On a weekly basis, our office gets phone calls from veterans – many of whom are suffering from unemployability (aka TDIU) due to service-connected disabilities – barred from receiving disability benefits because of other-than-honorable discharges. What many of them are finding out is that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs recently simplified the process for upgrading your discharge if you believe the conduct that made your discharge other-than-honorable was related to Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported by speaking to a Vietnam veteran who was discharged due to behavior stemming from “dulling traumatic memories with hard drugs,” there now exists “new hope for veterans whose psychological wounds from combat may explain the misconduct that earned them that bad paper.”
In 2014, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (a Vietnam veteran himself) mandated that discharge review boards afford “liberal consideration” to discharge-upgrade applicants with service-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A Yale study found that after 20 years of discharge review boards denying discharge upgrades to over 95% of veterans who applied, last year 67% of discharge-upgrade applicants with formal diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder were approved. That is fantastic news for veterans who clearly have service-connected disabilities but have been denied benefits, including monthly payments and/or healthcare, to other-than-honorable discharges.
The bad news is that so many thousands of veterans who could be helped by the Obama Administration’s discharge-review mandate don’t know the regulations have changed. The aforementioned Yale report states that "Tens of thousands of eligible veterans have not yet applied to the boards for relief.” According to the report, a quarter of a million Vietnam veterans received other-than-honorable discharges, and the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that at least a third of those veterans suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Part of the problem is that combat trauma – now known as PTSD but previously called “shellshock,” etc. – was, incredibly, not recognized as a diagnosis by the military until the 1980’s.
So, if you suffer from service-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and VA is denying you entitlement to disability benefits due to an other-than-honorable discharge, do not hesitate to contact the office of Attorney Sean Kendall today at (877) 629-1712.