Lawsuit: Pentagon Withholding Info From Veterans' Advocates
By The Associated Press
Jan. 3, 2020
Dana Montalto, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School's Veterans Legal Clinic"...there are thousands of decisions going back at least 15 years. She said the lack of information hampers veterans' efforts to change their discharge statuses and to get more help."
NORFOLK, Va. — A veterans group said the Pentagon has stopped releasing information that helps former service members to contest less-than-honorable discharges from the military.
The Defense Department has been breaking the law since April, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Virginia by the National Veterans Legal Services Program.
The group says it lacks access to decisions made by military review boards. The boards grant or deny a veteran's request to upgrade a less-than-honorable discharge. Veterans’ lawyers study those decisions in hopes of building successful arguments for their clients.
The lawsuit comes at a time of growing recognition that a less-than-honorable discharge can stem from behaviors brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries. Liberal consideration is supposed to be given to veterans with combat-related mental health conditions and to those who were sexually assaulted while in the military.
read it here
More on this subject is a great report on Military.com 'Bad Paper' Discharges Would Get Final Pentagon Review in Defense Bill
Who gets to decide if the service member can fight the discharge?
The bill states that the secretary of defense, upon receiving a petition from an individual whose upgrade request has been rejected, could order the service branch secretaries to grant the upgrade "if the Secretary of Defense determines that such recommendation is appropriate after review."Notice the "could" instead of "must" or anything else that requires a review?
The report goes on to explain how many service members are being kicked out.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 500,000 veterans currently have less-than-honorable discharges, and most of them cannot access VA medical care because of their discharge status.And this part shows how many were kicked out instead of being helped to heal PTSD and TBI.
In a 2017 report, the Government Accountability Office said that 62% of the roughly 92,000 personnel separated for misconduct between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2015 had been diagnosed with PTSD or TBI.
And all of that is because what happened to Vietnam veterans was repeated instead of corrected by the "grateful nation" all of them risked their lives to serve.
Vietnam-era soldiers eligible for discharge upgrades which came out in 2014. You'd think it would have been fixed by now...but then again, you'd have to think the someone was being held accountable.
PTSD was not recognized as a potential behavior altering medical condition until 1980, which means that disability claims and discharge upgrades based on claims of the condition routinely were denied by government agencies, to include the Army review boards.
Hagel's September instruction to the services followed by several months a federal court class action suit filed by a group veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America that claims the military systematically denied discharge upgrade applications based on claims of PTSD.
The suit estimated that about one-third of the 250,000 other-than-honorable discharges issued to Vietnam era veterans may have been PTSD-related.