Hot Doc: Veterans sue government over mental-illness discharges

December 23, 2010

American flag iconA veterans group has filed suit against the government alleging that it wrongfully discharged 26,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets as having long-standing mental problems instead of treating them for combat injuries, thus saving more than $12 billion.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court on December 15, charges that since 2001, the DoD has systematically discharged nearly 26,000 veterans wrongfully classified as suffering from Personality Disorder. In previous wars, a PD discharge was referred to as a “Section 8.”

Hot Doc: Vietnam Vets of Am. v. United States (D. Conn.)

Source: Westlaw News & Insight – National Litigation

Personality Disorder is a disability that begins in adolescence or early adulthood and can present with symptoms which may mimic Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The military classifies PD as a pre-existing condition that predates military service, and veterans discharged on the basis of a PD diagnosis are not entitled to receive disability benefits or VA health care.

The complaint alleges that many of “the service members who had been discharged on the basis of PD actually suffered from PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI),” and that “DoD had fabricated the overwhelming majority of PD discharges so that the VA would not have to provide disabled veterans with the health care and service-connected disability compensation that they had earned.”

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit demands the release of “various records relating to the use by branches of the United States armed forces and the National Guard of PD discharges and adjustment disorder or readjustment disorder discharges to discharge service members since October 1, 2001.”

“If DoD truly believes that all Personality Disorder discharges were lawful, why does it refuse to provide records responsive to VVA’s Freedom of Information Act request?” asked Melissa Ader, a law student intern in the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, which is counsel in the case. “We hope that this lawsuit will allow the public to assess for itself whether DoD has treated veterans unjustly.”

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