Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Vietnam Veterans Sue Military over PTSD

The sacrifice given in fighting for your country can sometimes not be seen easily (in the same way that an injury from an IED can) and often can affect a soldier and their family for many decades after their service has finished.  The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 830,000 Vietnam Veterans suffered symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)[1], and the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study[2] found that life time prevalence of Vietnam Vets PTSD was 30.9%. 

PTSD was not a medical diagnosis until the 1980’s so many Vietnam era veterans received not a medical discharge, but an “other than honourable” discharge from the Army, Navy and Air Force.  These bad paper discharges affected which jobs the veterans could get after leaving the military, as well as affecting their veterans benefits.  Even after PTSD became a recognised diagnosis, the department of Veteran’s affairs and the Pentagon refused to apply medically appropriate standards in reviewing Vietnam veteran’s requests to upgrade their discharges based on their PTSD, “to compel appropriate action by the military and to finally secure justice for these veterans”[3].

Students from the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at the Yale Law School, the Vietnam Veterans of America and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress have been working on the issue for some time and have combined with five Vietnam combat veterans to file a class action lawsuit in the US Federal Court, suing the Army, Navy and Air Force

“These veterans served their country, but their country, through the service branches’ failure to upgrade their discharges, has not served them,” said Dr. Tom Berger, executive director of the Veterans Health Council, Vietnam Veterans of America. “It’s time to finally give them the upgrades and recognition they deserve.”

“Unfortunately, the Pentagon has refused to correct the decades of injustice experienced by tens of thousands of veterans who suffer from PTSD but were discharged before it was a diagnosable condition,” said V. Prentice, a law student intern in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, which represents the plaintiffs in this suit. “This action seeks to compel appropriate action by the military and to finally secure justice for these veterans.”

Information about PTSD is available here - http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/types-of-anxiety/ptsd 
Free 24 hour a day crisis support is available through the following organisations
Australia - Lifeline on 13 11 14 in Australia   
USA – Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-82551-800-273-8255
UK – Samaritans 08457 90909008457 909090

[2] Kulka, R. 1990. Trauma and the Vietnam War generation : report of findings from the National Vietnam readjustment study.  New York : Brunner/Mazel.