A federal lawsuit claims the U.S. Army has a less-than-honorable discharges for thousands of service members without adequately considering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental disorders.
Stephen Kennedy and Alicia Carson, two veterans from Connecticut in Iraq and Afghanistan, said in a lawsuit filed Monday that they wrongfully denied honorable discharges.
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Former Pfc. Stephen Kennedy, left, served as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division and deployed to Iraq for his resignation in 2009.
(Stephen Kennedy )
She said a review board set up to give the veterans a second chance is often not a suitable job in the consider of PTSD and related conditions.
“When my PTSD became impossible to manage on my own, my commander told me that the only way I could receive treatment was to leave the Army with a bad paper discharge,” said Kennedy, a decorated Army veteran and leader of the Connecticut chapter of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“Just like that, the Army wiped out years of good service to my country and is considered to be less than honorable,” he said.
Students and professors with the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic filed the case on behalf of the veterans.
According to the clinic, since Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds of thousands of veterans have received less-than-honorable — “bad paper” — discharges impose a lifetime stigma, thereby increasing their employment opportunities and the denial of access to essential services of the government. Such services include the GI bill, mental health care and disability benefits.
The lawsuit claims that tens of thousands receive these bad-paper discharges as a result of misconduct attributable to conditions such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
“In 2014, the Ministry of Defence ordered the Army Discharge Review Board (ADRB) and other discharge review boards to take into account the role of PTSD and other mental disorders in the veterans’ discharges,” said Jonathan Petkun, one of the law students in the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic representing the claimants.
“But the ADRB routinely and callously denies veterans increase mental health as a factor in their applications,” said Petkun. “This lawsuit attempts to force the Army to meet its obligations, freely decide about PTSD-uses, and to finally secure justice for the countless veterans whose honorable service of this country has gone unknown for too long.”
The suit, filed at the U. S. District Court in Bridgeport, names Acting Army Secretary Robert Spear, as the suspect in the case. A spokesperson of the Army was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
“As a matter of policy, the Army cannot respond to ongoing litigation,” the Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson told Army Times on Monday.
Kennedy, 31, Fairfield, Connecticut, joined the Army after two years at Boston University. He served as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division from 2006 to 2009, and was deployed to Iraq for 14 months. There, Kennedy was charged with protecting AMERICAN convoys from ied’s and enemy fire.
Upon returning home in 2009, Kennedy started planning his wedding, while stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N. C. The young soldier — who was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder — said he went AWOL for 10 days when he was told that he could not take the time he needed to get to his wedding.
“I had a hard time dealing with high stress situations,” Kennedy told Fox News. “I was drinking a lot. And I had suicidal thoughts.”
“Because I went AWOL, I have a ‘general under honorable conditions” instead of an “honorable dismissal,” he said.
“Apart from this one action that was affected by a mental illness, I was a great soldier,” said Kennedy, who was awarded with the prestigious Army Achievement Medal.
Kennedy — now married, with two children and pursuing a doctorate in chemistry — said he filed the lawsuit on behalf of all veterans with similar stories.
“I would much rather be let go and not be the face of this problem, but something must be done,” Kennedy said. “There are veterans who are much worse off than I am.”
FoxNews.com’s Cristina Corbin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.