Supporting Veterans in Their Fight for a Fair Discharge Policy

Jenner & Block serves as co-counsel with the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic (YLSVLS) in two lawsuits that challenge how the military processes less-than-honorable, or “bad paper,” discharges.

In November 2018, a federal judge in Connecticut approved class-action certification for thousands of Marine and Navy veterans in Manker v. Spencer. The plaintiffs are suing the Naval Discharge Review Board, arguing that they were denied an upgrade from less-than-honorable discharges because they suffered from undiagnosed mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In that case, the judge certifying the class wrote that these denials “affected their eligibility for benefits like the GI Bill program and, ironically, PTSD treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

The firm team in Manker includes Partners Jeremy Creelan and Susan Kohlmann and Associates Jeremy Ershow and Jessica Martinez.  

In December 2018, another federal judge, also in Connecticut, certified a class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 50,000 Army veterans. The Army veterans similarly challenged their “bad paper” discharges.

According to the Army lawsuit, Kennedy and Carson v. Esper, more than 650,000 service members – nearly one-third of the 2 million Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan – suffer from PTSD. Still, the lawsuit argues, the Army Discharge Review Board frequently denies claims of veterans with mental health conditions – denials that are not in compliance with recently issued Department of Defense policies that sought to address the issue.

The team in Kennedy includes Partners Jeremy Creelan and Susan Kohlmann and Associate Jacob Tracer.

Both cases are pending.

In 2016, The National Law Journal named Jenner & Block to its “Pro Bono Hot List” because of our lawyers’ work with YLSVLS.


Advocating for Veterans and Military Spouses

In March 2018, Partner Angela Allen was profiled in the Chicago Lawyer magazine. Titled “Those Who Serve,” the article highlights Angela’s work with the Military Spouse J.D. Network, a group of law-practicing spouses of active-duty service members. Angela received the organization’s 2017 Exceptional Service Award for going above and beyond to serve others in the military and legal communities through her state licensing work, pro bono and mentoring efforts.

Among her efforts: Angela testified before the Michigan Senate in support of a bill that would make licensing accommodations for military spouses stationed in Michigan. Two bills were signed into law. 

The article also notes that Angela started the firm’s Veteran/Military Families Affinity Group and that she does pro bono work with the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network. The firm’s pro bono efforts include partnering with CARPLS, a Cook County-based free legal service provider that operates a veteran’s legal aid hotline. “We continue to partner with CARPLS, supporting them and volunteering to help get the word out about the legal aid network so that veterans and military families who have pro bono needs know to call CARPLS to get assistance,” Angela says.

Angela is a member of the firm’s Restructuring and Bankruptcy Practice.