April 28, 2021
NEW HAVEN, CT – Under a settlement of the federal lawsuit Kennedy v. McCarthy, the U.S. Army will review the discharges of thousands of Army veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma or other behavioral health conditions for potential upgrades. The settlement also dictated administrative reforms of the discharge review boards for individuals who apply to have their discharge statuses upgraded in the future. A federal court granted final approval of the settlement on April 26, 2021.
Under the settlement, the Army will automatically reconsider certain discharge-status-upgrade
decisions made by the Army Discharge Review Board between April 17, 2011, and April 26,
2021, that partially or fully denied relief to Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans with less-than-honorable discharges. The settlement also allows for reapplications by eligible applicants who were discharged and received an adverse ADRB decision between Oct. 7, 2001, and April 16, 2011.
“What was most important going forward to me was that everyone else got the same review that
I did,” said Steve Kennedy, a named plaintiff in the case and pre-law fellow at the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center who received a discharge upgrade during the litigation. “And that’s the opportunity that thousands of deserving veterans are going to receive in this settlement.”
The settlement also ensures that veterans who submit applications for discharge upgrades in the
future will benefit from procedural reforms and new protocols for decision making in cases
involving symptoms or diagnoses of PTSD, TBI, MST, or other behavioral health conditions.
These changes include that the ADRB will inform veterans of their potential right to medical
evaluation and possible resources for free legal counsel to aid them in completing their
applications. The ADRB will also be required to ensure each applicant has access to a telephonic
hearing from their residence or other location, document in more detail any future negative
decisions, and train its staff on DOD guidance.
“Thousands of veterans who were denied full relief from 2011 to 2021 will receive automatic do-overs of their applications, but with the benefit of new, more generous standards and procedures. Those denied full relief from 2001 to 2011 will be eligible to reapply and receive liberal consideration of their application,” said Adam Henderson, a law student intern in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, which represents the plaintiffs with co-counsel Jenner & Block LLP. “For many veterans, this could mean the difference between struggling with
PTSD symptoms without adequate healthcare and finally receiving the benefits guaranteed by
Veterans of the Army, including the National Guard and Reserve, who were discharged with
less-than-fully-honorable service characterizations while having a diagnosis of, or showing
symptoms of, the conditions listed above may be eligible for relief. Discharge upgrades are not
guaranteed and applications will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Eligible veterans who have
been identified by the Army will receive notice of their rights under the settlement. Veterans who
do not receive notice may still be eligible for relief.
The full text of the settlement can be found at http://www.kennedysettlement.com.
For more information, please contact the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (203) 364-4588.