Discharge Upgrade Obtained for Veteran in Need of Benefits

September.15.2015

Orrick is proud to support the Veterans Discharge Upgrade Program. Created by Orrick senior associate and US Navy veteran Stephen Lessard in collaboration with the Urban Justice Center and the New York County Lawyers’ Association, the program connects veterans seeking a status upgrade with local attorneys who can help them petition the Department of Defense to reconsider their discharge status. The program, which fills a critical void for thousands of US veterans, had its first successful outcome for a veteran when Orrick associate Joshua Naylor was able to secure an upgrade as well as other much-needed benefits for his client.

Though the program, Josh was paired with a veteran of the Iraq war who witnessed his battalion commander killed by a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device and received a concussion when his vehicle was struck and destroyed by an Improvised Explosive Device. After returning to the US, he sought, but did not receive, adequate mental health care from the military for his increasingly debilitating (but undiagnosed) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. After a series of minor disciplinary incidents, the client was dismissed from the Army with a General Discharge, meaning that he would receive no G.I. Bill benefits despite earning multiple citations and awards while on active duty. For someone suffering from not only emotional and mental distress, but also the physical effects of a traumatic brain injury, to not be eligible for such benefits was devastating.

For more than a year, Josh worked to gather hundreds of pages of his client’s health and military records, obtained sworn statements from family members, and even sought out the assistance of several Congressmen (including one who is a veteran and sits on the House Armed Services Comm​ittee). His efforts paid off. In February, Josh’s client was granted an upgrade to an Honorable Discharge, making it easier for him to secure a job and possible to attend college using G.I. Bill benefits. Several months later, in August, Josh was also able to secure retroactive and ongoing disability benefits for his client—a separate accomplishment from the discharge upgrade that grants him additional financial stability and the ability to support his young daughter.