On 1 June 2016, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus signed a new policy shielding troops with mental health issues from other-than-honorable discharges. In so doing, he made the sea service the first military department to assure that conditions such as post-traumatic stress would be considered prior to involuntary separation. Among the new innovations:
- Sailors and Marines processed for administrative separation with a diagnosed mental health condition may be diverted to the medical disability system
- other-than-honorable cases must be referred to [and approved by] the first general/flag officer in the chain of command
- Service members previously separated can have their “bad” discharge reviewed either through the discharge review board or the Board for Correction of Naval Records.
Anti-Puerto Rican Prejudice: In-Depth Analysis
We recently completed a case where our clients claimed racial prejudice against him is a Puerto Rican military member. We were aghast at we found in the way of bias.
What follows is excerpts from our brief we are happy to share this. With others of Hispanic heritage
In June 2014, the President implemented H.R. 1726, awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment, a segregated unit mostly composed of Commonwealth Puerto Ricans.
During the Korean War, almost 100 soldiers from the 65th Regiment mutinied; 95 were tried in huge joint general courts-martial. Maximum punishment under UCMJ, Article 94, extended to death. Some 91 were convicted, with sentences ranging from one to 18 years’ hard labor. Secretary of the Army Robert Stevens eventually granted clemency and pardoned them.
Why — 65 years later — was this disgraced unit being honored?
The answer lies in Congressional findings which accompany H. R. 1726: Puerto Rican soldiers had faced extraordinarily unfair prejudice; Congress understood …and forgave.
Among specific Congressional holdings:
- During two world wars, Puerto Rican soldiers endured massive racial bias under a policy which “restricted most segregated units to noncombat roles.”
- Even after President Truman integrated the military in 1948, Puerto Ricans from the islands still served in segregated units in Korea. The 65th Regiment remained composed entirely of islanders.
- Puerto Rican soldiers “were fighting a rearguard action against a more insidious adversary — cumulative effects of ill-conceived military policies, leadership shortcomings, and especially racial and organizational prejudice” [italics added].
- Initially, they were regarded by their Anglo commander, Brig. Gen. William W. Harris, as shiftless and irresponsible – “rum and Coca-Cola soldiers.”
These Puerto Rican warriors soon proved their worth in tough fighting in Korea. General Harris admitted error, coming to regard his men as “the best damn soldiers that I had ever led.”
Famous general officers praised the 65th as well. Lieut. Gen. Matthew Ridgway was impressed by how they “reflected great credit upon the people of Puerto Rico, who can be proud of their valiant sons.” Gen. Douglas MacArthur applauded the unit’s “valor, determination, and a resolute will to victory. They give daily testament to their invincible loyalty to the United States in the fervor of their devotion…[t]hey are writing a brilliant record of achievement in battle, and I’m proud indeed to have them in the command.”
A 2001 Army report blamed breakdown in the 65th on various factors — a shortage of sympathetic officers and NCOs; communication problems between largely white, English-speaking officers and Spanish-speaking enlisted men; and disparate treatment of Puerto Ricans.
This is not the only example of a more-enlightened government correcting wrongs. In 2013 – 2014, President Obama corrected a historical act of discrimination, awarding the Medal of Honor to a group of Hispanic, Jewish, and African-American veterans unjustifiably passed over for that high award merely because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds. The presentation culminated a 12-year Pentagon review ordered by Congress and the George W Bush administration to correct past discrimination. See President Obama’s Awarding Medal Of Honor To Two Dozen Veterans, Including 19 Discrimination Victims
But that is not the only minority group so honored. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser for 24 July 2016 reports that, Congress just recognized wartime contributions of Filipino veterans. In the past, other minority military units had been so honored to make up for past bias.
- Tuskegee airmen in 2006
- Navajo code talkers in 2008
- WASPs [Women Airforce Service Pilots] in 2009
- Japanese-American soldiers in various units in 2010
- Montford Point Marines [first African-Americans to serve in the Marine Corps] in 2011
Senator Reid of Nevada commented that granting the most recent recognition to Filipino veterans was yet another step to correct past wrongs and celebrate heroic actions and the patriotism of their community.
- HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Mr. XOXOX, our client, respectfully offered a broad historical perspective — it is a story of second-class citizenship for Puerto Ricans in terms of education, language, culture, citizenship, and prejudice.
That history of intolerance is extremely relevant. It is the history of a people – and it is a history of Mr. XOXOX .
DISCRIMINATION — PUERTO RICAN WARRIORS
What was it like in the Marine Corps for individuals like Pvt XOXOX? Inevitably, a quick lesson in military history is useful.
Unequal historical treatment as warfighters. Until the Korean conflict, Puerto Rican military men were used as “back fill.” In the two world wars, many were assigned to supply or labor units in the Canal Zone or the West Indies to replace U.S. continental troops. Later, stateside Hispanics were assigned to regular military units; islander Puerto Ricans were not. When they were finally accepted as front-line troops, some Puerto Ricans complained that they were cherry-picked as “cannon fodder,” facing greater risk from the enemy. A Pew Hispanic Center study of the Iraq War appears to corroborate this — Latinos “made up 9.5 percent of active enlisted forces; they are over-represented in the most dangerous categories such as infantry, gun crews and seamanship; and they constituted over 17.5 percent of personnel on the front line.”  In response, the Marine Corps has funded research to see why minority officer candidates sometimes fell short of expected levels.
Promotions; separations. Today’s military leadership seeks to promote fairly. Nonetheless, analysts find stereotypes which continue in subtle ways, such as discounting verbal ability or questioning job-related competence of those where English is a second language. Sociologists commissioned by the military have discerned anti-Hispanic bias similar to anti-black prejudice. Often, a large percentage of Puerto Rican officers of mixed heritage will classify themselves as “white.” Similarly, Puerto Ricans protest what they perceive as job bias: “The dirty job roster was usually top heavy for Hispanics.”
The services have become increasingly sensitive to issues of Due Process for minorities. For example, Marine Corps order 5354.1A went in effect soon after Mr. Xoxox left the military. Commendably, the order seeks to promote equality in punishments.38 That order insists on equal treatment dealing with administrative separations; bias cannot be a factor in the recommendation for discharge. Command discharge statistics must be monitored to ferret out any systemic discrimination in the ‘admin sep’ process.
All this is progress. However, Commonwealth Puerto Rican vets ask: Why was there a need to mandate such radical change in the first place? They cite history from the Viet Nam era which they claim shows clear-cut bias. One of the first soldiers captured by the Viet Cong in 1960 was SFC Isaac Camacho, interned for 20 months until his escape. Later, during the helicopter evacuation from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon in 1975, MSgt Jan J. Valdez was on the last chopper to leave. From these two warriors, Hispanic Americans detect a common thread to their participation: “first in – but last out.”
Medical experimentation. During World War II, Puerto Rican soldiers were subject to shocking military experimentation. In Panama, they were purposely exposed to mustard gas to see if they reacted differently than their “white” peers.
Medical care. Even today, military retirees living in Puerto Rico lose survivor medical benefits under TRICARE.  Moreover, many claim Latinos receive worse medical care than their Anglo brethren. Recently, a former VA doctor claimed that VA hospitals were discriminating against Hispanic veterans. Dr. Steven Coughlin protested that Latino patients were less likely to receive timely referral for healthcare services. The cause? A “lack of culturally competent healthcare, because of bias, or because of institutional barriers to their receiving timely, quality healthcare services.” 
A high rate of PTSD. According to a Yale University study, Puerto Rican veterans endure a higher rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (and experience more severe PTSD symptoms) than non-Hispanic veterans. According to these Yale researchers, PTSD appeared in 34 % of whites, 38.2 % of blacks, and 48.4 % of Hispanics. A similar survey was undertaken by the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study in 1990. It found a 14% PTSD rate among white soldiers, 20% among African-Americans, and a 28% rate for PTSD among Hispanics.. The rates obviously differ in the two reports, but both confirm radically-higher rates of PTSD among Hispanics – even more than among black Americans.
The significantly higher Hispanic PTSD rate persists, “even after taking into account a broad range of predisposing risk factors.”  One author sees this as a byproduct of the negative social and political forces still burdening Commonwealth Puerto Ricans.
Other psychiatrists have studied war-related PTSD in minorities, noting “elevated prevalence rates” among Hispanic Vietnam veterans. The authors discern no comprehensive explanation of these differences — but are positive they have been reliably reported. The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder reports similar results.
“Special rules” for Puerto Rican veterans. In 1993, a Federal court forced the VA to pay over $60 million in retroactive disability benefits — plus tens of millions of dollars in increased prospective disability benefits –to over 600 Puerto Rican veterans with service-connected mental disorders. Their 100 percent disability ratings had been reduced pursuant to special VA rules solely for Puerto Rico! These rules were far less favorable to islander veterans than the Code of Federal Regulations, applied elsewhere by the VA. See Fernando Giusti-Bravo v. U.S. Veterans Administration, 853 F. Supp. 34 (D.P.R. 1993).
- HISTORY: UNEQUAL TREATMENT IN CIVILIAN PUERTO RICO
Mr. XOXOX points to discrimination in the Marine Corps some 35 years ago.
He is clearly one of almost 3.2 million Hispanic American citizens living in Puerto Rico who enjoy a unique culture and language. Separated geographically from the US mainland and ethnically distinct, Puerto Ricans are intensely patriotic. Since World War II, more Puerto Ricans have joined the military per capita than any other sector of the Nation.
Overall Second-Class Citizenship….
Education.  Hispanics – including Islander military members like Mr. Xoxox – have significantly less schooling than blacks or whites. Even after better times in the 1990s, only 50 percent of Puerto Ricans had a high school diploma. Island public schools were pilloried recently by US District Judge Jose Fuste’ as “deficient, incomplete, shameful, negligent, regrettable and dishonorable”.
Language. Spanish was always the dominant language. Fewer than 20% spoke English fluently, according to the 1990 U.S. census. English was a little-used second language – in the 1980s, only about 2% of island-based Puerto Ricans listed English as the main language spoken at home. A Citizenship and Service Survey in 2004 found about 13% self-identifying as fluent in English.
Culture. Mr. Xoxox has commented about the vast difference between Puerto Ricans born/raised on the United States mainland and those from the Commonwealth. Island Puerto Ricans consider themselves a nation – Spaniards, with African and Indian traditions, blended in a culturally diverse society. “Culture” reveals itself in gestures, movements, and life styles. Puerto Ricans tend to interrupt each other frequently. They often stand fairly close in social settings – moving away from a counterpart can be considered insulting. A warm and friendly handshake is a customary greeting, but male friends will embrace while women engage in a hug and kiss on the cheek.
Titles are used – Professor, Doctor, Lawyer — when making introductions. Puerto Ricans have two surnames, with the father’s family first, followed by one from their mother. Culturally, military service was often a first venture away from home, just as it was for Mr. Xoxox . Homesick, Puerto Ricans found that “their” National Anthem and flag were viewed as symbols of disloyalty, banned by the Anglo majority. In the brief, Mr. Xoxox relates a personal story of how his Puerto Rican flag was disparaged.
Wealth. Mr. Xoxox is a successful entrepreneur. His good citizenship is particularly commendable, given the fact that Puerto Rico has been plagued by poverty and alienation. In 1990, its household median income was less than half that of mainland Puerto Ricans and five times less than U.S. non-Hispanic whites. Close to 45 percent of the population lives in poverty. The standard of living remains significantly lower than in the continental US, with the average manufacturing wage standing at about 60% of that paid in the US. In 1993, per capita income was $6,760 — 1/3 of the per capita income of the US as a whole and half that of Mississippi. At the same time, the cost of living was about 25% higher than in the US. Press reports found 372,000 families with monthly earnings of less than $500; more than 60% of the families in Puerto Rica receive food stamps. Recently, GE Capital Bank agreed to pay $169,000,000 for discrimination against Hispanics; the bank offered cardholders with low credit scores a chance to catch up on payments. Offers went to some 400,000; those with mailing addresses in Puerto Rico were left out .
Rights as Citizens. Without statehood, Puerto Ricans often endure disparate treatment. Island Puerto Ricans lack a Congressional representative and cannot vote in presidential elections, run for President, or cast electoral votes. A Puerto Rican resident commissioner sits on U.S. House committees but has no vote. Many military retirement benefits are unavailable in Puerto Rico. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Harris v. Rosario, 446 U.S. 651. The Court held that the lower level of reimbursement provided to Puerto Ricans under the Aid to Dependent Children program did not violate the Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection guarantee – territories can be treated differently than States.
Medical Bias and Discrimination. Commonwealth Puerto Ricans cite a lengthy history of experimentation on unwitting human subjects by both private pharmaceutical firms and the military. Three significant events are viewed as particularly reprehensible:
 In the 1950’s, Puerto Rican women were unwitting participants in testing the world’s first birth control pills; the pills were reputedly 20 times stronger than those in use today. Pills were distributed at no cost until 1964. Overall, about 1/3 of age-bearing women underwent “La operacion.” By 1974, 35% of them — some 200,000 women –found themselves permanently sterilized. This practice was rationalized in terms of concern for “overpopulation “ — the average Puerto Rican family included five to six persons. The women insisted they were never informed of the risks of what became, for most, an irreversible procedure.
 Dr. Cornelius Rhoads, under auspices of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Investigation, purposely infected subjects with cancer cells. Thirteen died. Dr. Rhoads had a lengthy career, establishing the Army’s biological warfare facilities and serving as a delegate on the US Atomic Energy Commission. Unfortunately, Dr. Rhoads had written a colleague libeling Puerto Ricans as “beyond doubt the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever…what the island needs is not public health work but a tidal wave or something to totally exterminate the population” [emphasis added]. Many have expressed concern that a memorial award given in Dr. Rhoads’ name is tainted by his bigotry.
 The island of Vieques, some 40 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico, today has a population of about 5,500. Vieques was used for target practice by the US military from 1941 to 2003. Since 1980, it has been used for test firing of depleted uranium munitions. Chemical contaminants have found their way into the ground water, and Viequez’s population has cancer rates twice the US national average.
 How many service personnel have been separated despite a diagnosed mental health condition such as traumatic brain injury or PTSD? There appear to be no reliable statistics available from the Navy Department. However, the National Center for PTSD estimates that between 11 and 20% of veterans serving in Iraq/Afghanistan suffered PTSD. See “SECNAV Announces New Administrative Separation Policy,” www.Navy.mil/local/secnav.
 The Regiment adopted the nickname Borinqueneers, recognizing the island’s original indigenous name, Borinquen. See Orepeza, “Fighting on Two Fronts: Latinos in the Military.” American Latino Theme Study, American Latino Heritage Projects, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
 See Introduction: World War II (1941-1945), Hispanics in Defense of America, Hispanic America USA; see also Discrimination, History.com.
 The 65th Regiment fought more days, lost fewer men, and took more prisoners than comparable regiments. See Orepeza, supra, who comments: “Early on, military officials decided that islanders, like African Americans on the mainland, were best fit for service duties only, such as kitchen patrol or being a member of a labor battalion…no islander saw combat in World War I.” See also “Hablemos Sobre Dreamers, the Unperceived Marines,” El Nuevo Sol, retrieved August 3, 2014, on line, which cites an AP-Univision Poll, in which a startling 61 percent of interviewed islanders reported significant discrimination because of race, poor English, culture, and legal status.
 Quotations cited in Villahermosa, “Honor and Fidelity, The 65th in Korea 1950-1955,” Washington DC Center for Military History, US Army 2009, pp. 40, 185.
 See “Puerto Rican Solders in World War II,” Wikipedia. Orepeza , supra, comments that there is often scant scholarly material; and that Wikipedia has proven to be a valid source of reliable information.
 See Gregg K. Kasesako, “US Senate approves bill honoring Filipino veterans,” Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 24 July 2016.
 See Orepeza, supra; Seefeldt, supra.
 Today, some Latino veterans insist that racial biases “remain entrenched at the Pentagon.” See “Medal of Honor,” NBC News, 8 March 2014. Recently, the Marine Corps discerned a continuing racial disparity in officer attrition, with black, Hispanic, and other minority candidates experiencing a dropout rate 10-15% higher than white candidates. See Archives, N.Y. Times.com, 3 March 2014.
 El Nuevo Sol, supra.
 See North, Cymrot, Smith & Carey, “Perspectives on Minority Officer Success Rates in the Marine Corps,” Occasional Paper, Center for Naval Analysis, June 1994. According to these authors, minority participants view their training as embodying a culture of “worthlessness” in which the basic presumption is that trainees are “maggots” who must endure highly-stressful situations to inculcate combat discipline. The authors surmise that such training can greatly harm minorities — it endorses the stereotype that they are less competent than whites.
 Seefeldt, supra, citing sociologists Dempsey and Shapiro in 2009 and sociologists Biernat and Kobrynowicz in 1997; Collazo, Ryan & Bauman, supra.
 This author recalls a story from his active duty career as an Air Force judge advocate: The acronym for the Puerto Rican Air National Guard was PRANG. Coincidentally, in the 1940s, the RAF employed a similar term to indicate an airplane crash – prang. Unfortunately, a joke arose that Puerto Rican flyers were poor aviators, ones who would “prang” their aircraft. See also “Discrimination,” Vet Center supra, p. 16.
 See “Vietnam,” Vet Center supra, p. 10.
 See “Puerto Ricans in World War II” supra; Smith, “Mustard Gas and American Race-Based Human Experimentation in World War II, “ Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 35 (fall 2008) pp. 517-521.
 See Matos-Desa, “Second Class Citizens: The Case Against Unequal Military Healthcare Benefits for Puerto Rican Veterans,” 16 Cardozo Journal of Law & Gender pp. 291, 301 (2010).
 See “National Center for PTSD,” Department of Veterans Affairs, http/ptsd.va.gov/professional/
 Collazo, “Puerto Ricans Contributions to All Wars, WWI through Vietnam,” 26 August 2010. James O. E. Pitman recently authored an article in Behavior Sciences magazine entitled “Latino Veterans with PTSD: a Systematic Review.” He criticizes the lack of scientific literature investigating the unique needs of veteran Latinos with PTSD.
In a 28 April letter to then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, the Puerto Rican representative to Congress commented on recent VA statistics: Between 2001-2013, 2,595 veterans living in Puerto Rico s who had served in Iraq/Afghanistan had been diagnosed with PTSD. See
 See Gherovici, “The Puerto Rican Syndrome.” Other Press, 2003, Vol. 26, pp. 35-28. The author reasons that Puerto Rican islanders remain deeply affected by issues of gender class, race, nationality, and language. She points out that – as far back as the Korean War — the U.S. Armed Forces Medical Journal noted significant PTSD-like symptoms in Puerto Rican war fighters. See also Flores, “La familiar: Influence on the Soldier,” Vet Center Hispanic Veterans Working Group, p. 15.
 See Dohrenwend, Turner, Turse, Lewis-Fernandez, and Yager, “War-Related Post-Combat Stress Disorder and Black, Hispanic, and Majority White Vietnam Veterans: The Roles of Exposure and Vulnerability,” National Institute of Health Magazine, 16 September 2008.
 See Marcella, Friedman, and Spain,” A Selective Review of the Literature on Ethnocultural Aspects of PTSD,” PTSD Research Quarterly, Vol. 3, No 2. Spring 1992 “[it can be difficult to interpret much of the emerging literature on the ethnocultural aspects of PTSD.”]. The article cites other studies finding that Hispanic Vietnam veterans have endured a higher prevalence of PTSD than other warfighters.
 See Vasquez, “Recruiting: Drop English Requirements,” Marine Corps Gazette, March 1984.
 Seefeldt, “Giving and Taking Orders: Race, Rank, and the U.S. Military,” Loyola University Master’s Thesis, 2013.
 San Juan Star, 22 and 26 November 1991. Two years ago, U.S. District Judge Jose Fuste’ characterized the Island’s public school system as still “deficient, incomplete, shameful, negligent, regrettable and dishonorable.” See Caribbean Business, 24 Sept 2014.
 Mr. Xoxox notes the limited use of English during his school years. Language has been a central issue of contention in education since 1898. Until 1930, English was the language in the schools. Strong resistance to the policy brought a change, with Spanish becoming the basic school language. This was the environment in which Mr. Xoxox got his education. The tension is reflected in attempts to make one or the other the “official” language of Puerto Rico. In 1902, both were given official recognition; but in 1991, the Puerto Rican legislature endorsed a bill making Spanish the sole official language. In 1993, the Governor signaled a new direction, granting equal status to Spanish and English.
As Mr. Xoxox noted in the brief, Puerto Ricans have developed a unique version of Spanish, incorporating African dialects and English words. See “Welcome to Puerto Rico,” Welcome to puertorico.org/culture/language.shtml.
 Collazo, Ryan & Bauman, “Population Profile in the United States and Puerto Rico,” U.S. Census Bureau, Hosing and Household Economics Statistics Division, presentation in Dallas TX, April 15-17, 2008.
 See Borja-Freitag, “Puerto Rican Identity: Differences between Island and Mainland Puerto Ricans,” occasional paper, Penn State University.
 See “Welcome to Puerto Rico,” supra.
 Wikipedia, supra.
 The U.S. Government eventually decriminalized both the Puerto Rican flag and Anthem for the first time since 1898. See Curbelo, “War Modernity, and Remembrance,” Revista, Harvard Review of Latin America (spring 2008) at www.drclass.harvard.edu/Revista/articles/view/1067; Orepeza, supra; Glasner, My Music Is My Flag:” Puerto Rican Musicians and New Work Communities, Berkeley University of California Press, 1995, p. 53.. See also Quach, “Frank Bonilla Becomes Major Figure,” Puerto Rican Studies, Utopia, U.S. Latinos and Latinas & World War II Oral History Project.
 Seefeldt, supra.
 Collazo, Ryan & Bauman, supra.
 Martinez, “Puerto Rico’s Decolonization,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 1997, Vol. 75, No. 6, p. 111.
 Dietz , “Economic History of Puerto Rico,” Princeton University Press, 1986, p. 249.
 Washington Post, 20 June 2014.
 Igartua de la Rosa v. U.S., 417 F.3d 145 (1st Cir 2005).
 Quintanilla, “Puerto Ricans Recall Being Guinea Pigs for ‘Magic Pill’,” Orlando Sentinel, 11 April 2004; see also ”Puerto Rico: US Lab,” 18 March 2004; “La operacion,” F&H Film and History, Academic Journal of Film; see also The Vigilant Citizen blog. Birth control pill experiments on women in Puerto Rico are confirmed in a recent book, Birth of the Pill, by Jonathan Eig. He reveals that test results were run, with progesterone dispensed to women in Haiti and Puerto Rico. He labels the tests as “ethically questionable” because the scientists involved violated two basic protocols of research. First, they did not inform patients of the purpose of the study. Second, they did not warn women of possible risks. See “Meet the Real Masters of Sex,” Washington Post, Outlook, 19 October, 2014, p. B5.
 See Dietz, supra.
 Oncology Times, Vol. 254, Issue 17, p. 19-20; “Cancer Body to Probe Claims that Scientist Killed Subjects,” Inter Press Service, 3 December 2002; see also “The Hall of Shame,” Sightings, US Experiment.Com/politics.
 See The Vigilant Citizen, 18 March 2014. In 1951, the U.S. Navy forcefully expropriated 26,000 of Vieques Island’s 33,000 acres. In the next 60 years, this area was used as a munitions depot and firing range. Old time residents claim they were forcibly evicted and moved elsewhere on Vieques. Sounds of heavy artillery, missiles, and low-flying warplanes were often heard in residential areas. See “Puerto Ricans Battle U.S. Navy in Vieques,” Institute for Social Ecology, 19 June 2014. Islander Puerto Ricans complain of 60 years of “ceaseless bombardment,” along with open burning of excess equipment, toxic waste, and pollution of the waters and air around Vieques. Supposedly, the Navy has discharged more than 6.6 times the legal limit of arsenic; 105 times the legal limit of lead ; and 240 times the maximum allowable limit of cadmium. See Fernandez, “Slowly and Silently, Navy’s Bombs Kill Islanders” Hartford Courant, 1 December 2000.