Certain military veterans will have their dishonorable discharges reevaluated now that a settlement has been reached in a court case started by a South Jacksonville native.
Local attorney Tyson Manker has been advocating for upgrades to honorable discharges for veterans who have been rejected due to certain issues they experienced during their service.
On October 12th, a federal court preliminary approved a settlement reached in the Manker V. Del Toro class-action lawsuit. Manker says the victory will ensure that discharge review boards now follow the law.
“Our lawsuit alleged that well over one hundred thousand sailors and marines since 2001 received administrative less than honorable discharges without any due process or any court marshal, just done by one officer figure and some paperwork. This happened to hundreds of thousands of veterans in all branches.
Our lawsuit was against the Navy. There was a parallel case against the Army and now a new case against the Air Force has recently been filed. But it basically alleged that the discharge review boards had not been following the law when veterans would apply for their honorable discharge and upgrade.”
Manker began working to change the process following his own less than honorable discharge from the Marine Corps several years ago after he was caught smoking marijuana to calm his nerves after years of strenuous combat in the Middle East.
The Department of the Navy has agreed to review the discharges of veterans affected by PTSD, traumatic brain injury, military sexual traumas, and other behavioral or mental health conditions.
Manker says the settlement does more than just see to it that thousands of veterans receive an automatic review of their discharges. He says it also modernizes many of the processes at veteran needs to go through to petition.
“There’s an ability to reapply now to these discharge review boards. But the Navy Discharge Review Board specifically has agreed to completely modernize their processes as a result of this lawsuit. For example, they are going to institute video teleconferencing. Before you could request a personal hearing but you had to travel to Washington D.C. Now you can have a personal hearing via Zoom from any location including your residence. I’m very proud of that,”
The Naval Review Board will also implement an online portal making it easier for veterans to submit their evidence materials for their claim online, as well as more training and new more helpful documents for applicants who want to apply to the Board.
Manker says these are all positive changes and he is just very proud to have had a hand in making the change possible. The Manker V. Del Toro suit covers veterans of the Navy and Marine Corps and a separate settlement has been reached for Army Veterans. Manker says he’s ready to help any veteran who wants to apply but does not know where to begin.
“It’s very branch-specific, but certainly for any veteran in the Morgan County, Central Illinois area, or frankly any veteran, if they want to reach out to me personally I will be happy to talk to them, as I always have been, and try to lead them in the right direction.
There’s also veterans service organizations, all of the AMVETS, VFW’s, American Legions that are in communities across the country. They generally have service officers who will have information and can help.
So the main thing is times are changing. If you were given a discharge related to a service-connected injury, you shouldn’t feel ashamed. You should be proud of your service and you just need to start asking questions and we will get you to the place that you need to be.”
Manker received his honorable discharge this week and says any veteran can reach out to him by searching Tyson Manker on social media and he will be glad to help any way he can.