The U.S. Army is being sued for violating the Constitution as well as its own regulations and veterans’ rights by failing to give soldiers with drug and alcohol use disorders honorable discharges, which would have qualified them for federal benefits.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth is being sued by Mark Stevenson, an army veteran, in federal court. Stevenson seeks to compel the military to upgrade his discharge status as well as those of other veterans who weren’t honorably discharged due to misconduct associated with their substance abuse disorders.
Stevenson enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1977, revealing that he developed problems with drugs and alcohol while he was stationed as an auto mechanic in West Germany. Before this period, he hadn’t abused drugs or alcohol. The 63-year-old explained that his substance abuse, which included heroin, alcohol and hashish, caused him to go AWOL on a number of occasions, which led to his dishonorable discharge.
Stevenson, who has now been sober for 20 years, stated that the Army Board for Correction of Military Records failed to approve his request for a discharge upgrade last year. The now-certified substance abuse counselor noted that the board also declined to recognize substance use disorder as a mental health condition.
This lawsuit is similar to prior ones filed by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale on behalf of veterans with mental health conditions, including PTSD, who weren’t discharged honorably due to misconduct. These previous cases led the Marines, Air Force, Navy and Army to reconsider their discharge decisions based on criteria that acknowledged that mental health conditions could affect an individual’s behavior.
The Veterans Legal Services Clinic has revealed that every year, the military issues thousands of dishonorable discharges to veterans, consequently disqualifying them from counseling and health benefits that may be of assistance to them. The clinic, which is helping Stevenson in the lawsuit, explained that by failing to offer liberal consideration in discharge decisions regarding whether the misconduct in question was associated with mental health conditions, the Army was violating military policy.
The clinic added that the Army was also in violation of due process rights under the fifth amendment, which require that all federal agencies follow their own guidance and regulations. In a statement, Dena Shata, an intern at the clinic, explained that the Army’s decision harmed veterans who suffered from addiction, noting that the Army’s decision was both unlawful as well as unconscionable.
With companies such as Cybin Inc. (NYSE American: CYBN) (NEO: CYBN) working to bring to market better treatments for addiction and other mental health indications, it is time the military started treating its members who are suffering from these conditions as ill people who need to be treated rather than looking at them as individuals who qualify for disciplinary action.
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