Nearly 80,000 Vietnam veterans were discharged under other than honorable conditions. Being discharged under other than honorable conditions prevents those Vietnam veterans from receiving veteran’s disability benefits. How many of those veterans discharges could have been honorable had PTSD been taken into consideration? This is the exact question raised by the case of Shephard v. McHugh. Shephard v. McHugh, 3:11-cv-00641 (D. Conn. 2013).
Vietnam combat veteran, John Shephard, Jr., served heroically only to be denied veteran’s disability benefits because he was discharged under other than honorable conditions. Mr. Shephard was awarded the Bronze Star with a valor device, one the highest decorations, after his unit came under intense fire. Mr. Shephard threw a grenade into an enemy bunker killing several enemy soldiers. In addition, Mr. Shephard witnessed the gruesome deaths of many fellow soldiers during his time in Vietnam. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Shephard’s platoon leader was killed by a sniper while trying to help Mr. Shephard out of a canal.
As a result, Mr. Shephard began experiencing symptoms of PTSD such as periods of anxiety and feelings of futility about the war. Eventually, Mr. Shephard’s behavior became erratic and he decided that he could not go back into the field and refused to do so. Mr. Shephard was charged with failure to obey an order, was court martialed, and discharged under other than honorable conditions.
Seeking veteran’s disability benefits, Mr. Shephard applied with the VA four times to have his discharge status upgraded to honorable, but was denied each time. Mr. Shephard, who was diagnosed with PTSD in 2004, argued that had the military taken PTSD into account at the time of his discharge, or at least at the time of his application for a discharge upgrade, he would have been discharged under honorable conditions; and thus, eligible for veteran’s disability benefits. Finally, after years, Mr. Shephard was granted the discharge upgrade he requested and will be able to access veteran’s disability benefits denied to him prior to the discharge upgrade.
The fight is tough and the battle is long, but with the help of an experienced veteran’s disability attorney you have a partner who is looking out for your best interest and is working to get you the benefits you deserve. If you are a veteran who believes PTSD or other mental illness may have contributed to a less than honorable discharge, disqualifying you for veteran’s disability benefits, contact Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. to schedule your free consultation today!