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If a Veteran has a Dishonorable Discharge, a Veteran is  barred from claiming disability compensation benefits.

And herein lies the “rub”, as Shakespeare said:

If  undiagnosed PTSD caused the behavior…that led to the discharge ….. that led to the denial of VA disability compensation benefits…. the Veteran was often prevented from getting the financial compensation and  medical treatment needed to heal.

The Veteran could not recover from the wound of war that was inflicted upon him or her.

The Veteran who was discharged because of the consequences of undiagnosed PTSD caused by military service was flat out denied any way to get ANY help to start to heal and reintegrate into civilian life.

This is  no small problem.

A lawsuit filed by a group of Vietnam Veterans through the group “Vietnam Veterans of America” allege that 250,000 Veterans from the Vietnam era alone got bad conduct discharges.

Of those, 80,000 suffered from PTSD.

That’s a staggering number – I’ve seen the pattern in thousands of Claims Files (aka, C-Files) of Veterans of every combat era.

Veteran goes to war. Sees, does, witnesses, experiences, lives through some form of horrible shit. Or the Veteran is raped or sexually assaulted in service. Either way, the condition that results is what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – but we haven’t always called it that.

I’ve seen the Military and VA Doctors in claims files of all eras – even the modern era – refer to the condition we now know is PTSD as any of the following:

Malingering (the M Word should be banned),


* Nervous inhibition,

* Moral Dysfunction

* Lack of a moral backbone

* Weak or impaired conscience

* Nervous disorder

* Oedipal Syndrome (this was my favorite)

The list goes on. Even today, doctors are loathe to diagnose PTSD because of some personal belief that claiming PTSD means you are a “mooching faker”

It is the very lack of a diagnosis of PTSD – whether due to medical ignorance or medical stupidity –  that causes the major problem:

Without a diagnosis, there is typically no treatment.

Without treatment, the patient will “self-treat” or “act out”.   Typically with drugs, alcohol – or even sometimes with anti-social or socially unacceptable behavior – you name it.

And when the “acting out” results in what the military calls “bad conduct”, the soldier is often discharged with a Dishonorable Discharge.

The problem is  so widespread that even the Daily Show with Jon Stewart covered the story – and pointed out the Extreme Irony of this situation:


The New Way of Doing Things for Veterans with PTSD Claims and a Dishonorable Discharge.

Johnny Cash’s song “Drive On”, could well apply to the rules for PTSD Claims by Veterans with dishonorable discharges:

“…I think my country got a little off track….Took ’em twenty-five years to welcome me back”

The Department of Defense – 39 years after the Vietnam War – finally took a step to rectify a problem that Vietnam Veterans (and, frankly, Veterans of all eras) have faced.

Now, I will caution you that – despite hours of searching and asking – the Veterans Law Blog has not yet seen a copy of the new rules that I’m about to tell you about.

But allegedly, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (himself a decorated Vietnam Veteran) has (allegedly)  issued new rules that will facilitate the upgrades of discharges of many of the Veterans caught in this pickle.

I am told that the guidelines will require that Veterans show the following:

1) Veteran had symptoms of PTSD at the time of their misconduct;

2) PTSD was related to military service, and,

3) that the PTSD or misconduct contributed to the bad conduct discharge

(** it is not clear, at this time, whether the Veteran’s PTSD or the Veteran’s misconduct resulting from the PTSD, contributed to the bad conduct discharge. To the layman, this is a distinction without a difference. To the lawyer, the distinction is significant, because it will define the degree and type of lay medical evidence that the Veteran will need to provide.)

As soon as I find a copy of the actual “rules” allegedly issued by Chuck Hagel on September 3, 2014, I will post them here and update this post.

If you know where these rules can be found, please tell me in a Mail Call submission.


    • Chris Attig

      Thanks, Lauren! A Vet emailed them to us this morning, and we’ll get the post updated asap!



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