Two Army veterans who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the U.S. Army.
The lawsuit claims the Army has issued “less-than-honorable” discharges for potentially thousands of soldiers and other service members without adequately determining whether or not they suffer from mental health conditions such as traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Connecticut by Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic, is seeking class-action status, according to an article on the Military.com website.
“An Army spokeswoman said the branch doesn’t comment on pending litigation,” the article reads.
Steve Kennedy, who is one of the plaintiffs, said he developed PTSD and depression after fighting in Iraq in 2007 and 2008. Kennedy began abusing alcohol and cutting himself as a means to cope with his depression.
“After going absent-without-leave to attend his own wedding, he was diagnosed by the Army with depression, and he received a general discharge because he had gone AWOL,” according to the lawsuit.
Later, Kennedy was also diagnosed with PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Despite his diagnosis, Kennedy said his discharge status prevented him from receiving benefits including tax exemptions and scholarships that are open only to honorably discharged veterans, the lawsuit said.
Kennedy says in the article that his PTSD became impossible to manage without professional help, so his commander reportedly told him that the only way he could get the help he so desperately needed was to leave the Army with a “bad paper discharge.”
“Just like that, the Army wiped away years of distinguished service to my country and deemed it less than Honorable,” Kennedy says in the article.
The lawsuit is aimed at the review boards that give veterans the opportunity to contest discharges that may have been unjustly harsh.
“It is the first lawsuit to argue that the Army Discharge Review Boards are inconsistently following a requirement that they apply a liberal standard to considerations of veterans’ claims alleging PTSD or related conditions, according to Mario Gazzola, a law student intern with the Yale clinic.”
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