Army Agrees to Review Thousands of Bad Paper DischargesMonday, December 7, 2020
Earlier this month, a settlement was reached in a lawsuit against the U.S. Army. The settlement would require the branch of the military to review and potentially upgrade thousands of bad paper discharges dating back to April 2011. Bad paper discharges refer to those veterans who received other-than-honorable discharges, which negatively impacts the benefits they are eligible to receive from the VA.
The agreement, that is now pending approval by the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, orders the Army Discharge Review Board to reconsider thousands of cases. Many of which, show evidence that the veteran was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, TBI, or military sexual trauma when discharged.
The attorney in the case, Andrew DeGuglielmo, said that the agreement would provide durable, long-standing relief to veterans who were denied upgrades to their discharge status.
“This lawsuit has challenged decades-long, systemic deficiencies in the Army Discharge Review Board,” DeGuglielmo said Wednesday. “I’m confident this settlement will make the discharge upgrade process more accessible, just and fair for Army veterans who endure the invisible wounds of service.”
In 2017, the Department of Defense created and implemented a policy that gave “liberal consideration” to veterans looking to upgrade their status. This policy was specifically designed for those veterans whose discharge status may have been directly affected by a service-related medical issue. Yet, in this lawsuit, plaintiffs argued that even when there was clear evidence supporting their claim for an upgrade, they were still denied. The plaintiffs noted that the failure to adequately apply these policies
Outside of the important VA benefits that these veterans could be missing out on, there are also significant preferential hiring and tax break benefits that are impacted by discharge statuses.
The lawsuit dates back to 2017 and was filed by two Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Steve Kennedy and Alicia Carson, who were denied upgrades despite mental health diagnoses. After three years, they reached an agreement and are waiting for a court to approve. If approved, the Army will also have to send notices to all veterans denied discharge upgrades from October 7th, 2001 to April 16, 2011. The notices will provide information regarding new applications for status upgrades.
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut voiced his support for the settlement and vows to push the momentum further. “I think there really is a need after this settlement to put into statute the kinds of reforms that are achieved here,” Blumenthal said. “It’s been a step-by-step litigation process, and there should be no need for veterans to go to court. I am planning to suggest to the new Congress a measure that will codify these reforms.”