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Focus: service-related PTSD and discharge upgrades

We noted in a blog post from earlier this year the "hectoring and dismissive approach" employed by many military leaders toward active-duty servicemembers and veterans plagued by symptoms marking post-traumatic stress disorder. (Please see our February 5 entry).

Imagine what it was like to be on the receiving end of such badgering and even hostile behavior prior to 1980, when PTSD was not even recognized by the military as a bona-fide medical condition.

Many individuals who served their country before formal designation of PTSD as an illness and debilitating condition know quite well what it was like. Indeed, a number of them are still suffering adverse effects from the treatment they received back then from persons in authority who scoffed at their infirmities and questioned their integrity -- even their personal honor.

The Yale Law School Veterans Legal Clinic, which has taken a deep interest in the topic of military-related PTSD, estimates that about 80,000 Vietnam vets continue to suffer in a very special and unfair way, namely this: they were slapped with an OTH -- Other Than Honorable -- discharge upon termination of their service for PTSD-associated problems they were having while serving.

That is a heavy blow, given the curtailment of important veterans' benefits -- like educational assistance and medical benefits -- that can result when a discharge is not deemed Honorable.

Discharge upgrades are now available in many PTSD cases, owing to a recent Pentagon guideline calling for "liberal consideration" for Vietnam vets diagnosed with the condition or even suffering from its symptoms without ever having been diagnosed.

With the aid of the Yale clinic, five older veterans with the disorder recently did manage to secure an upgrade of their previously denoted OTH discharges.

Although that is good, say some commentators on the matter, they want to see many more upgrades resulting from the recent guideline.

It's "a matter of simple justice," says U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Any active-duty military member or veteran with questions or concerns regarding service-related PTSD and a discharge upgrade can receive accurate guidance and knowledgeable representation from a proven military law attorney.

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David P. Sheldon | International Military Law Attorney

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