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Kennedy v. Esper
On April 17, 2017, Steve Kennedy and Alicia Carson filed a proposed nationwide class-action lawsuit on behalf of approximately 50,000 less-than-Honorably discharged Iraq and Afghanistan-era Army veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related mental health conditions.
Since September 11, 2001, hundreds of thousands of veterans have received less-than‑Honorable (“bad paper”) discharges imposing a lifetime stigma, impairing their employment prospects, and denying them access to critical government services, including the GI Bill, mental health treatment, and disability benefits. Many "bad paper" discharges are a result of misconduct attributable to conditions like PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
Congress created the Army Discharge Review Board (ADRB) to help veterans upgrade an unjustly harsh discharge after returning to civilian life—but this Board has routinely denied PTSD-based applications by veterans for decades. The class-action lawsuit challenges the ADRB’s systemic failure to adequately consider mental health conditions when veterans request that their discharge status be upgraded.
On December 21, 2018, Senior Judge Warren W. Eginton of the U.S. District Court in Connecticut granted plaintiffs’ motion to certify a nationwide class of Army veterans who were separated during the Iraq and Afghanistan era with a less-than-Honorable discharge potentially stemming from PTSD or other related mental health conditions. Any such veteran may contact the clinic team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of Judge Eginton’s order granting class certification, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal remarked, “This resounding court victory keeps faith with veterans unfairly discharged and wrongly denied access to vital healthcare and benefits due to the invisible wounds of war. I am proud to be an active partner with the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic in this fight. I will continue to advocate for fair treatment of all who sacrificed for our country.”
Shortly after granting certification, the court also denied the Secretary of the Army’s motion to dismiss the case. In April, Judge Eginton ordered the Army to produce Steve Kennedy’s and Alicia Carson’s full administrative records by June 3rd and noted that he would decide whether to order further discovery in the case after plaintiffs receive those records.
Both Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Carson have been upgraded to Honorable status after the Army reconsidered their discharge characterizations.
The law firm of Jenner & Block is co-counsel with the clinic on this matter.
Self-Help Resources and Contact Information for Further Assistance
Amended Complaint (filed Apr. 17, 2017)
Order Granting Class Certification (Dec. 21, 2018)
Order Denying Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (January 9, 2019)
Selected Media Coverage
New Haven Register Staff, Class-action suit could aid more than 50,000 veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan wars, New Haven Register (Dec. 21, 2018)
Justin Schecker, Iraq, Afghanistan Vets With PTSD Sue to Have Discharge Statuses Upgraded, NBC San Diego (Apr. 17, 2017)
Meghann Myers, Veterans with PTSD are suing the Army to have their discharges upgraded, Army Times (Apr. 17, 2017)
Peggy McCarthy, Connecticut Army Veteran Gets Discharge Upgrade, Hartford Courant (Apr. 2, 2018)
Julia Bergman, Former CT National Guard soldier wins fight to upgrade discharge, The Day (Oct. 27, 2017)