manage on my own, my commander told me that the only way I could receive treatment was by leaving the Army with a bad paper discharge,” said Kennedy. “Just like that, the Army wiped away years of distinguished service to my country and deemed it less than Honorable.” Carson was a member of the National Guard, was at one time deployed to Afghanistan and served as a gunner for a Special Forces unit. She too was dishonorably discharged. The soldiers claim their biased reviews are to blame.
Veterans are able to contest their discharge statuses. However, the lawsuit seeks to take a closer look at the review boards currently used for doing so. The lawsuit marks the first ever asking for a closer examination of the review process for contesting discharge statuses. The suit states that the boards are not being consistent with their reviews and are not always following a requirement to apply “liberal standards” to veterans presenting with claims of PTSD and other related mental health conditions. The plaintiffs claim that veterans who are presenting with such conditions are, instead, being automatically denied a rightful release.
The “liberal consideration” concept was implemented after Yale Law School’s Legal Services successfully sued the Army in 2014 on behalf of Vietnam veterans with PTSD. “That should have been the end of it, and here we are, three years later, asking them to actually do what they said they would do, Yale law student Helen White said. White is one of five law students representing Kennedy and Carson. “We think it’s really shameful that it’s taken not one, but two, class actions filed by vets with PTSD to get the military to do something about it.” White claims the class action case filed on behalf of the two soldiers can extend to others and acts as an example of how far reaching the issue truly is. “To prove to the Army that this is not a one-off, they are not one-off mistakes,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re bringing as many people in as we can.”