Five soldiers filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government this week claiming they were illegally denied disability benefits despite being diagnosed with severe cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, that should qualify them for lifetime free care.
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents or serious accidents.
People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged. These symptoms can be severe enough to significantly impair a person's daily life.
The soldiers, veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, were discharged from the Army after it determined their damaged mental health left them unfit to serve, according to the complaint filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
As a result, the veterans have been denied benefits including, among other things, free medical care for them and their families and lifetime monthly disability payments.
The suit, filed by the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), an independent, nonprofit veteran’s service organization, accuses the Army of illegally cutting off benefits to thousands of veterans and their families by refusing to assign proper disability ratings to those veterans after they had been discharged with a diagnosis of PTSD.
All disabled veterans are assigned disability ratings from zero to 100 percent. A rating of 30 percent or higher is required to qualify for benefits. Soldiers that received less than a 30 percent rating are entitled to a one-time lump sum severance payment after discharge.
In October the Army was ordered to assign at least 50 percent rating to all soldiers discharged with PTSD in the future, by The Defense Department.
Lawyers representing the veterans hope the discovery process will uncover how many other servicemen with PTSD have also been denied disability benefits.
“We are unsure of the exact number of soldiers that have been affected, but we believe it’s in the thousands,” said Bart Stichman, co-director of NVLSP.
The suit seeks full benefits to all veterans discharged with PTSD as well as unspecified damages.
National statistics estimate that nearly 1 in 5 of all military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of PTSD. #