The Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic at the West Virginia University College of Law recently secured a discharge upgrade for an Army veteran that qualifies him for benefits.
Clinic client Jerry Severt, a native of McDowell County, West Virginia, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968. Traumatized by the death of his seven-year-old brother in 1970, Severt was unfavorably discharged.
From 2010 to 2013, Severt made three requests for a discharge upgrade to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. His requests were denied and his case was administratively closed.
In 2017, the Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic took Severt’s case. In refiling his claim, law students in the clinic argued that Severt’s discharge was unfair based on the modern understanding of the effects of traumatic events on a person’s mental health.
The Department of the Army agreed, finding sufficient evidence to give Severt a discharge upgrade. His new Certificate of Release, granted in February, lists his character of service as “General, Under Honorable Condition” for the period ending March 4, 1971. The upgrade qualifies Severt for a range of veteran’s benefits, such as health care, loans and a pension.
WVU College of Law 2018 graduates Nicole Graybeal, Alexis Smith, Brittany Given and Alexis Wiley worked on Severt’s case under the supervision of clinic director Jennifer Oliva. This year, clinic staff attorney Kelly Parker ’18 oversaw the case.
“I am so grateful that the veterans clinic pressed on for me and helped me get this discharge upgrade. When I got my updated discharge papers, I’ll admit that I sat down and cried,” Severt said. “My family supported me in this process for many years, but we didn’t have any success on our own. A very small percentage of people who apply for a discharge upgrade actually get it, so I thank God for the Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic and all the staff and students at the College of Law who helped me resolve this.”