September 2, 2021
WASHINGTON D.C. – Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC), with the pro bono assistance of Perkins Coie, filed an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit case, Doyon v. United States. CVLC enthusiastically supports Robert L. Doyon and the positive ramifications his case will have for all veterans seeking relief from the Boards for the Correction of Military/Naval Records (BCM/NR).
In the brief, CVLC asked the court to reverse the judgment of the Court of Federal Claims (CFC), which held that the “liberal consideration” that BCM/NRs are required to give claims involving post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions does not apply to requests for medical retirements. This holding runs counter to the intent of the liberal consideration standard and the enabling statute of the BCM/NRs, which both aim to put veterans back in the position they would have been in had they received a proper mental health diagnosis at the time of their discharge. The BCM/NR’s continued misapplication of this standard has led to denials in cases where if veterans, like Mr. Doyon, had been given liberal consideration that their PTSD was the reason for their discharges, they would have properly been given a medical retirement.
The brief presents the military’s history of diagnosing servicemembers with personality disorders after cursory examinations and then discharging them without access to needed benefits and with disparaging information on their DD-214 discharge papers. It then explores the background and intention behind the Hagel memo, which first introduced the liberal consideration standard for the BCM/NRs. It then moves on to the Kurta memo, which clarified the intended broad scope of liberal consideration for veterans with mental health conditions seeking relief from the BCM/NRs and Discharge Review Boards (DRBs). The brief also covers the history behind the Fairness for Veterans Act, which was meant to enshrine the directives of the Hagel memo into law.
Examining the history and intent behind each of these binding directives on the BCM/NRs reveals that they were not meant to be read narrowly, as the BCM/NRs and CFC asserted when denying Mr. Doyon’s claim. Despite the fact that Mr. Doyon’s undisputed, service-related PTSD was misdiagnosed as a personality disorder at the time of his discharge, denying him the opportunity to receive a medical retirement for his PTSD, the BCNR denied his claim for a corrected medical retirement, incorrectly stating that liberal consideration only applies to corrections of discharge characterizations and narrative reasons for separation. As CVLC’s brief shows, this is a clear misapplication of the law, which has severe consequences for Mr. Doyon and other veterans in similar situations.
CVLC is proud to stand with Mr. Doyon and his counsel, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, to fight this clear injustice and ensure that all veterans struggling with mental health conditions receive the recognition and support that they deserve.
Read the brief here
About CVLC and the Veterans Inclusion Project
Connecticut Veterans Legal Center’s mission is to remove legal barriers to health care, housing, and income for veterans in recovery from homelessness and mental illness. As a part of this work, CVLC attorneys assist veterans in VA disability claims, character of discharge determinations, and discharge upgrade petitions to the Department of Defense. CVLC recently launched the Veterans Inclusion Project, an initiative focused on advocating for policy changes to create a more inclusive veterans benefit system for the most vulnerable low-income veterans: those who are living with mental illness, trauma, substance dependence, and homeless; as well as those who have experienced military sexual trauma and those who have been harmed by discrimination or other injustices in the DoD and VA systems.