Army sued over discharges of soldiers with addiction issues

Apr 27, 2022, 11:10 PM | Updated: Apr 28, 2022, 11:48 am

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The U.S. Army is violating veterans’ rights, its own regulations and the Constitution by refusing to give soldiers with alcohol and drug use disorders honorable discharges that would qualify them for federal benefits, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

Army veteran Mark Stevenson, with help from students at Yale Law School, is suing Army Secretary Christine Wormuth in federal court in Connecticut, seeking to force the military branch to upgrade the discharge statuses of himself and other veterans who were given less-than-honorable discharges because of misconduct related to their substance abuse disorders.

The lawsuit is similar to previous ones filed by Yale’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic on behalf of former military members with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues who were denied honorable discharges because of misconduct. Those cases resulted in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines agreeing to reconsider those discharge decisions based on new criteria that acknowledge mental health problems can affect behavior.

An Army spokesperson declined to comment on the new lawsuit, saying the branch does not publicly respond to pending litigation.

Stevenson, 63, of Stratford, Connecticut, enlisted in the Army in 1977 and said he developed problems with alcohol and drugs while stationed in then-West Germany as an auto mechanic. He said his substance abuse, including using hashish — a concentrated form of marijuana — and heroin, was a factor in him going AWOL three times and receiving a less-than-honorable discharge.

Now a certified substance abuse counselor and sober for two decades, Stevenson said the Army Board for Correction of Military Records denied his request for a discharge upgrade in December and refused to recognize substance use disorders as mental health conditions.

“I made serious mistakes,” he said in a statement provided by the Yale legal clinic. “But I now have two decades of sobriety. I have taken accountability for my actions. I’ve repaired relationships in my life, and become a mentor to fellow veterans and others struggling with addiction.”

The military issues thousands of less-than-honorable discharges every year, which disqualifies veterans from health and counseling benefits that may help them, according to the Veterans Legal Services Clinic.

The Army is violating military policy to provide “liberal consideration” in discharge decisions of whether misconduct was related to mental health problems, the clinic said. The branch also is violating due process rights under the Fifth Amendment that require federal agencies to follow their own regulations and guidance, it said.

“This decision harms veterans with addictions … an already doubly-stigmatized group,” Dena Shata, a Yale Law School student interning with the clinic, said in a statement. “Mr. Stevenson has rededicated his life to serving his community and other veterans. The Army’s decision to meet his service with discrimination is unconscionable, and unlawful.”

Stevenson said he didn’t abuse alcohol or drugs when he enlisted in the military. He said his time in West Germany was tense, as a German gang opposed to America’s presence launched terrorist attacks that killed and wounded U.S. military members. Stevenson, who is Black, also said he was subjected to racist acts by fellow soldiers, as well as by German locals.

To cope, he said he began self-medicating with alcohol and hashish, and later heroin. He claimed the Army “normalized” substance abuse in Germany by providing each soldier with a monthly ration card for three gallons of liquor, 20 packs of cigars and four cartons of cigarettes.

After his AWOL incidents, he received an “other than honorable” discharge that barred him from receiving VA benefits. He struggled with addiction for two decades and ended up homeless in 2002, when he checked himself into a treatment program. He completed the program and worked a few jobs before earning an associate’s degree and becoming a substance abuse counselor.

“A second chance would mean everything to me,” he said of his quest for an honorable discharge.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A protester carries a piece of wood simulating a weapon during a protest demanding the resignation ...
Associated Press

Haiti at breaking point as economy tanks and violence soars

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Daily life in Haiti began to spin out of control last month just hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said fuel subsidies would be eliminated, causing prices to double. Gunshots rang out as protesters blocked roads with iron gates and mango trees. Then Haiti’s most powerful gang took it a step […]
2 days ago
Antonio Garcia, of the Colombian guerrilla National Liberation Army (ELN), left, shakes hands with ...
Associated Press

Colombia and ELN rebels to restart peace talks

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Delegates of Colombia’s government and the nation’s largest remaining guerrilla group met on Monday and announced that they will restart peace talks that were suspended in 2018. After meeting in Venezuela’s capital city, representatives of the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army issued a statement saying a date for the […]
2 days ago
FILE - Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., host and executive producer of the PBS series "Finding Your Roots...
Associated Press

PBS’ ‘Making Black America’ details thriving while excluded

LOS ANGELES (AP) — America slammed the door in the face of Black progress time after time, and time after time African Americans responded by thriving in a society of their own making. When Black doctors were excluded from the American Medical Association, they formed the National Medical Association in 1895. Black colleges, businesses, social […]
2 days ago
FILE - Students walk on the Northeastern University campus in Boston on Jan. 31, 2019. A Northeaste...
Associated Press

Former Northeastern employee charged in campus bomb hoax

BOSTON (AP) — A former Northeastern University employee who said he was injured when a package he was opening on the Boston campus exploded last month was charged Tuesday with fabricating the incident. Jason Duhaime, formerly the new technology manager and director of the university’s Immersive Media Lab, was charged with “conveying false and misleading […]
2 days ago
FILE - Activists appeal for a $15 minimum wage near the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2...
Associated Press

Poll: Many pessimistic about improving standard of living

NEW YORK (AP) — More than half of Americans believe it’s unlikely younger people today will have better lives than their parents, according to a new poll from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Most of those polled said that raising a family […]
2 days ago
FILE - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gives his daily, morning press conference in f...
Associated Press

Mexican government considering army-run airline

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president said Tuesday his government is analyzing the creation of a state-owned, army-run airline that would fly 10 leased airplanes as well as the former presidential jet. The unusual plan would further boost the army’s increasing economic role in Mexico. The proposal was mentioned in a trove of army documents […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Army sued over discharges of soldiers with addiction issues