A class-action lawsuit has forced the U.S. Army to announce it will review thousands of discharge records of veterans who have been impacted by military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other behavioral health conditions. The review was preliminarily approved on December 28, 2020, as part of a settlement reached in the lawsuit Kennedy v. McCarthy.
According to a statement from the Army:
“Under the agreement, the Army will automatically reconsider certain discharge-status-upgrade decisions made by the Army Discharge Review Board between April 17, 2011, and the effective date of settlement that partially or fully denied relief to Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans with less-than-fully-honorable discharges.”
Veterans who were discharged and did not receive an upgrade to honorable from the review board between Oct. 7, 2001, and April 16, 2011, will now be eligible to reapply due to the settlement.
Army combat veterans Steve Kennedy and Alicia Carson filed the lawsuit in April 2017, in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut. According to the complaint, both Kennedy and Carson suffered from PTSD and other health conditions but received general discharges despite their medical issues.
Court documents also revealed that after Kennedy returned home from his deployment to Iraq in 2008, he suffered from PTSD and major depression but was not properly diagnosed or treated by the Army. Although Kennedy’s commander ordered a psychiatric evaluation, he was diagnosed with major depressive disorder but not PTSD, despite his symptoms. Kennedy was eventually discharged from the Army due to his two-week absence.
According to court documents, Carson deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and served with a Special Forces unit as a gunner. Carson was diagnosed with PTSD and a TBI by doctors at the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs. Although she received a doctor’s note to excuse her from National Guard drills, she was discharged due to her absences.
Both Kennedy and Carson’s appeals to the review board to have their discharges upgraded to honorable were both denied.
As a result of the settlement, veterans who received a discharge from the Army, National Guard, and Reserve that was downgraded from honorable although they had a diagnosis or showed symptoms of military sexual trauma, PTSD, TBI, or other behavioral health conditions, might be eligible for relief.
The Army will also change procedures for how veterans apply for discharge status upgraded in the future and how the review board addresses these cases. Some of the changes include allowing veterans to appear via telephone for review board hearings, more training for review board members, and “updated protocols for decision making in cases involving symptoms or diagnoses of PTSD, TBI, MST or other behavioral health conditions.”
To learn more about the settlement and how it impacts veterans, please visit https://www.kennedysettlement.com/.
Scarlett Law Group proudly represents veterans suffering from TBI and other injuries related to their service. Please give us a call today at (415) 688-2176 or contact us online to schedule a consultation so we can discuss all of your options for recovering compensation.