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Kentucky veteran reacts to lawsuit to overhaul Army review process of ‘bad conduct’ discharges related to mental health issues

Published: Nov. 27, 2020 at 9:33 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A settlement in a lawsuit between a class of veterans and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy is leading to an overhaul in its process of reviewing bad conduct discharges related to mental health issues.

“It’s like the military’s version of a felony offense,” Veteran’s Club Founder and CEO Jeremy Harrell said.

Discharges labeled as an other-than-honorable stick with soldiers long after their military career is over.

“It illustrates that there was something very wrong that happened while the soldier was serving,” Harrell said. “It just puts a bad mark on their resume, a bad mark on their character, and it just really haunts them for the remainder of their life when they go to get good jobs that do background checks.”

It’s those same discharges that can be handed to soldiers because of mental health issues, like suicide attempts and PTSD.

“In order to qualify for Veteran Affairs healthcare, you can’t have a dishonorable discharge on your records,” Harrell said. “They won’t qualify or be eligible for any assistance.”

But, after a lawsuit, the Army has agreed to overhaul its process of reviewing discharges, meaning tens of thousands of Army veterans who served since Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks could have those bad conduct discharges overturned, including some that Harrell works with right here in Kentucky.

“We’ve come across several veterans who said, ‘I reported that I was sexually assaulted by a senior ranking officer and because I reported that I was chartered out and got an other-than-honorable discharge’ because they went against the status quo,” Harrell said.

Proving this is a major step forward in making sure veterans dealing with mental health problems get a fair shot.

“That’s the least we can do,” Harrell said. “If someone is willing to go over and put themselves in harm’s way to provide safety and security here at home, the least we can do is take the steps necessary to ensure they have the support and level of help they need to be successful.”

The settlement was just made on Nov. 18. We’ll keep you updated on how this process will work, whether veterans will need to apply for a review or if cases will be handled automatically.

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