NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The U.S. Army has agreed to reconsider its issuing of thousands of less-than-honorable discharges to service members with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems, according to a lawsuit settlement announced Wednesday.
The class-action lawsuit, filed in federal court by two Army veterans from Connecticut who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, covers veterans nationwide who did not receive fully honorable discharges because of minor misconduct they say was attributable to undiagnosed PTSD and other health conditions.
Because of their discharge status, the veterans say they were prevented from receiving military-funded health care services and other benefits.
The Army will reconsider, based on revised criteria, thousands of discharge upgrade applications it denied from 2011 to 2020, said Josh Britt, a law student intern at Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic, which represents the plaintiffs. The new standards also will benefit veterans who apply for discharge upgrades in the future.
Army officials did not immediately comment on the settlement Wednesday. A message seeking comment was left with the Army’s media relations division.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, more than 150,000 Army soldiers have received less-than-honorable discharges, often based on minor misconduct linked to undiagnosed mental health problems, the plaintiffs said.
One of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs is Steve Kennedy, an Army veteran who said he developed PTSD and depression after fighting in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 and started abusing alcohol and cutting himself. He said he received a general discharge after going absent-without-leave to attend his own wedding.
“This is a watershed vindication of veterans’ rights,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Not only will this have a practical impact on the lives of thousands of veterans, but this settlement will also signal that the federal government must be held accountable to its word to veterans.”
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