Case shines a light on the continued injustice associated with PTSD in the military discharge process
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Sgt. Benjamin J. Hayhurst, a Purple Heart recipient injured in the Iraq War, has won a ruling of combat-related PTSD that had been unjustly denied to him by the U.S. Army for 18 years.
Crowell & Moring took on the case pro bono one year ago, alongside the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), filing a complaint on behalf of Hayhurst in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Hayhurst was deployed to Iraq in March 2004 with the First Cavalry Division, and was engaged in a historic ambush in Sadr City, sustaining a bullet wound to the left shoulder and another to his upper arm. Hayhurst was awarded a Purple Heart, the Army Commendation with Valor Device, and the Combat Infantry Badge for his honorable service in Iraq. He developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of these injuries and experiences suffered in the line of duty. Despite overwhelming military and medical records demonstrating Hayhurst’s medical condition, he was abruptly administratively separated from the U.S. Army for an alleged “personality disorder,” a condition dismissed as independent of military service and thus not worthy of retirement or benefits.
The story of Hayhurst and the First Cavalry Division in Sadr City was dramatically captured in ABC News’ chief correspondent Martha Raddatz’s book “The Long Road Home,” as well as the National Geographic series by the same name. Hayhurst was portrayed by actor Patrick Schwarzenegger in that series. Most recently, ABC News revisited Sgt. Hayhurst’s fight for justice in March 2023.
In the 25-page complaint, filed Veterans Day 2022, Crowell called on the U.S. Army to “to honor its clear and explicit duty—embodied by statute and regulation—that it not abandon its wounded.” Early this year, U.S. Department of Justice counsel for the Army agreed to voluntary remand. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson gave the Army 150 days to reconsider in light of the complaint against it.
On September 27, 2023, the Army issued its remand decision granting Hayhurst “full relief,” retroactively correcting the record discharge from personality disorder to permanent disability due to Post-Traumantic Stress Disorder incurred in the line of combat duty. Hayhurst’s corrected retirement order now reads: “The people of the United States express their thanks and gratitude for your faithful service.”
“We are thrilled that Sergeant Hayhurst, a distinguished combat veteran who served our country with dignity, honor and heroism, will receive his dutifully-owed benefits,” said Josh Pond, Crowell & Moring partner and U.S. Marine veteran. “While there are so many more veterans in similar situations, every service record corrected represents a debt of gratitude properly repaid by this country and we are so very proud to have helped in this matter.”
“It is a joyous moment, when a wrong is made right and a travesty reversed. Sergeant Hayhurst now has his rightfully earned disabillity benefits and we are honored to have played a role in this accomplishment,”said NVLSP Senior Managing Attorney Esther Leibfarth. “There remains outstanding injustices for veterans with PTSD and NVLSP will continue to advocate for righteousness.”
“It felt like it would never happen,” said Hayhurst, expressing gratitude to his legal team. “Thank you all so much for everything. I am still in disbelief of what you were able to accomplish.”
Pond led a team representing Hayhurst on a pro bono basis, alongside Leibfarth and Rochelle Bobroff, Director of Lawyers Serving Warriors®, Pro Bono Program of NVLSP.
About Crowell & Moring LLP
Crowell & Moring is an international law firm with operations in the United States, Europe, MENA, and Asia. Drawing on significant government, business, industry and legal experience, the firm helps clients capitalize on opportunities and provides creative solutions to complex litigation and arbitration, regulatory and policy, and corporate and transactional issues. The firm is consistently recognized for its commitment to pro bono service as well as its programs and initiatives to advance diversity, equity and inclusion.
The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veterans service organization that has served active duty military personnel and veterans since 1981. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to its 18 million veterans and active duty personnel by ensuring they have the benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVLSP has represented veterans in lawsuits that compelled enforcement of the law where the VA or other military services denied benefits to veterans in violation of the law. NVLSP’s success in these lawsuits has resulted in more than $5.4 billion dollars being awarded in disability, death and medical benefits to hundreds of thousands of veterans and their survivors. NVLSP offers training for attorneys and other advocates; connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help when seeking disability benefits; publishes the nation’s definitive guide on veteran benefits; and represents and litigates for veterans and their families before the VA, military discharge review agencies and federal courts. For more information go to www.nvlsp.org.
NVLSP Media Contact: Patty Briotta, [email protected], (202) 621-5698
Email: [email protected]
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