U.S. Second Circuit - The FindLaw 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Veterans Discharged for Mental Health Reasons Can Sue

Since terrorists attacked the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers have received "less-than-honorable" discharges.

Many of those veterans served in the aftermath wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and returned with post-traumatic stress disorders. But according to a new class-action lawsuit, they have been unfairly denied veterans' benefits to treat their mental health conditions.

In Manker v. Spencer, the plaintiffs say the Navy has failed them. A federal judge says they have a case.

Anchors Aweigh

Judge Charles Haight, Jr. certified the class-action against Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. The complaint says they were given less-than-honorable discharges for minor infractions related to untreated mental health problems.

Although the government has implemented new rules to allow the veterans to reapply for benefits, they want immediate relief. The judge has raised the anchors.

"We are thrilled with the court's decision and look forward to creating a world where it doesn't take years of wading through unlawful procedures for these veterans to get relief," said Garry Monk, executive director of the veterans group.

Yale Law School's Veterans Legal Services Clinic is representing the plaintiffs, and says the Navy and Marine Corps unfairly discharged the veterans for misconduct attributable to stress injuries they suffered in combat. The student organization is pursuing a similar lawsuit against the Army.

How Many Times

According to their filings, nearly a third of more than two million Americans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD and related mental health conditions. They said the military is discharging them with less-than-honorable papers at "historically high rates."

Last year, the Army and Air Force granted veteran applications to upgrade the discharges about 51 of the time. The Navy, meanwhile, granted about 16 percent.

In certifying the class-action against the Navy, the judge called the differences "stark."

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