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By on July 5, 2010 in Court Cases with 0 Comments

An appeals court has rejected the argument of a  JAG attorney that it should invalidate disciplinary actions taken against him for his “shenanigans” in getting out early with a medical discharge. (Schaefer v. McHugh, Secretary of the Army (C.A.D.C. No. 09-5187), 6/22/10, p. 2)

After the U.S. Army paid for Schaefer’s law school, he had a six-year service requirement, which he was serving as a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps in Fort Benning, Georgia. With two years left to go, Schaefer sought a medical discharge. He did not tell anyone in his JAG chain of command what he was up to, managed to get medical discharge papers, and was scheduled to be separated early. (pp. 2-3)

Purely by accident, someone in the JAG Corps got wind of Schaefer’s impending discharge. JAG immediately notified the Army Physical Disability Agency that Schaefer’s physical problems would not affect his ability to be a lawyer. As a result, Schaefer’s early discharge authorization was revoked, he was notified of this decision, he was examined and found fit for duty, and his impending discharge was put on hold. Undaunted, Schaefer showed up on the previously established discharge date and was mistakenly issued a discharge certificate. Schaefer took it and ran. (p. 3)

When he did not show up for work, the Army notified him that he was required to return to work. Schaefer challenged this by seeking a court injunction. When this bid failed, Schaefer came back to work with the JAG Corps.

Obviously not pleased with Schaefer’s “shenanigans,” his Army bosses hit him with a bad Officer Evaluation, gave him a written reprimand for wrongfully getting his discharge certificate, and brought charges against him. By the time the dust settled, Schaefer ended up voluntarily resigning for the “Good of the Service.” (p. 4)

Schaefer then brought action to correct his military records essentially to undo the various actions the Army had taken. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records denied Schaefer’s request, concluding that the medical discharge certificate  he relied upon “lacked legal effect because the authority to issue those orders had been revoked.” (p. 4)

Schaefer took his case to the district court, seeking to set aside the Correction Board’s decision. That court sided with the Army, and now the federal appeals court has ruled against him as well.

Schaefer’s contention was that his original medical discharge was valid, that the procedures to revoke his medical discharge papers were flawed, and that the Correction Board “should erase all traces of adverse action the Army took against him” after the date of that discharge. The appeals court did not find his arguments persuasive and has declined to overturn the Army’s actions. Case closed.

Schaefer v. McHugh 1:07-cv-…

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About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.