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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Sinks Navy Sailor’s Honorable Discharge Suit

(CN) - A sailor who slapped his lieutenant so he could get out of the Navy in 1977 cannot bring a federal lawsuit to redefine his discharge as honorable, a federal judge ruled.

Before Henry Lewis Astrop enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1975, a medical examination allegedly showed that he had a hernia, an undescended testicle and intestinal cancer.

He said that he enlisted after undergoing surgery on his intestines, and was stationed on the U.S.S. Enterprise CVAN-65.

Though the Navy allegedly contracted Astrop to work as a cook, it instead had him work as a store keeper, even though the heavy lifting required by a job greatly aggravated his hernia and gave him hemorrhoids, according to the complaint.

Astrop said he was looking for a way to get out of the Navy two years later. When he asked a captain how for advice, the captain allegedly told him there are four ways to leave the Navy: "1. get sick, 2. go crazy, 3. die, or 4. do something so bad they have to kick you out."

On this advice, Astrop slapped his Lieutenant, served 30 days in the brig, and was discharged "under honorable conditions" in 1977, according to the complaint.

Astrop said he sought medical benefits in 2010, but the Department of Veterans Affairs told him he was not eligible because his hernia and undescended testicle were unrelated to his military service, and his hemorrhoids were less than 10 percent disabling.

In a handwritten complaint, Astrop made no claims against the department's decision, but sought an upgrade of his discharge and $100,000 in "punitive damages for [his] physical condition."

U.S. District Judge John Gibney Jr. dismissed the pro se complaint without prejudice, finding that the Richmond, Va., court did not have jurisdiction.

"This court lacks jurisdiction over Astrop's claims seeking monetary relief based in either contract or tort," Gibney wrote.

"Where a plaintiff's claim seeks more than $10,000 the action must be brought in the Court of Federal Claims," he added.

In addition, "the court, likewise, does not have jurisdiction over Astrop's tort claims because any such claims arise out of conditions suffered by a serviceman that resulted from activities incident to service," the ruling states. "The Feres Doctrine provides that 'the government is not liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for injuries to servicemen where the injuries arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service."

Gibney concluded by saying that Astrop must first exhaust his appeals to the Navy before the court can consider his specific request for an honorable discharge upgrade.

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