Navy and Marine Corps veterans who were suffering the effects of trauma related to their service when they were involuntarily separated from service — and who later tried and failed to have their discharges upgraded — will have their cases reevaluated.
Under terms of the final settlement of the class-action lawsuit Manker v. Del Toro, the Navy has agreed to review the discharges of veterans with other than honorable or general characterizations of service due to behavior connected to post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and other mental or behavioral conditions.
“The Court regards the proposed settlement of this case as an impressive example of the manner in which a class action can be made the vehicle for doing substantial justice and advancing the rule of law,” U.S. District Court Judge Charles Haight wrote in the order signing off on the plan Feb. 15.
The Navy will automatically review discharge-status-upgrade decisions from the Naval Discharge Review Board from March 2, 2012, to Feb. 15 for cases where the sailor or Marine didn’t receive an upgrade to honorable discharge and was diagnosed with, or displayed evidence of, one of those conditions.
Sailors and Marines whose upgrade decisions were issued between Oct. 7, 2001, and March 2, 2012, are eligible to reapply for an upgrade to honorable.
Additionally, the Naval Discharge Review Board is required to ensure applicants have access to video-teleconference capabilities from their home or another location at the time of the review. The Navy will also conduct annual training with board members and staff concerning sailors or Marines with a diagnosis of, or evidence related to, these conditions.
Education, healthcare and other benefits are not bestowed on veterans with other-than-honorable discharges. The settlement paves the way for some of these veterans, many of whom were traumatized in defense of the nation, to receive those benefits.
The lawsuit was originally filed by the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic in 2018, and a preliminary settlement agreement was reached in October 2021.
“The Manker settlement guarantees automatic reconsideration and expanded reapplication rights for thousands of Navy and Marine Corps veterans,” said Alexander Fischer, a law-student intern in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic, in a statement. “For many veterans, this will mean access to critical care and benefits that they should have been receiving all along.
“This settlement is an important step towards more fully meeting the needs of Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans who came back with serious physical and mental injuries from their service,” he said.
Applications will be decided on a case-by-case basis, according to the Yale clinic.
According to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report, almost a quarter of troops who received other-than-honorable discharges due to misconduct from 2011 and 2015 were affected by PTSD, a traumatic brain injury or other mental health condition.