Shepherd v. McHugh

The clinic represents John W. Shepherd, Jr., a disabled Vietnam combat veteran awarded a Bronze Star with Valor Device, in his application to upgrade his discharge status and obtain VA benefits. In November 2013, Mr. Shepherd prevailed in a lengthy struggle to compel the U.S. Army to recognize his service.

Mr. Shepherd received an Other Than Honorable discharge in 1969 after he began manifesting symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a result of his original discharge status, Mr. Shepherd was ineligible for VA disability benefits. In October 2012, after the Army had denied Mr. Shepherd's request for a discharge upgrade four times, the clinic brought a nation-wide, class action lawsuit against the Army for failing to properly consider evidence of PTSD when adjudicating discharge upgrade applications from Vietnam veterans. In December 2012, Vietnam Veterans of America sought leave to join the suit with Mr. Shepherd. In November 2013, the Army agreed in a settlement to upgrade Mr. Shepherd’s discharge status to General (Under Honorable Conditions) and pay $37,000 in attorney’s fees.

Mr. Shepherd received his upgrade before a class was certified and the case, Shepherd v. McHugh, was dismissed without prejudice to Vietnam Veterans of America and other individual veterans renewing the class challenge. Shortly after Mr. Shepherd received his discharge upgrade, VA found him eligible for disability benefits for his PTSD. After battling mental illness, homelessness, and unemployment for four decades, Mr. Shepherd will finally receive the recognition and compensation he has been denied.

Signed Settlement Agreement (Oct. 4, 2013)
Proposed Second Amended Complaint (Dec. 3, 2012)
Complaint, Shepherd v. McHugh, No. 3:11-cv-641-AWT (D.Conn.) (Apr. 21, 2011)
Brief in support of cross-motion for summary judgment and opposition to Defendant’s motion for summary judgment (Nov. 10, 2011)
Order of Remand (Jan. 20, 2012)

Resources for Veterans Seeking Discharge Upgrade

Media clips:

John Christoffersen, Vietnam Vet Wins Discharge Upgrade in PTSD Lawsuit, Associated Press, November 4, 2013
Thomas MacMillan, John Shepherd is Honorable, The New Haven Independent, November 4, 2013
Phillip Carter, The Vets We Reject and Ignore, The New York Times, November 10, 2013
Editorial, A Question of Honor, Fairness and PTSD, The New York Times, Dec. 9, 2012
James Dao, Vietnam Veterans, Discharged Under Cloud, File Suit Saying Trauma Was Cause, The New York Times, Dec. 2, 2012
John Christoffersen,Vietnam veteran with PTSD sues Army over discharge, Associated Press, April 21, 2011