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A federal judge in Connecticut ruled Thursday in favor of thousands of veterans seeking to sue the federal government alleging they were discharged due to infractions related to untreated mental illnesses and denied Veterans Affairs benefits as a result.
The Associated Press reports that Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Haight Jr. ruled Thursday that the veterans, who were given less-than-honorable discharges after service in Iraq and Afghanistan, could move forward with a lawsuit against Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.
The less-than-honorable discharges, the veterans allege, made it harder for veterans who were discharged to receive care for their mental illnesses developed as a result of their service in America’s wars.
The lead plaintiff in the case, Marine veteran Tyson Manker, sharply criticized the Department of Defense in a statement Thursday following the initial ruling.
“The fact that the Court has now recognized this class of veterans is further evidence of the Department of Defense’s disgraceful violation of the legal rights of the men and women who have served their country,” Manker said in a statement obtained by the AP.
“This decision is a victory for the tens of thousands of military veterans suffering from service-connected PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury),” added Manker, who says he was dishonorably discharged after serving in Iraq due to a single use of an illegal drug.
Students from Yale Law School are reportedly representing the veterans and have filed a similar suit against the Army, according to the AP.
Connecticut-based veterans group National Veterans Council for Legal Redress, another plaintiff in the suit, celebrated the judge’s decision in a statement Thursday.
“We filed this lawsuit to make sure that the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with service-connected PTSD do not suffer the same injustices as the Vietnam generation,” group director Garry Monk told the AP.
“We are thrilled with the court’s decision and look forward to creating a world where it doesn’t take years of wading through unlawful procedures for these veterans to get relief.”