January 26, 2010 in Nation/World

Veterans could get more benefits

Military reviewing PTSD discharges
Kimberly Hefling Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – A military review could bring millions of dollars in benefits to thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The military has agreed to review the records of recent veterans discharged with PTSD to decide whether they were improperly denied benefits.

The agreement stems from a judge’s order in a class action lawsuit originally filed by seven combat veterans. They alleged the military illegally denied benefits to those discharged, at least in part, because of the disorder during a six-year period that ended Oct. 14, 2008.

Legal notices are currently being mailed to about 4,300 veterans informing them they can “opt-in” to the lawsuit until July 24 to be part of the expedited review. Attorneys for the veterans estimate that millions of dollars could be paid to veterans under the agreement, with some veterans receiving hundreds or more dollars in increased monthly benefits.

Former Army Sgt. Juan Perez, 36, of Owosso, Mich., said the development in the suit, filed in 2008 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, was a relief. Perez, a father of five who did two tours in Iraq, said he has migraine headaches and an eye injury related to a head injury sustained in Baghdad. He also has nightmares and takes medication for his mood related to PTSD.

Since he left the military, he said, he and his wife were laid off from their jobs and declared bankruptcy, in part because of medical bills from the birth of his two youngest kids.

“I’m glad that they are finally moving forward and re-evaluating the soldiers that need to be re-evaluated and doing the right thing,” Perez said.

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