Vietnam Vets Who Suffered PTSD to Sue Armed Forces over Less-than-Honorable Discharges

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A group of Vietnam veterans are taking the federal government to court to get their less-than-honorable discharges upgraded, claiming their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—which was not then recognized by the military—was at the root of their troubles.


Represented by a team of Yale Law School students, the veterans want the Department of Veterans Affairs to retroactively diagnosis their PTSD disorder, which would give them the same protections—including veteran’s benefits—that are afforded current soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress.


The Yale team says 154 Vietnam-era veterans petitioned the U.S. Army to upgrade discharges because of PTSD from 2003 to 2012, but that only two were successful. The Army Board of Corrections for Military Records, meanwhile, has been more generous in granting upgrades, at a rate of nearly 50%, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.


They also claim that more than 250,000 Vietnam vets were discharged under other-than-honorable conditions, and that thousands of those probably had PTSD.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Vietnam Veterans, Discharged Under Cloud, File Suit Saying Trauma Was Cause (by James Dao, New York Times)

Vietnam veterans sue military in Conn. over PTSD (by John Christoffersen, Associated Press)

Vets Accuse Pentagon of Saving Money by Classifying PTSD as “Personality Disorder” (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Veterans Groups Clash with VA over PTSD Diagnosis (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


David Turner 6 years ago
Not to take away from law enforcement but this is a website dedicated to the Vietnam veterans situation. Perhaps what Gary Harkins should do is go to the website he is posting and write his comments there. It is bad enough that this country has taken most of what we held dear away from us. Now they even want to use a diagnosis that was once specifically used to diagnose the Vietnam Veteran and apply it to anyone that has ever seen any trauma in their lives which by the way includes practally everyone on earth. Once again, this is an article about Vietnam Vets, not anyone else! David Turner
Gary Harkins 6 years ago
Not to take anything away from those brave men and women who serve in the military, but a recent study shows that US corrections officers have a PTSD rate of 31%. Desert Waters Correctional Outreach, Florence, Colorado has released its findings on PTSD among Correctional Staff. It is the first such study ever done in the United States. The study conducted by Caterina G. Spinaris, Ph.D., Micheal D. Denhof, Ph.D. and Julie Kellaway, Ph.D., illustrates what those of us in our profession have long known, working in corrections takes a very high toll on those of us who make it a career. Highlights of the study: PTSD rates General population 3.5% Post 911 NYPD 7.2% Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans 12-20% Emergency Mgmt personnel 13.2% Post 911 EMT’s 14.1% Post 911 NYFD 14.3% Canadian Correctional Officers 16-26% US Correctional Staff non-security 23% US Correctional Officers 31% Over 3500 correctional staff participated in this study which was conducted under strict scientific guidelines. The findings should serve as a wake-up call to all of us in the field. “…. corrections environments represent uniquely unsafe workplaces due to repeated exposure to trauma, compared to most occupations. While not widely recognized, corrections professionals are exposed to the same types of VID-related events (events involving Violence, Injury or Death) as are emergency responders and war time military personnel, and they are potentially exposed to even more life-threatening experiences then law enforcement personnel over time (Finn, Talucci, & Wood, 2000).” Pge 5 “Beyond the issue of PTSD, the work demands unique to corrections professionals have been found to contribute to depression, lower physical health, more work-home conflict, increased negative affectivity and emotion-focused coping, burnout, decreased life satisfaction, decreased job satisfaction, and most serious of all - elevated suicide rates” Corrections Personnel Condition PTSD Positive PTSD Negative Memory Impairment 22.7% 6.4% Depression 53.8% 21.4% Sleep Difficulty 40.9% 34.8% Digestive problems 35.3% 20.3% Heart Disease 13.7% 8.1% Skin Conditions 15.9% 10.4% Obesity 36.0% 27.0% “…..budget deficits have limited resources of the federal and state corrections facilities resulting in staffing cuts (Scott-Heyward, 2009) and higher offender to staff ratio.” Pge 5 Administrative Costs Condition PTSD Positive PTSD Negative Sick Days (year) 15.21 8.47 Physician Visits (year) 7.24 4.60 Workers Comp Days (year) 4.15 1.19 According to one administrator sited in the study a correctional facility with 1,000 employees will lose over $830,000.00 in labor costs per year as a result of PTSD. (pge 26-27) Other results Condition Emotion PTSD Positive PTSD Negative Guilt 24.9% 9.8% Shame 15.3% 4.6% Horror 22.1% 14.3% Numbness 60.4% 25.6% Helplessness 51.0% 9.1% Fear 57.9% 27.1% Indifference 50.0% 32.3% Anger 82.0% 59.3% Condition Witnessed or Threatened PTSD Positive PTSD Negative Witnessed sexual assault 9.7% 3.3% Threatened w/sexual assault 27.1% 14.3% Hit placed on a family member 4.4% 2.1% Hit was placed on you 14.2% 7.5% Death threat toward family 47.2% 25.7% Death threat toward you 67.1% 44.1% Threatened w/physical harm 82.2% 63.2% The full study can be downloaded at no charge by going to American Correctional Officer is dedicated to the men and women who walk some of the toughest beats in law enforcement. We believe that only through education and exposing the conditions under which we all work will we receive the protections we need to continue to protect the public. For us it is about safety, first, and last always. We must recognize the toll this profession takes on us. We must do all we can to assist our facilities in dealing with this life threatening issue. With a suicide rate 39% higher than any other occupation in the country our very lives are at stake. For more information, please contact Brian Dawe, American Correctional Officer Intelligence Network at 307 880 9000 or check us out on the web at

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