Yale Clinic Files Suit On Behalf Of Veteran With PTSD

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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A U.S. Army National Guard veteran from Connecticut who served in Iraq is filing a federal lawsuit Thursday that accuses the Army of misdiagnosing his post-tramatic stress disorder and denying him a medical retirement and the benefits that go with it.

According to the Yale Law School Vetarns Legal Services Clinic, Wlliam Cowles, who served for more than 20 years, was discharged him based on an erroneous diagnosis of adjustment disorder when he should have been medically retired for PTSD.

According to Yale law students representing the plaintiff, recent reports have indicated that the U.S. armed forces have wrongfully discharged thousands of service members, alleging that they have personality or adjustment disorders when they actually have PTSD. Cowles, according to the legal clinic, is believed to be the first of these veterans to seek redress in federal court. He will seek a change in his discharge status so he can receive full retirement and education benefits.

"The Army rushed me out the door without proper medical attention," said Cowles. "I hope that my case can bring attention to this issue and help other veterans in my position get the benefits they deserve."

According to the legal clinic, Cowles joined the Army in 1974 as a combat engineer. In 2003, he deployed to Iraq, where he witnessed the death of men from his unit and the brutal killing of a civilian truck driver. He suffered a breakdown and was medically evacuated, according to his claim.

After two brief evaluations, according to the legal clinic, the Army determined that he had adjustment disorder and immediately discharged him. Two months later, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs diagnosed him with service-connected PTSD.

According to the legal clinic, the Government Accountability Office, members of Congress, and Vietnam Veterans of America have criticized the Army for discharging more than 30,000 people since September 11, 2001 based on erroneous diagnoses of adjustment disorder and personality disorder. As a result, these veterans cannot receive many benefits from the Army and the VA. Each military service branch operates an administrative board empowered to correct an error or injustice in a discharge. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR) denied Cowles's request last year to correct his discharge to medical retirement.

"The ABCMR is cutting corners," John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America said in a prepared statement. "We commend Mr. Cowles for leading the charge to correct these mistakes, which deny veterans improperly separated for adjustment disorder the medical care, recognition, and benefits they have earned."

Sopen Shah, a Yale law student working on the case, along with Miriam Hinman, said the Army board "has denied every single application from veterans who received discharges for adjustment disorder and requested corrections to military retirement for PTSD in the past decade. This discrimination against disabled veterans is intolerable."

What's being said

  • Elizabeth A. Richter

    I would like to know how many veterans with PTSD have been denied ADA modifications for their disability in connection to their legal matters in the CT Judicial Branch if they even knew that such modifications were available. I am aware that the CT Judicial Branch routinely denies litigants such modifications in violation of federal ADA law.

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