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More Than 50,000 Afghanistan, Iraq Vets Are Challenging Their 'Bad Paper' Discharges In A New Class-Action Lawsuit
NEW HAVEN — Through the efforts of a Yale Law School clinic, more than 50,000 U.S. Army veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a newly certified class-action lawsuit that challenges the less than honorable discharges they received.
A federal judge Friday certified the suit for those veterans who developed post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or other mental health conditions in the service and subsequently were pushed out for infractions that could be attributable to undiagnosed mental health problems stemming from their military service.
Steve Kennedy and Alicia Carson, Army veterans who served at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, were the named plaintiffs in the April 2017 suit on behalf of themselves and tens of thousands of others who have been similarly affected in order to ensure fair treatment when veterans apply to have these service characterizations changed.
The plaintiffs are represented by the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic and co-counsel at Jenner & Block.
Since September 2001, more than 2 million Americans have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Nearly a third of them suffer from PTSD and related mental health conditions, but the military continues to issue less-than-honorable (“bad paper”) discharges at historically high rates, often for minor infractions, the suit states.
Such characterizations often impose a lifetime of stigma, impair veterans’ employment prospects, and deny veterans access to critical government services such as the GI bill, disability benefits and mental health treatment.
Although the Army Discharge Review Board promises these veterans a path to correct unjustly harsh discharges, the ADRB frequently denies claims in defiance of recent Department of Defense policies intended to ease this process for veterans with service-connected PTSD and related conditions, according to the plaintiffs.
“This decision means that thousands of servicemembers who have been denied the support of VA resources because of an unfair discharge status may have another chance at relief,” said Kennedy, who served in Iraq and is a founder of the Connecticut chapter of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“The cost of this continuing refusal to reckon with the reality of mental illness in the military is more than unjustly denied benefits — it is a generation of lost promise and opportunity for countless soldiers suffering the invisible wounds of war as a result of their sacrifice for country,” Kennedy said.
The decision follows another recent one approving a nationwide class of Marine and Navy veterans against the Naval Discharge Review Board, which is also pending in the District of Connecticut.
“Almost five years ago, the Department of Defense ordered the Army and other service branches to take into account the role that PTSD and other mental health conditions play in veterans’ discharges,” said Jordan Goldberg, a law student in the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic.
“But the ADRB continues callously to dismiss veterans’ claims in open defiance of these rules. This lawsuit is about holding the Army to its commitments and securing justice for the veterans whose honorable service has gone unrecognized for too long,” Goldberg said in a statement.
©2018 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.