Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Blumenthal: Hagel commits to review of other-than-honorable discharges related to PTSD

In a release, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that today at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, he secured a commitment from U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel "to reconsider the cases of Vietnam Veterans who received other-than-honorable discharges due to symptoms associated with what would today be classified as Post-Traumatic Stress."
A class action lawsuit has been filed in the matter by Yale Law School in New Haven.
See video here.

 Here is more from the release, unedited here:

Blumenthal: I want to focus for the moment on one man, happens to be a resident of Connecticut, Conley Monk, who enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in November of 1968 at the age of 20, went to Parris Island, served in Vietnam from July until November of 1969 where he was barraged by mortar fire, attacked by gorillas, gas, subject to riffle fire. He received a high-proficiency rating for his conduct and performance on the field. And some months after leaving Vietnam began to suffer from anxiety attacks, flashbacks, insomnia, symptoms that we now know are associated with Post-Traumatic Stress, but of course Post-Traumatic Stress was not diagnosed until 1980. He was involved in altercations, other incidents, that led to his confinement to the brig and he was given the choice to leave the military with other-than-honorable discharge and he chose to do so.


The fact is that there are thousands, we don’t know how many, of men who were discharged with other-than-honorable status and have suffered this stigma and shame and loss of benefits. In fact wounded twice, first on the battlefield and then in civilian life. First by Post-Traumatic Stress and then by an other-than-honorable discharge, which denied them medical treatment for the very wounds they suffered as well as employment benefits housing, other VA benefits. And to be very blunt, Mr. Monk has sued you and your colleagues as did John Shepard before him. I’ve been involved in supporting the legal action, which I hope can be avoided by your engaging on this issue. As it happens, you were very forthcoming in the confirmation hearing, Mr. Secretary, and agreed to review this situation. I am asking you now to commit to changing the system, because Mr. Monk has waited for eighteen months for the Board of Corrections of Naval Records…This system really needs to be changed and overhauled. I would like your commitment that you will address this situation as soon as possible…


Hagel: …You have my absolute commitment. In fact, I asked my General Counsel yesterday about this lawsuit… I took note of it. I asked our General Counsel to get back to me this week on it. I will get into it. I will get the specifics, or our staff, will get the specifics, on Mr. Monk from your staff, but I’m already addressing the larger issue and taken a look at it and I will do it personally.


Blumenthal: And if I could ask since I’m going to be running out of time shortly for the General Counsel could contact me and perhaps brief me further on what steps you are preparing to take.


Hagel: He will. Thank you.


Footage of the exchange between Blumenthal and Hagel from today’s hearing can be found here.


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