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Army should consider PTSD in discharge decisions, says lawsuit

Posted on 04-28-2017 Posted in PTSD - 0 Comments

A federal lawsuit has claimed that the U.S. Army issued less-than-honorable discharges to thousands of servicemen without sufficient consideration of their mental health conditions. In the lawsuit filed on April 17, 2017, two veterans from Connecticut – Stephen Kennedy and Alicia Carson, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan – alleged that they were unlawfully denied honorable discharges.

According to the plaintiffs, despite the Army Discharge Review Board’s requirement to give liberal consideration to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they were denied this request. The complaint was filed by Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization against acting Army Secretary Robert Speer. Although the lawsuit names two soldiers specifically, it has been filed as a class-action case.

After going “absent without official leave” (AWOL) for his wedding, 31-year-old Kennedy was diagnosed with depression by the army and received a general discharge. Later, the Department of Veterans Affairs diagnosed Kennedy with PTSD. However, his discharge status prevented him from receiving benefits open only to honorably discharged veterans.

“As my PTSD became impossible to manage on my own, my commander told me that the only way I could receive treatment was by leaving the Army with a bad paper discharge,” said Kennedy, who is a leader of the Connecticut chapter of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Prior to his discharge in 2009, Kennedy had served as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division and was deployed to Iraq, while Carson was a member of the Connecticut National Guard who served as a gunner for a Special Forces unit and was deployed to Afghanistan.

As per the lawsuit, both Kennedy and Carson suffered from PTSD and received a general discharge after going absent without leave. However, the review board said that neither had PTSD at the time of their discharge. The present lawsuit targets the Army Discharge Review Board for providing unjustly harsh discharge to its members.

Iraq, Afghanistan tenure taking a toll on mental health

After the longest combat operations since the Vietnam War, the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are at a high risk of PTSD. What contributes to their risk factor is a longer deployment time and high risk of death or injury to themselves or the others. Moreover, other factors such as being away from home for longer periods increase their chances of having PTSD or other mental health problems.

A debilitating condition, PTSD often develops post experiencing a scary, shocking or dangerous event. It can happen to anyone irrespective of age and its symptoms can vary in intensity and could differ from person to person. The common symptoms of PTSD include difficulty in sleeping, angry outbursts, loss of interest in enjoyable activities and distorted feelings like guilt or blame.

Road to recovery

PTSD symptoms would start soon after a traumatic event, but it may take months or years for them to surface. To prevent PTSD symptoms from worsening, it is important to get it treated as soon as possible in a certified PTSD treatment center. The aim of treatment includes reducing emotional and physical symptoms, enhancing daily functioning and helping patients cope with trigger events. Effective PTSD treatment involves a combination of medications and psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Sovereign Health of Florida offers evidence-based programs clinically proven to be effective. In addition to traditional therapies, treatment at Sovereign Health’s PTSD treatment center Florida incorporates experiential therapies including meditation, yoga and equine therapy. For more information on treatment programs offered at Sovereign Health of Florida, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with our trained counselors.

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The dual diagnosis program was what attracted me to Sovereign Health. My therapist was always open for discussion and the group sessions were very informative and educational.

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