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Sun Nov 24, 2019, 06:14 PM

Class-action suit could remedy 'bad paper' discharges for veterans with PTSD

A class-action lawsuit to automatically give discharge upgrades to veterans with service-connected PTSD is making its way through federal court.

SARASOTA — What happened to 26-year-old Icarus Randolph sounds like the rehash of a tired script: the Fourth of July in an African-American neighborhood, a call for assistance, white cops respond, tensions escalate in the front yard, gunfire erupts as the entire family recoils in horror and another young black man gets wheeled on a gurney to the coroner’s office.

This one occurred in Wichita, Kansas, on Independence Day, 2014. But the incident may well exceed the scope of a #blacklivesmatter scenario.

“We don’t think it was racial, but we don’t know what that cop may have seen when my brother came out of the house,” says Elisa Allen of Wichita. “My brother had that 1,000-yard stare, like he was somewhere else. I wish I had grabbed him and hugged him and he might still be alive today.”

Maybe the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were in that 1,000-yard distance. Maybe he was back in the Camp Pendleton brig, waiting in disbelief to be drummed out of the Marine Corps on an other-than-honorable discharge for getting busted for marijuana.

To hear his sister tell it, her little brother had never recovered from the stigma of being treated like a criminal by the military. Insisting he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the former Marine had appealed for a status upgrade before being shot to death in Kansas.

The fate of Randolph and others like him is now at the heart of a class-action lawsuit aiming to erase the blight of “bad paper” discharges against post-9/11 veterans diagnosed for PTSD, traumatic brain injury and associated service-connected issues. And in a ruling that could ultimately impact hundreds of thousands of veterans, a federal judge has rejected the Navy’s motion to throw the litigation out of court.

In New Haven, Connecticut, on Nov. 7, U.S. District Judge Charles Haight Jr., gave the green light to lead plaintiff and Iraq war veteran Tyson Manker to proceed with discovery actions against Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.


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