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Veterans with PTSD claims may apply for discharge upgrades

Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who were discharged under "other than honorable" conditions may now submit requests to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records to have their discharge reconsidered for an upgrade if it was due to PTSD.

The Army launched a new webpage where veterans can get information and to ultimately enable these individuals to apply for the change in discharge status. According to the Secretary of Defense’s supplemental guidance, all Boards for Correction of Military Records are empowered to implement liberal consideration of evidence of PTSD symptoms in the service record or in a diagnosis provided by civilian providers and special consideration of Department of Veterans Affairs diagnosis of PTSD or PTSD-related conditions.

"Army veterans are Soldiers for Life. I want to encourage our veterans out there to apply,” said Col. Matthew B. Coleman, Special Assistant to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army at the Army Review Boards Agency.

"Discharge upgrades are very important because they are linked to benefits these individuals could receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as being able to get medical treatment -- that's probably most important with those who are suffering from invisible injuries of PTSD or PTSD-related symptoms," Coleman added.

Veterans who were previously denied an upgrade can reapply. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records will consider such an application as a new case. However, the guidance only applies to veterans with "other than honorable" discharges.

“PTSD was not recognized as a diagnosis at the time of service in past conflicts such as the Vietnam War,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel wrote in his memorandum, dated Sept. 3. “In many cases,” Hagel wrote, “diagnoses were not made until decades after service was completed.”The memorandum provided guidance to the military departments’ Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records, as they considered the upgrades. The memorandum seeks to ease the application process for the veterans.

The Army is committed to making sure the veterans receive fair consideration of their service and the conditions that may have mitigated the misconduct that led to their discharge, according to Coleman.

"We inculcate the core values of the agency, which are justice, equity and compassion -- and those are the merits by which we look at each and every case,” he emphasized.