Five Vietnam veterans have teamed up with three veterans' organizations to file suit in federal court against the Army, the Navy and the Air Force in Connecticut. The plaintiffs allege that the various U.S. military installations have failed to aid Vietnam veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, causing damages of stigma and loss of benefits.
The petition states that the veterans began to suffer from PTSD before it was recognized by the military and that they were consequently discharged under other-than-honorable conditions, which disqualified them from receiving benefits. Specifically, the veterans claim that the military has systemically denied applications for upgrades despite continuing evidence of PTSD;
"the Pentagon has refused to correct the decades of injustice experienced by tens of thousands of veterans who suffer from PTSD but were discharged before it was a diagnosable condition," representation for plaintiffs released this earlier this week. Plaintiffs' representation further stated that the suit "seeks to compel appropriate action by the military and to finally secure justice for these veterans."
One of the five Veteran plaintiffs, Connecticut resident and former Marine, Conley Monk, was diagnosed with PTSD after undergoing a traumatic series of events in battle, such as a barrage of enemy mortar rounds and the gassing of his unit. The allegations assert that, after experiencing flashbacks and hyper vigilance while stationed in Japan, he went absent without leave.
"[A]fter I came home from Vietnam, I couldn't even get my job back . . . because of my bad paper," Monk stated. "My discharge status has been a lifetime scar. If I were discharged today, my PTSD would be recognized and treated and I wouldn't be punished for having a service-connected medical condition."
Plaintiffs cite statistics showing that, in the past 10 years, only 4.5 percent of roughly 375 applications for PTSD-related discharge upgrades have been granted for Vietnam veterans. In light of this, Plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the suit, hoping to extend representation to the Vietnam veterans who have not yet been remedied.
"Tens of thousands of brave and honorable Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress have been doubly injured by the black mark of an other than honorable discharge, resulting in unjustly denied support, services and benefits," Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) commented. "These heroic veterans are long overdue present day appreciation of modern mental health in the timely review of their discharge upgrade appeals."
Spokesmen for the Pentagon and U.S. Attorney's office have declined to comment.