Thursday, January 31, 2013

Veteran Mental Health Workers

Kristina Derro
Veterans Disability Lawyer
Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology has started a program that helps train veterans to become therapists who can help other veterans. The “Train Vets to Treat Vets” program has been funded for over two years by the state of Massachusetts with $250,000. The funds help the school reach out and train veterans to become therapists, as well as to allow veteran therapists to travel and visit college campuses around the state to promote mental health professions.

In the past decade, less than a half percent of Americans were serving on active duty in the military. This reduction in the population of active duty military personnel leads to a reduction in the population of veterans. As such, the population of veterans involved in the mental health field is decreasing. This has left many returning veterans feeling isolated while working with non-veteran therapists. Research has obviously shown that veterans feel more comfortable talking to other veterans. If the goal is acclimating recently-discharged veterans back to civilian culture, fellow veterans will need to be utilized. This program will provide veterans with the skills, training, and background to counsel these individuals.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Minors Expungement

Melissa Cox, Esq.
In December of 2012, Michigan enacted a new law that makes it easier for people to wipe (or “expunge”) juvenile crimes off their record.

Public Act 527 of 2012 allows a person to expunge up to three misdemeanors, or one felony, a year after the offender completes their sentence and probation.  The previous law only allowed for one misdemeanor to be erased 5 years after the case was closed and did not allow felonies to be expunged.

There are a few exceptions under the new law.  For example, felonies punishable by life in prison and traffic tickets cannot be expunged.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Haveman of Holland, says that this new law will help people who made bad decisions at a young age and are now facing difficulty entering college or the military, or finding employment.  He believes that this bill strikes a balance between the need to be tough on crime and alternatives for people who are behaving themselves.

The bill received rare unanimous approval in both the House and the Senate.  Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill into law two days after Christmas.

If you need help expunging a juvenile record, or have other legal questions, contact Attorney Melissa Cox at Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000 or online at


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Service Dog Programs Applauded For Supporting Vets, Notes Veterans Disability Lawyer

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer
The American Service Animal Society is a nonprofit program based in Arizona which educates veterans with disabilities on how to care for and train their assistance dogs. If the vet does not yet have a service dog, the society helps find a suitable one from one of several rescue agencies in their area. Working with existing dogs and making new dog-owner partnerships from rescue dogs in need of a good home help both the vets and the dogs, and keeps their expenses down. The organization is doing so well that it is looking for a high-capacity training center. They say they are currently receiving more than 20 calls each week from vets interested in the program. 
"Service dogs have been a huge boon, allowing vets with disabilities to live more independently," said James Fausone, Veterans disability lawyer.
There are several different categories of service dogs. Guide dogs work with directional commands; they introduce the path for travel; notify of any changes in elevation and incoming traffic; locate and retrieve objects on command and navigate around various obstacles.  Hearing assistance Dogs alert to specific sounds as needed for their humans and notify by touch, retrieving lost objects, and warn for approaching vehicles.
Mobility assistance dogs assist people who have mobility impairments, and retrieve, tug, nose nudge, paw, and brace. Special Needs assistance dogs partner with people who have autism, seizure disorders, psychiatric disorders, and conditions which involve cause chronic pain.
The American Service Animal Society (ASAS) was founded by Gerad and Debbie Claseman. The goal of ASAS is to train the owners and their dogs how to successfully navigate in domestic settings found in the home: a dedicated space would allow the trainers to have a mock kitchen and other area so that the teams can train with drawers, cabinets, light switches and doors. The dogs are also trained to assist in sometimes-hectic real world-world environments, such as stores and airports. A large part of the training is customizing what the vet needs the dog to do, and developing a comfort level for both helps with the bonding process.      
According to ASAS, it can take 100 repetitions before the vet and dog both have an obedience cue down pat. Multiple sessions and daily obedience cue reviews are usually necessary, both verbal cues and hand signals. Also important are working distance and distractions into training sessions. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Alleged $22 Million Home Health Care Fraud Scheme

Tariq Hafeez, Esq.

Detroit-area and Chicago-area residents were arrested on Thursday, January 18, 2013 by federal agents on charges arising from the ongoing investigation into an alleged $22 million home health care fraud scheme. The indictment was announced by the US Attorney’s Office, the FBI Detroit Field Office, and the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).

The 18-count indictment names seven individuals who allegedly participated in a Medicare fraud scheme operating out of four Oakland County, Michigan, home health agencies claiming to provide in-home health services. Defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, and money laundering allegedly defrauding Medicare/Medicaid of $22 million.
The charges of health care fraud conspiracy and health care fraud each carry a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Fausone Bohn LLP attorneys have provided aggressive legal defense counsel to individuals and companies charged with federal health care fraud the firm has been retained by one of the defendants in the above matter.

If you have questions about Medicare or Medicaid fraud, or other legal issues, please contact Mark Mandell or Tariq Hafeez at 248.380.0000 or online at

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency

Last week, Michigan's Governor, Rick Snyder, signed an executive order that created the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.  The goal of the agency is to help connect former service personnel with government departments and service organizations that will help them apply for benefits such as health care, education, and employment assistance.

Michigan has over 650,000 veterans and that number is rapidly rising with the returning troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.  All of the programs for veterans are scattered among various federal and state departments.  As such, it is a confusing maze for Michigan veterans to not only be aware of the benefits available to them, but obtain them.  The hope is that this agency will help Michigan veterans traverse the maze much more easily than by themselves.

Can the City Really Spend the Zoo Millage on Downtown Sidewalks?

Keith Madden, Esq.

For decades, state laws have allowed Michigan cities to apply a small portion of the taxes that are levied by other government entities (like school districts, the county, and the state), on improvements in downtown districts.  Called "tax increment financing", the idea is that the city's investments in sidewalks, sewers, traffic signals and other improvements will increase the value of the properties in the downtown district, and this will eventually benefit the land owners and all of the governmental entities who are taxing the property.

A legal debate has recently arisen due to the fact that the state laws that allow tax increment financing do not say what should happen when a new millage is passed, like the recently approved Zoo millage and Detroit Institute of Arts millage in the Detroit metropolitan area.  The Michigan Attorney General has written that these new millages may not be "captured" by a City for investment in a downtown project, because the Zoo Authority and the DIA Authority were not around when the tax increment projects were first approved, and they did not have an opportunity to object to these projects at that time.

On the other side of this legal debate, a number of Wayne County cities have argued that, since the state laws do not clearly carve out any exception for these newly approved millages, a portion of them should be captured and invested just like the taxes of the other, existing governmental entities.

Unfortunately, the statutes do not provide a clear answer to this issue, and it will likely have to be decided in court.  Only then will we know for sure whether the City can spend a portion of the Zoo millage on a downtown sidewalk.

Fausone Bohn, LLP represents a number of Michigan cities and governmental entities.  It often provides these clients with consultation and legal advice concerning complicated laws and issues.  If you have questions about tax increment financing or its application to your business or community, please call Keith Madden at (248) 380-0000, ext. 3230, or at

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

VA Malpractice Found $3.7 Million Awarded

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer

We hear from hundreds of veterans a month about VA disability claims or medical malpractice.  We understand the frustration of a veteran going it alone against the federal government.  When we have filed medical malpractice actions against the VA it seems like pushing water up hill. What gives you hope in these situations are stories like this one where a federal judge had the courage to find the VA's actions negligent and properly find for a veteran.

On January 16, 2013, Senior U.S. District Judge James M. Munley  awarded $3.7 million to an Iraq War veteran from who sued the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after his war-induced post-traumatic stress disorder worsened because the agency prescribed him the wrong medication and treated him over the telephone.    The ruling was in favor of Stanley Laskowski III, 34, and his wife, Marisol, after a civil nonjury trial before the judge at federal court in Scranton.  It took 3 years for the case to be heard for this Marine Sergeant. He was required to testify and relive the stressors that gave him PTSD in Iraq.

In Judge Munley's 69-page ruling, he agreed that clinicians with the local VA should never have prescribed Sgt. Laskowski new medications or changed his medications over the telephone to treat his PTSD.

Also when Sgt. Laskowski first sought help in April 2007, he was not treated by a physician for several months and instead dealt mainly with "physician extenders" - medical professionals like nurses and physician's assistants, the judge wrote.

In addition, clinicians did not immediately offer psychotherapy to help him overcome nightmares, paranoia, insomnia and flashbacks spawned by his gruesome wartime experiences, according to court testimony.

The lack of appropriate care worsened his condition, causing him to make the rash choice to break into a pharmacy in Olyphant and steal prescription medications, his attorneys argued.  So this case should give veterans and their attorneys hope that there are reasonable federal judges who will find the VA at fault.  This Pennsylvania veteran had to fight his demons since his discharge in 2007 without appropriate care. Let’s hope this award allows him to get the care he needs and encourages VA to help all those veterans who need its help.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mandell Sways Judge: Felony Charges Against Ex-McCotter Staffers Dropped

Mark Mandell took a firm stance against the felony charges brought against Paul Seewald, who previously pleaded guilty in November to nine misdemeanor counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as a circulator. Judge Marie Braxton ultimately determined, however, that “there was no conspiracy involved” – dismissing the felony charges of conspiracy against both Seewald and Don Yowchuang in what’s believed to be the most extensive petition fraud case ever charged by the state.

“Why would they do it? Why would they take such a chance?” Mandell asked, pointing out the nature of the petitions. Rather than plotting to fraudulently doctor petition signatures, the men’s actions possessed a last minute-like quality: “a series of decisions during panicked moments.”

The felony count could have cost both men up to five years behind bars. Now, while the staffers may not be facing prison time for their actions, their pleas for misdemeanor charges have resulted in repercussions: Seewald has been sentenced to two years of probation while Yowchuang will serve three. Both ex-staffers will also be required to fulfill countless hours of community service.

Attorney General Bill Schuette responded to the sentencing: “The message here is very clear – if you break the law, there are consequences. We’ll review the dismissal of the conspiracy charge and make a decision about appeal.”

Mandell, however, said that “the attorney general overreached by charging low-level staffers with felonies to look tough on election law. The fact is, Mr. Seewald is not guilty of a felony.” Seewald, while thankful for the community support that he has received, said that he now must look to the future in an attempt to rebuild a life – and image – left damaged by the scandal.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Arbitration Overhaul

Governor Rick Snyder recently approved the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act (RUAA) – the first major change to Michigan’s arbitration process in over 50 years.  The statute takes effect on July 2013 and is expected to allow arbitrators to better manage their cases as well as safeguard the due process rights of the participants.  The act also gives arbitrators immunity from civil suits, similar to Michigan judges.

One of the big reasons for the change is an effort to decrease the cost of arbitrating disputes.  In many cases, the costs of arbitration have become just as high, and in some cases higher, than traditional litigation in the courts.

In order to control costs, the RUAA gives arbitrators more ability to steer the course of discovery.  For example, an arbitrator can limit the number of depositions and interrogatories.  Also, arbitrators now have the judge-like ability to issue subpoenas to require third parties to attend or provide documents.

The old arbitration act was written in 1955 and was a bare bones, archaic statute with very few actual guidelines on arbitration – in essence, there was no guidance in Michigan.  The old act didn’t even include a method to actually start an arbitration.  With the current widespread use of arbitration in contracts and scenarios not traditionally subject to arbitration, the old act became insufficient to meet modern needs.  RUAA adds procedural components and addresses issues that have arisen in case law in order to provide more certainty in arbitration proceedings.

The act also has several provisions dealing with modifications or corrections of awards made by arbitrators.  Critics of the act have voiced concern that this will cause some practitioners to “shoehorn” their facts into the very narrow grounds allowing a court to modify or correct an arbitration award.  However, arbitrators have always dealt with notion that courts have the power to confirm or vacate arbitration awards on specific, though limited, legal grounds.

If you have questions about arbitrations, or any other legal topic, contact John Walsh or Matt Worley at Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-000 or online at

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hearing & Tinnitus

Jim Fausone
Veteran Disability Lawyer

We receive hundreds of emails a month from veterans, many of them claim hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing).  The problem is always connecting the disability to service.  VA traditionally looks only to certain types of jobs or combat status as contributing to hearing loss or tinnitus. 

Among veterans, tinnitus and hearing loss are the most common service-connected disabilities, with more than 1.5 million veterans receiving compensation for those problems at the end of 2011. Of about 805,000 veterans who began receiving disability compensation that year, nearly 148,000 were for tinnitus or hearing loss, according to a recent VA report. By comparison, the next most prevalent disability was post-traumatic stress disorder, for which about 42,700 veterans began receiving compensation in 2011.

The VA, which has become the nation’s largest consumer of hearing aids in recent years as policy changes have allowed it to provide devices to nearly every veteran who needs them at little or no cost.  The VA is recognizing that multiple military occupations may result in hearing loss, not just the most obvious.  The advice to veterans is to continue to push for these disabilities even if the VA initial denies the claim.  An excellent article on the problem is in Stars and Stripes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Petition Fraud Case Involving Ex-McCotter Staffers Continues

Mark Mandell, Esq.

A unique election petition fraud case continues the controversy surrounding ex-staffers for Thaddeus McCotter. Wayne County Circuit Judge Marie Braxton was supposed to hear arguments Wednesday, January 9th, pertaining to the dismissal of felony conspiracy counts that carry the potential for a five-year prison sentence for Don Yowchuang, former deputy district director, and Paul Seewald, former district director and former classmate of McCotter. However, Judge Braxton postponed the hearing and will instead rule on the motion before sentencing the pair on January 18, 2013.

Fausone Bohn attorney Mark Mandell, representing Mr. Seewald, has said he is prepared to take the case to trial if Judge Braxton refuses to drop the felony charges. Moreover, Mandell will subpoena Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to testify. Mandell states that the case has not been fully investigated, and as a result, has tarnished the reputation of Mr. Seewald.

“It’s the most difficult situation to go through to have someone doubt your integrity, which is what has happened,” said Seewald.

Both Seewald and Yowchuang have previously entered pleas pertaining to the fiasco that cost McCotter his congressional career.  Seewald pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts for falsely signing petitions as circulator, while Yowchuang pleaded no contest to 10 felony counts and six misdemeanors.

If you have questions regarding fraud or other legal issues, please contact Mark Mandell at 248.380.0000 or

Monday, January 14, 2013

Medical Advances Being Developed On the Front Lines

A revolutionary foam has been developed to help stop internal bleeding.  The developers of the foam, who believe it may save lives on the front lines, have received funds from the U.S. military to continue developing the product.
Researchers have been working on a medical foam which would limit the amount of internal bleeding once injected into the body. The foam is comprised of two separate liquids which, when injected, mix together, expand and harden to become a kind of internal wound dressing.  The technology, still in its infancy, would help save the lives of wounded soldiers far from medical facilities by slowing or staunching blood loss. Currently, there is no way to stop or slow the internal bleeding in the chest and abdomen prior to in-hospital care.
The polyurethane polymer foam mix is expected to control internal hemorrhaging for at least one hour and possibly longer, researchers say. The foam is designed to be easily removed by surgeons as a solid mass. Abdominal injuries are considered especially dangerous, as the best methods for treatment at this time to stop blood loss is with compression pads and tourniquets.
The foam mix was presented to the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma annual meeting in Hawaii earlier this year. The study on the foam use estimated an increase in survival rates for liver injuries from 8 percent to 72 percent and a dramatic reduction in blood loss for more than three hours. The foam may be used in as many as 50 percent of battlefield wounds currently seen, either to control hemorrhaging far from medical care or to manage care when facing multiple injuries, such as head injury and major internal bleeding.
The product has yet to be approved by the Federal Drug Administration. It still needs extensive testing to ensure it is safe and effective, and a plan for staff training on use must be developed, researchers caution. Polyurethane foam is widely used for thermal insulation and inside refrigerators.
A loss of blood has long been a major cause of death in war, but battlefields have also been the place where many medical inventions were developed, due to necessity. Though ligatures had been used by Arabs and the Romans in ancient times, the practice had been dropped. It wasn't until the 1600s when during the Siege of Turin, someone "reinvented" the us of ligatures to stop bleeding arteries. Previously, most battlefield wounds were treated with cauterization and boiling oil.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Law of Social Media

By Matt Worley, Esq.

Michigan joins the growing list of states to pass legislation that limits employers' right to seek social media login information from employees or applicants.  Governor Rick Snyder recently signed into law the Internet Privacy Protection Act.

This new law makes it illegal for employers to request or require employees or applicants to provide login information to online accounts, such as Facebook.  The law also prohibits discharging, disciplining, failing to hire, or otherwise penalizing a person who fails to provide access to an online account.  The law also applies to educational institutions.

Employers who violate this new law are guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $1,000.  The law also allows individuals damaged by a violation to bring a civil action in district court to recover up to $1,000, plus attorney fees and costs.

There are a few exceptions to the law, including login credentials for company-paid devices and employees using personal accounts to disclose proprietary or confidential information without authorization.  Additionally, the Act recognizes that employers may need to violate the Act to stay in compliance with other state or federal laws.  This situation provides an affirmative defense to an alleged violation.

Employers are still permitted to use social media to research applicants or when deciding to implement employment decisions.

Michigan joins California, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois and New Jersey in the expanding list of states with similar laws.

If you have questions about employment law or other legal issues, contact Matt Worley at Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000, or online at

To read the original article, please visit: 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Detroit-Area Physical Therapy Clinics Involved in Medicare Fraud

Mark Mandell, Esq.

It seems Medicare fraud permeates all areas of the health care field as yet another case has come to light in the metro-Detroit area, this time involving a physical therapy clinic. The clinic was involved in a $13.8 million home health care fraud scheme. Physical therapy assistant Ankit Patel of Westland, Michigan pleaded guilty to his involvement in the scheme, admitting to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Beginning in June 2009, Patel falsified medical documents for a number of different home health care agencies in the Detroit-area. Patel created evaluations, falsified therapy revisit notes and other medical documentation, and signed such documents, validating treatment for physical therapy patients that did not exist. Patel later admitted that he was in fact aware that the false documents he created would be used to support false claims to Medicare.

Over the past few years, Medicare paid out almost $1.5 million to Physicians Choice Home Health Care LLC, Quantum Home Care Inc., and Moonlite Home Care Inc. – three companies that benefited from Patel’s involvement.

As a result of his involvement in the fraudulent scheme, Patel faces a maximum of 10 years in prison as well as a $250,000 fine. However, Patel is not alone in these charges. Ten others have pleaded guilty to involvement. One has already been sentenced: Hetal Barot was sentenced to 30 months in prison for her involvement for the same criminal charge. Patel is scheduled to be sentenced in March.

These charges were brought about by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, an agency that has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion.

If you have questions about Medicare or Medicaid fraud, or other legal issues, please contact Mark Mandell or Tariq Hafeez at 248.380.0000 or online at

Fertility Treatment for Wounded Veterans

Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not cover the cost of in vitro fertilization and other fertility services for servicemen and servicewomen. Advocates hope that will soon change, as a growing number of veterans with war wounds that impede their ability to have children without artificial reproductive services are coming home.  New legislation would cover in vitro fertilization and other fertility services for wounded veterans.
Technological advances in medicine are allowing troops who were catastrophically wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan to come home; homemade bombs which target foot patrols are noted for the damage to lower limbs and the reproductive systems. Since 2003, almost 2,000 service members, both men and women, have come home with reproductive system injuries.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is pushing for coverage for in vitro and other reproductive services support to be covered by the VA. Murray stated that providing artificial reproductive technologies (ART) is just one of the costs of war. Murray is Chairwoman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and introduced legislation which was  then passed by the Senate in mid-December, instructing the VA to make available to disabled veterans more advanced fertility techniques, such as like IVF. It is unknown if similar legislation will pass through the House, currently focused on spending cuts.
While the VA does cover some aspects of fertility support, including testing, counseling, and some procedures, it does not usually cover the cost of care for veterans' spouses or surrogates. For service people who have more severe wounds, where extensive treatment may be needed, the VA falls short. IVF, in which the egg and sperm are combined and then the resulting embryo is transferred in hopes of implantation and pregnancy, is not covered.  The cost for IVF, which can take several cycles before success, typically costs  more than $10,000 and as much as $20,000, and even then, it may not work.
While the DOD covers the cost of IVF for injured active-duty service members, as of 2010, that does not help many veterans. The policy funds three cycles of treatment for both service members and their spouses, but only is they are active duty. Many service members must wait until they have healed from trauma, and have left the service. For many, it is long after they have left the military before they even know that they face fertility issues.
The Congressional Budget Office currently estimates that the overall cost of fertility services as requested would cost more than $550 million over the next five years. Senator Murray has proposed funding the ART services from money saved via the drawdown of Iraq and Afghanistan troops. The VA has not yet taken a public position on the bill, but has stated that the goal is the VA is to offer services and support to help restore veterans' physical and mental capabilities as much as possible.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Veteran Service Organizations

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Attorney

We work with hundreds of veterans every week.  We also work with VSO's on a weekly basis and know the good they perform. We have been concerned that the ranks of the VSOs have been diminishing as WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans pass on.  For example, the American Legion in Michigan has seen its 100,000 membership in the 1990s drop to 70,000 in 2012.  With an average 10 to 15-year gap between a veteran’s time getting out of the military and joining a service group, the two leading organizations, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, are battling to hang on until reinforcements hit. A good article on VSO's need to and effort at involving younger vets.

Putin Bans Americans from Adopting Russian Children

By Melissa A. Cox, Attorney

Last  week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill that bans the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families.  The action will affect hundreds of U.S. families seeking to adopt.  American adopted close to 1,000 Russian children last year, according to U.S. State Department figures.  Russia remains the third-most-popular country for U.S. citizens to adopt, with China and Ethiopia, first and second.

The bill is widely criticized as being political retaliation for a law that President Obama signed in December, the "Magnitsky Act".  The Act imposes U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia and is named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who exposed the largest tax fraud in Russian history in the form of rebates claimed by government officials who stole money from the state.  Magnitsky was beaten to death in 2009 after spending a year in a Moscow detention center.

The Russian bill's implementation also nullifies a recent agreement between the United States and Russia in which the countries agreed to additional safeguards to protect children and parties involved in inter-country adoptions.  The government has also threatened dozens of adoptions already underway.  These adoptions are instances in which American families have already met and bonded with the children, promising to bring them home to America in the near future.

Russia has approximately 740,000 orphans who currently reside in dismal orphanages.  The adoption ban has angered both Americans and Russians who argue it victimizes these children to make a political point.  U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell expressed disappointment over Putin signing the law and urged Russia to "allow those children who have already met and bonded with their future parents to finish the necessary legal procedures so that they can join their families".  Vladimir Lukin, head of the Russian Human Rights Commission and a former ambassador to Washington, said he would challenge the law in the Constitutional Court.

If you have questions about adoptions, contact attorney Melissa Cox at (248) 380-0000.

From The Detroit News:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Vietnam Veterans Are Suing the Military Over PTSD

Vietnam Veterans of America has joined a proposed class action lawsuit in Connecticut against the armed forces. The lawsuit, filed by a veteran last year against the Army, Navy and Air Force, states that Vietnam War-era veterans who suffered PTSD were discharged under other-than-honorable conditions which meant they were ineligible for disability and other benefits. The military has not reviewed or upgraded the discharge statuses of thousands of those vets with service-related PTSD. As John Rowan, national president of

Vietnam Veterans of America, said, PTSD was not understood by mental health professionals when those vets were in service.

"Now that diagnoses have been updated," says veterans’ lawyer James Fausone, "it seems perfectly reasonable that there are some vets who would like their discharge status changed to reflect that."

The U.S. Attorney's Office is currently reviewing the matter and plans to respond in court. The office is representing the military in this lawsuit, which was filed by Vietnam vet John Shepherd. Shepard says he was first diagnosed with PTSD in 2004, but repeatedly has had his discharge upgrade requests denied. Shepherd is being represented by Yale Law School students who are working at a Connecticut-based legal services clinic for vets. According to those students, the Army has approved less than 2 percent of Vietnam vet upgrade applications since 2003, in sharp contrast to the 46 percent of overall discharge upgrades. And, say the students, some of the vets who are being denied an upgrade have been formally diagnosed with PTSD by Veterans Affairs.

The students estimate that some 85,000 of the 250,000 other-than-honorably discharged Vietnam veterans had PTSD. Their PTSD was likely a factor in the discharges that were based on conduct including drug use, unauthorized absence without leave, and shirking.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is in support of the vets, and has reportedly been working in concert with the Yale Law Clinic and federal agencies to attempt to resolve the issue. He stated that though PTSD was not understood in the past, that should not preclude how cases are assessed now.