A group of five Vietnam veterans, along with three veterans organizations have filed a lawsuit with the U.S. military claiming that they have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their service in Vietnam and that the military has failed to upgrade their discharges since PTSD was recognized and diagnosed for veterans. My San Antonio Online’s article of the Connecticut-based lawsuit holds interest for many Texans and attorneys in San Antonio, Texas as the area is home to several nearby military bases. The lawsuit contends that the Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD have experienced stigma and loss of benefits, having been discharged under other-than-honorable conditions that made them ineligible for benefits. The lawsuit also claims that the military has systematically denied application for upgrades involving evidence of PTSD.
With a class-action status, the lawsuit would be able to represent tens of thousands of veterans experiencing similar situations. One law student intern in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School who represents he plaintiffs said, “Unfortunately, the Pentagon has refused to correct the decades of injustice…of veterans who suffer from PTSD but were discharged before it was a diagnosable condition.” While the Pentagon and U.S. Attorney spokespersons declined comment, many attorneys in San Antonio, Texas are paying attention to how the lawsuit unfolds.
San Antonio is home to no less than seven military bases, camps and reserve training centers. With a strong military presence in the city, many attorneys in San Antonio, Texas are well versed in potential legal matters concerning armed service personnel and veterans. The results of this lawsuit, especially if it gains a class-action status, would have the potential to set precedence in Texas for other military legal matters.
PTSD was reviewed in context of the provision of compensation to veterans by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2005, after the VA had noted a 30 percent increase in PTSD claims in recent years. Most veterans have faced significant physical, emotional and relational disruptions. For many of the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the identification of symptoms associated with PTSD include flashback memories, subjective re-experiencing of trauma, intense psychological or physiological distress, hypervigilance, trouble sleeping, problems with anger, concentration and increased startle response, among others. Such symptoms often interfere with an individual’s ability to secure and maintain employment, and the lawsuit argues that in combination with the other-than-honorable discharges, the PTSD has “left a lifetime scar.”
Attorneys in San Antonio should note that only 4.5 percent of about 375 applications for discharge upgrades involving PTSD have been granted in the last 20 years. But if the lawsuit sees success, the military would be held accountable to “medically appropriate standards for considering the effects of PTSD when determining whether to upgrade a discharge,” enabling more applicants basis to receive deserved compensation. Without an upgrade to a discharge, veterans are often denied support, services, and benefits, and the lawsuit contends that this is no way to appreciate these men in the service of their country.