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Lawsuit: Army should factor PTSD in discharge decisions

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A federal lawsuit filed Monday alleges the U.S. Army has issued less-than-honorable discharges for potentially thousands of service members without adequately considering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions.

The plaintiffs, two Army veterans from Connecticut who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, say in the lawsuit that they were wrongly denied honorable discharges. The lawsuit filed in Connecticut by Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic is seeking class-action status.

An Army spokeswoman said the branch doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

One of the plaintiffs, Steve Kennedy, said he developed PTSD and depression after fighting in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 and began abusing alcohol and cutting himself. 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.

Kennedy was later diagnosed with PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but his discharge status prevented him from receiving benefits including tax exemptions and scholarships that are open only to honorably discharged veterans, the lawsuit said.

“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, who is now pursuing a doctorate in biophysical chemistry. “Just like that, the Army wiped away years of distinguished service to my country and deemed it less than Honorable.”

The lawsuit targets the review boards that give veterans a chance 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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