New PTSD Lawsuit

Vietnam War Veterans Challenge “Bad Paper,” Denial of VA Benefits

A December 3, 2012, lawsuit by a Vietnam War veteran demands that the Department of Defense (DoD) correct his military discharge on the grounds he suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Filed by John W. Shepherd, Jr. and joined by the Vietnam Veterans of America, the case seeks to upgrade Mr. Shepherd’s discharge as well as create a class of veterans who can seek discharge upgrades.  The lawsuit was filed by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic, Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization, Yale Law School, in New Haven, Connecticut.

Mr. Shepherd earned the Bronze Star Medal with Valor during the Vietnam War, and he was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD by VA.  However, he was denied VA disability benefits.

The landmark case exposes serious flaws in the DoD discharge upgrade process, according to an article written by reporter James Dao at the New York Times.

The Yale team says that its review of records from 2003 to 2012 shows that 154 Vietnam-era veterans petitioned the Army to upgrade discharges because of PTSD, but that only two were successful. 

The impact of the lawsuit could be widespread, given the number of less-than-honorable discharges combined with new disability benefit and healthcare regulations issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010:

The students estimate that more than a quarter million Vietnam-era veterans were discharged under other-than-honorable conditions, and that thousands of those probably had PTSD.

The lawsuit is supported by an editorial in the December 10, 2012, edition of the New York Times.  Will the Court do the right thing?  Is Congress listening, and will they change the law so Mr. Shepherd and veterans in similar situations receive both the care and benefits they earned?  Let’s hope so.

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