In recent months I've devoted extensive attention to writing about the discharge review boards. It's well-known at this point that in 2014 the Secretary of Defense instructed the boards to give greater consideration to veterans with PTSD. The move was prompted, in part, by greater awareness and lobbying efforts by Vietnam vets.
On 19 Feb 2016, the NY Times published an interesting article discussing veteran PTSD discharge upgrade cases.
The article characterizes PTSD upgrade cases as an uphill battle. I tend to agree, but for different reasons. The NY Times wrote:
"Many who have tried to upgrade their discharges have received the same response. Records show that the Army Review Boards Agency — the office with legal authority “to correct an error or remove an injustice” in military records — has rejected a vast majority of cases that involve PTSD in recent years."
In my view, some veterans have difficulty at the Discharge Review Board in PTSD cases for three reasons:
1) They don't understand the PTSD diagnosis and how to present evidence related to it. I'm sure those veterans might disagree with me. But, the unvarnished reality is that they often are not able to communicate the diagnostic history very accurately and other related evidence;
2) Many veterans have difficulty because they view the PTSD as causative of any underlying misconduct. That's a tough sell; and,
3) The doctors sitting on the boards have historically suggested skepticism about the diagnosis - based on my read of their questions.
COL Stubbs is presently the physician that I've seen the last few times sitting on the board. I don't know what his voting record is in PTSD cases. But, I have found his questions and tone to be very sympathetic to individuals with PTSD.
Appealing to the ADRB using PTSD as an equitable consideration for relief requires more than just presenting a VA rating decision or talking about it.
I do think that the Army Discharge Review Board needs to be more liberal in granting discharges. After all, that was the intent of Congress when they created the boards. But, Applicants need to do a quality job of presenting the board's with the information necessary to grant the upgrade.