VVA Logo VVA Press Release

Press Release

February 27, 2014

No. 14-1

Mokie Porter
301-585-4000, Ext. 146

Previously Withheld Records Reveal Widespread Illegality
in U.S. Coast Guard Mental Health Discharges

(Washington, D.C.) – Today Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) released a report confirming that the U.S. Coast Guard routinely violates its own procedures and regulations intended to protect service members from erroneous discharges for alleged personality disorder (PD) and adjustment disorder (AD). These violations create huge numbers of illegal discharges and operate to deny benefits to many veterans.

“Disorder in the Coast Guard: The United States Coast Guard’s Illegal Personality and Adjustment Disorder Discharges” analyzes thousands of pages of previously withheld individual service records that VVA obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after years of litigation. Law students of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School conducted the analysis for VVA.

VVA’s white paper updates and extends a 2008 Government Accountability Office report that found widespread illegality in PD discharges at four military installations. Using records obtained in settlement of its FOIA litigation, VVA examined discharge practices service-wide, analyzing AD and PD discharges. The report concludes that illegal PD discharges continue in the Coast Guard. It also presents evidence that AD discharges in the Coast Guard are rising and that most AD discharges are unlawful.

“We are disappointed to see that so many members of our Coast Guard have been illegally discharged and denied their rights,” said Dr. Tom Berger, executive director of VVA’s Veterans Health Council. “We are hopeful that this report will spark action to correct this injustice.”

“This report is exciting because it is the first analysis of discharge practices across an entire service branch and the first to consider AD discharges as well,” said Kendall Hoechst, a law student intern of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School. “Sadly, we found that illegal PD discharges continue in the Coast Guard, and that the practice has spread to AD discharges as well.”
The report examines a random sample of 265 Coast Guard PD and AD discharges from fiscal years 2001 to 2012. Of those, 255 failed to comply with Coast Guard regulations in some way. Peak compliance in fiscal year 2007 was only 30 percent.

“An overwhelming 96 percent of the discharges we examined were noncompliant,” said Amanda Parsons, another law student intern of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School.
VVA recommends the following: a targeted intervention at the Cape May Training Center, where many of the illegal discharges originated; identification and correction of past errors; and preventive action going forward.

Members of the press wishing to speak to the report’s authors may contact Dr. Tom Berger, (301) 585-4000, Ext. 148 or tberger@vva.org; Kendall Hoechst, (484) 888-1013 or kendall.hoechst@clinics.yale.edu; and Amanda Parsons, (601) 613-2170 or amanda.parsons@clinics.yale.edu

The report is available at

For more information visit: http://www.vva.org/ppd.html

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”


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