As a civilian, he spent years working in dead-end jobs and struggling with anger, depression and substance abuse. He said he considered suicide. He went to a Veterans Affairs hospital in 2004, but was told that his other-than-honorable discharge barred him from help.
He eventually received a PTSD diagnosis from two civilian therapists. He was treated privately, gradually rebuilt his life, went to college and law school, and began practicing law in Illinois, his home state. In his spare time he studied military regulations, hoping to get his discharge upgraded.
He submitted a 65-page petition to the Board for Corrections of Naval Records in 2016, and got back a denial of just a few pages, peppered with misspellings. The letter said that PTSD had not influenced his decision to smoke marijuana, and that he had made “conscious decisions to violate the tenets of honorable and faithful service.”
Mr. Manker hopes the Yale class-action suit will spur the Navy board to look again at his discharge and those of hundreds of other veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“So many guys and girls are in the same situation,” he said. “They feel betrayed, forgotten and they don’t know what to do.”