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Comedy or tragedy? Daily Show flags law clinic's help for veterans

It's not a very funny subject: Vietnam veterans were less-than-honorably discharged because of their post-traumatic stress disorder. Now, aging and disabled by the PTSD, they can't get disability benefits—because of their less-than-honorable discharges.

Bizarre and infuriating, sure. But funny? Not so much.

Give The Daily Show props for trying, then, I guess. In a 5-minute, 24-second segment last night, Jason Jones smashed computers, beat up a fake hippie, and donned a bathrobe to liven up an interview with two Vietnam vets about their PTSD Catch-22. Then Jones brought on two Yale Law students, wearing appropriately somber suits and facial expressions, to underscore the gravity of the vets' situation.

The crux of the problem is that PTSD was not recognized as a diagnosis until 1980—after the military discharged thousands of Vietnam-era veterans who suffer from the combat-induced illness. Getting their discharge status upgraded so they qualify for disability payments is "a nightmare," veteran Conley Monk told Jones on The Daily Show.

The somber students—Jennifer McTiernan ’99, ’15JD, and Abigail Graber ’14JD—are among several working on this issue at Yale Law School's Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Last November the clinic won a victory for one New Haven vet with PTSD, John Shepherd, who had asked the Army four times to upgrade his discharge status. After Shepherd and the clinic filed a proposed a class action, the Army settled the suit by upgrading Shepherd and paying his attorneys' fees. 

"But there are thousands of guys like me who also deserve better," Shepherd said in a Law School news release. "Their fight is still going.”

Filed under Law School, veterans, comedy, PTSD
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