Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Soldiers' advocates say Fort Carson banned them

By Dan Elliott, Associated Press Updated: May 16, 2014 at 9:06 am

DENVER — Two veterans who advocate for injured or mentally ill soldiers filed a lawsuit saying they have been illegally barred from Fort Carson.

The lawsuit, filed in Denver federal court, says Robert Alvarez and Andrew Pogany were told in November 2012 their presence disrupted "good order and discipline" on the post. They say they were given no specifics.

The men said they had been on Fort Carson several times before the ban and had experienced no problems.

Alvarez and Pogany said Fort Carson later falsely accused them of physically interfering in a personnel proceeding and of coaching a soldier to fake mental illness.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Denver federal court. Officials at Fort Carson, an infantry post outside Colorado Springs, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Alvarez, a Marine Corps veteran, and Pogany, who served in the Army, said they help soldiers get medical benefits and avoid being kicked out or disciplined for conduct they blame on service-related injuries or mental illness.

They work for free and sometimes work alongside military and civilian attorneys, the men said.

They were featured in The Gazette's Pulitzer Prize-winning series, "Other than Honorable."

They started working together in about 2008 and by 2011 identified a pattern of the Army expelling soldiers for misconduct, even though they suffered from traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress injury, mental illness or other service-related health problems, the lawsuit says.

They need access to Fort Carson because many of their clients live there and courts-martials and administrative proceedings take place there, the lawsuit says.

The restriction violates their constitutional right to free speech, free assembly and due process and wrongly bars them from court proceedings that are open to the public, the men said.

The defendants include Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, who was Fort Carson's commanding general until March 2013, when he became commander of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Fort Bragg officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP

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