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VVA and NVCLR v. DOD – PTSD Upgrade FOIA Suit
Filing the Freedom of Information Lawsuit
In May 2015, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress (NVCLR) filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DOD) after it failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. VVA and NVCLR had initiated these FOIA requests to gauge the Army, Navy, and Air Force’s compliance with former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s PTSD Upgrade Memo of September 2014. The Upgrade Memo required military boards to grant “liberal consideration” to discharge upgrade applications from veterans with PTSD, and mandated that the boards create a comprehensive public outreach campaign to inform eligible veterans of their new opportunity for redress. Read the complaint here.
On November 2, 2015, VVA and NVCLR released a report with their findings from documents the DOD had disclosed during litigation. While the report showed a significant spike in the Army Board’s grant rates for veterans with PTSD, it revealed that the military boards had generally fallen short of complying with the PTSD Upgrade Memo, especially with regards to its public outreach requirement. The report detailed a number of recommendations for further military board reform.
On January 6, 2016, the U.S. District Court approved a settlement of the suit. Pursuant to the settlement, DOD agreed to disclose, on a quarterly basis and for the next two years, (1) the number of discharge upgrade applications submitted to Army, Navy, and Air Force record correction and discharge review boards; (2) the number of such applications granted and denied by each board; and (3) the docket number for each. Read the settlement agreement here.
To view the quarterly report from the DOD, follow the link below.
Unfinished Business: Correcting “Bad Paper” for Veterans with PTSD
The Defense Department’s adjudication of discharge upgrade applications one year since its September 2014 PTSD Directive.
Peggy Mccarthy, Veterans Are Not Applying for Discharge Status Upgrades, Pentagon Blamed, Hartford Courant, November 2, 2015
Megan Spicer, Yale Law Students Says Military Won’t Release Records Related to PTSD Lawsuit, The Connecticut Law Tribune, November 2, 2015
David O’Reilly, After years, VA now considering PTSD as factor in discharges, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 11, 2015
Submitting an Upgrade Application
If you are a veteran seeking a discharge upgrade, please see our Resources Page with helpful manuals, forms, and materials.