Vietnam-era veterans sue for PTSD-related benefits

NEW HAVEN – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was not recognized as a medical condition until 1980, leaving behind some 80,000 Vietnam War-era veterans who were likely suffering from the ailment when they were incorrectly handed less than honorable discharges, a lawsuit claims.

That status has kept them from receiving medical, disability and educational benefits that accrued to other veterans and left them in limbo, according to a class action suit filed in U.S. District Court Monday by the Veteran Legal Services Organization at the Yale Law School.

John Shepherd Jr., 65, of New Haven, the lead plaintiff, was awarded the Bronze Star with valor device for his actions in Vietnam, when he single-handedly rushed a Viet Cong bunker in 1969 in the Mekong Delta, killing several enemy soldiers, according to the suit.

This incident, in addition to Shepherd seeing his platoon officer killed as he was trying to pull Shepherd out of a ditch, “gravely wounded him with what we know as PTSD,” said Ivy Wang, one of the law student interns working on the case.

Shepherd’s condition, however, was not recognized at the time. Read more about his experience and the lawsuit.

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