June 22, 2015

Vietnam Veterans Are Declared Eligible To Receive Long-Denied Benefits

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It has taken more than 40 years, but Connecticut veteran Conley Monk has won his battle to have his military discharge status upgraded and can now receive federal benefits.

Monk, 66, and four other Vietnam War veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were granted upgrades by the Pentagon after filing a federal lawsuit in March 2014 against the Armed Forces. The veterans had received Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges, which they contend were based on behaviors later attributed to PTSD.

PTSD was not designated as a medical condition until 1980. The five veterans were given General Under Honorable Conditions discharges.

“I didn’t think this day would come,” Monk said Monday at a news conference. A Marine Corps veteran, he received a high proficiency rating in 1969 for his conduct and performance in the Marines.

Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran.

Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran.

Monk said because of his discharge status, he was unable to get benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for his medical care, education, and to buy a house. A West Haven resident, he said he worked two jobs to pay for college and still hopes to get help through the GI bill to buy a house. He had a stroke 10 years ago and has diabetes, which, he said, has been attributed to Agent Orange exposure.

The Yale Law School Veterans Legal Clinic, which represented the men, didn’t declare a total victory because “very few” veterans have sought status upgrades, said Virginia McCalmont, a law student working on the case.

The clinic estimates that at least 80,000 Vietnam veterans with OTH discharges have received military-connected PTSD diagnoses. The upgrades were granted to the five veterans after a Pentagon guideline was issued last fall calling for “liberal consideration” for Vietnam War veterans with PTSD. The upgrades are determined by boards, representing the service branches.

Michael Wishnie, a Yale Law professor who supervises the clinic, said VA officials have written confirming that the veterans are now eligible for medical and disability benefits.

But Wishnie noted some veterans have been denied upgrades “even under the new policy.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., expressed concern that veterans may not know about the guideline, which took effect last October. A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he has asked the Pentagon to report by the end of August about its method and progress in informing veterans.

“We have yet to see” an effective outreach program about the guideline, Blumenthal said.

He said that the lack of a PTSD diagnosis before 1980 is “no excuse to fail to upgrade status in the decades that followed.”

He called the issue “a matter of simple justice.” The United States has “failed to recognize post traumatic stress and give these men and women the justice they deserve, not to mention the medical treatment they need,” he said.

The five successful veterans were plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the Armed Forces brought by the Yale clinic. Federal Senior Judge Warren W. Eginton dismissed the suit without prejudice in November, meaning it can be filed again. The judge wanted to see if the new guideline would be effective, said Wishnie, the law professor. He said the clinic hasn’t decided whether it will go back to court.

McCalmont said the clinic has received “hundreds and hundreds” of calls from veterans around the country about the issue. Prior to the new guidelines, five percent of requested upgrades were granted, she said.

11 thoughts on “Vietnam Veterans Are Declared Eligible To Receive Long-Denied Benefits

  1. I served 1971-1975. I was never in Vietnam. I was State side with a top secret Clarence At offutt strategical air command.

  2. As I always look back I had PTSD in Vietnam which affected my whole life terribly
    I dont know about the non combatant but they do suffer from survivors guilt its not good to feel you could of done more while there an assumption of mine
    You served there and that is all that matters in my views. Combat Medic

  3. I have had many knock backs for ptsd compensation over many years because the US Government would not recognize my proof of having ptsd from my two tours in
    Vietnam from 64 to 65 and 67 to 68. I finally gave up trying as a Senator from Oregon
    told me I would not get my case through Veterans Affairs. Now that the rules have
    changed I think my case needs to be reopened but I do not want to go through all
    the trauma again which had me going to numerous doctors over many years to
    get evidence to prove my case.

    • Kenneth, under the revised DoD policy you can reapply for an upgrade, even if you were previously denied. I’m an attorney in Washington, DC. My phone number is (202) 853-0443. Please call me to discuss (for free) your military discharge upgrade case; I might be able to assist you pro bono.

      If any other veterans come across this comment and have been diagnosed with PTSD and are interested in applying for a discharge upgrade, please call me.

      • Hello. I received an OTH in 1976. I enisted in the Marines in 1972. I have been diagnosed with PTSD.
        Is there a chance I could get an upgrade? I wasn’t diagnosed until 15 years after I was discharged.

  4. I served from 1958-1962 at which time the U.S. was involved in Vietnam.why can’t I get benefits?. I was on active reserve until 1964.

  5. I am an attorney in Washington, DC. My phone number is (202) 853-0443. For veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD and are interested in applying for a discharge upgrade (even if their case was previously denied), please call me. I may be able to assist you with your case pro bono (free of charge).

    • I am a volunteer at a local food bank (where we see many veterans). A Vietnam veteran client told me he had signed off on all future VA benefits during a short time period at the end of the war, enabling him to be sent home right away. This sounds unconstitutional to me!! He has been turned down by the VA for his PTSD, due to his signing away of benefits.
      Is this/could this be a true story and if so, when/why hasn’t it been corrected? He told me he was 18 at the time of signing.
      Thank you for any insight on this. I am considering advocating for this man.

  6. There is nothing for our vetrans that were discharged with bad paper because of problems after coming home from combat. Mine was 1972..OTH. Vietnam 69-70 I had to get A congressman to get a apt. for me with a Va. psy for a PTSD diagnoses And then when I showed up for the apt. I was told that if the Va. Turned me down for benifits. I could be charged for the apt. Nov. 2015 I was diagnosed with P.T.SD. By a va psy. After my apt. I was asked if I would like to go to councelling for the P.T.S.D. That was something that I really wanted to do. When I went down stairs to check out, since I was not a Veteran they did not know what to do. When you get bad paper you lose status as a veteran. It does not matter what that you went when your country called, how much death,pain ,blood you saw….. You are not a VET. There for you are not entitled to VA benifits.
    After my apt. with the VA Psy. I wanted to know what the next step was to show the Marine Corps that I was suffering from PTSD from Vietnam that was the problem for my discharge. No one at the front desk knew so they sent me to see a VA rep……”O” ….I forgot they also told me that if my benifits were turned down I could be charged for the apt with a VA Psy. and the best part here is that If I went to any councelling sessions with the VA. I could also be charged for them. Since there is no way I could afford the sessions, so I have not gone. I knew I could not afford them because in 1983 I was ordered by a Judge to get diagnosed for then was called Post tramatic stress. The psy. Did not know a lot about PTS but from what he knew….. I had it. That kept me out of Prison..not jail…but Prison on 5-7 year sentence for pulling a knife on a off duty Sacramento Sheriff.
    Any way my point here is The VA does not care about you….if you are not a veteran. (with a bad discharge you are not a vet) Our Congress talk a lot about ….nothing is to good for our vets……if you got a O.T.H. Because of PTSD… That is what you get….NOTHING.
    In 2014 assistant director of defense Chuck Hagel told the military to give liberal consideration to those applying for discharge upgrade because of PTSD.he also said that there were as many as 80,000 discharged because the PTSD and we’re given bad paper discharges .
    I have again wrote my congressman and asked how many people they got bad discharges because of PTSD have had their discharge turned around in the state of California. I got a very nice letter from my congresswoman, And was told that I would have a answer in 6-8 Weeks……that was 7 Mo. Ago

  7. the govt refused to sign the papers stating that my dad was in Vietnam and he has a rare cancer that is commonly spawned from a chemical used at Vietnam called Agent Orange. besides having PTSD, my dad has been refused services and money to help him so many years later after he risked his life for his country. this is an outrage!

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