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Helping Thousands of Veterans with Less-than-honorable Discharge Status

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Tens of thousands of military veterans suffering from TBI’s or PTSD are denied VA resources because of their discharge status.  However, a recent Federal Court ruling could have a positive impact on the benefits that these veterans receive. Discharge characterizations play an important role in determining the resources that can be provided to a veteran by the VA. The lawsuit seeks fair treatment of veterans when they apply to have their discharge characterizations changed.

The ruling denied the Navy’s request to have Tyson Manker’s class-action lawsuit dismissed.  Manker, a 38-year-old veteran filed the lawsuit after receiving a less-than-honorable discharge from the Marine Corps after his 2003 deployment in Iraq. Manker was a mortarman in Iraq and was discharged from service and had his rank brought down to lance corporal after admitting that he had used Marijuana to lessen the effects of his PTSD.

According to a 2017 study from the Government Accountability Office, more than 13,000 service members who had been separated from the military in recent years and suffered from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or another disorder were given an other-than-honorable discharge. There is a direct correlation between VA benefits and discharge statuses, those given an other-than-honorable discharge are negatively impacted.

Despite his discharge qualifying him for health benefits, Manker said that he has had problems attaining VA health care.  In addition, he lost his GI Bill benefits.   He said it is common for VA staff to believe that he is not entitled to his benefits. “It felt like I was alone, I put myself through college because I lost my GI Bill,” Manker said.

However, Manker is not alone in his fight against the VA. The issue of improper military dismissal has been growing rapidly in recent years. Studies have shown that veterans with limited access to military benefits show higher rates of homelessness and suicide. Many veterans with other-than-honorable discharge statuses are also arguing that the infractions that led to the end of their military careers were linked to undiagnosed PTSD, TBIs, or other service-related mental health problems. Furthermore, many argue that if their supervisors in the service properly addressed their issues, they might still be serving today.

This recent court ruling is a step in the right direction for all veterans affected by their discharge characterizations. “This decision is a victory for the tens of thousands of military veterans suffering from service-connected PTSD and TBI who are denied the support of VA resources because of an unfair discharge status,” says Tyson Manker. He also called the court’s favorable ruling “further evidence of the Department of Defense’s disgraceful violation of the legal rights of the men and women who have served their country.”

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