Vietnam Veterans with PTSD Now Eligible for Discharge Upgrades and Benefits

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Tens of Thousands of Veterans could Receive Awards of Disability Pay, Separation Pay and GI Bill Eligibility

Under a new Department of Defense directive, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is directing the military boards responsible for correcting or upgrading discharge status to give “liberal consideration” to petitions from veterans who received a less-than-honorable discharge due to behavior resulting from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Discharge upgrades could lead to the award of previously denied benefits, such as disability pay, separation pay, GI Bill eligibility and VA benefits.

Hagel directed that the military review boards “fully and carefully consider every petition based on PTSD brought by each veteran” and that such reviews will include “all materials and evidence provided by the petitioner.”  The Pentagon’s new rule will apply to all veterans with discharges prior to the formal recognition of PTSD in 1980, which resulted in government agencies denying disability claims, discharge upgrades and VA benefits.  Hagel wrote in a September 3rd memorandum to military agency heads that supplementing this guidance is necessary because the records of service members who served before PTSD was recognized “do not contain substantive information concerning medical conditions in either service treatment records or personnel records,” making it very difficult to document conditions to prove a connection between the veteran’s PTSD and the circumstances surrounding the less-than-honorable discharge.

The new guidance is focused on veterans with low-level misconduct that may have resulted in administrative discharge.  In effect, a veteran seeking a revised discharge will have to prove three elements: that he or she suffered from PTSD at the time of service, that the cause was related to military service and that the symptoms were a factor in the misconduct underlying the less-than-honorable discharge.

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