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National Veterans Legal Services Program Newsletter
 Justice for Warriors

Welcome to the National Veterans Legal Services Program newsletter. The purpose of this email publication is to keep you informed about the work NVLSP is doing to help our service members and veterans obtain their justly earned benefits. Through this newsletter you will meet veterans and service members who have been awarded benefits with the help of NVLSP and our pro-bono partners. We also want to keep you informed of future NVLSP events and programs. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues.

Class Action Lawsuit to Yield Better Benefits for Thousands of Veterans

 James J. Kelley II, left, a Partner with Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP, and Barton F. Stichman, right, Joint Executive Director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program, discuss developments in a class action lawsuit by at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. (Click on the picture for a recap of the news conference.)

News Conference

National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) discovered that the military departments were illegally shortchanging service members discharged for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after we noticed a pattern in individual cases of veterans who sought our assistance. A service member discharged for PTSD is entitled to a 50% or greater disability rating for the first six months following release from military service. This rating entitles service members to military medical retirement benefits that include: free health insurance for them, their spouses, and minor children; disability retirement payments; and other benefits of military retirement. If the disability rating is sustained -- or even drops to 30% -- in the routine evaluation process that determines a permanent rating, the service member will retain these military medical retirement benefits for life!

On October 14, 2008 after pressure from NVLSP and other organizations, the Department of Defense ordered the military departments to assign a minimum PTSD rating of 50% from that date forward. But the military did not address their wrongful rating of thousands of veterans separated for PTSD prior to the October 14, 2008 directive.



Maximum Benefits For Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran


In April 2007, twenty-three year old First Lieutenant Ray Fleig was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Ray was a motivated volunteer who joined the Army through the Reserve Officer Training Program (ROTC) at the University of Mississippi. Ray was a top student with a BA in political science and was a successful college wrestler. When he deployed to Iraq, Ray and his wife, Tiffany, were expecting their first child.


The base where Ray was stationed was attacked on July 11, 2007. A mortar round landed just fifteen feet away from Ray, and as a result this young Army officer suffered severe injuries. Among the injuries were: traumatic brain injury, fluid in the brain; loss of his right eye; damage to his left eye; shrapnel wounds to his face and torso; post traumatic stress disorder; seizures; shrapnel wounds to his left leg; tinnitus; hearing loss; and residuals of shrapnel wounds to his back and stomach. One month after Ray's injuries, his daughter, Alexandra, was born. 


Mr. Fleig, now a Captain, through his wife, asked NVLSP's Lawyers Serving Warriors program for help in approaching the Army Physical Evaluation Board and for eventual help with his VA benefits claim in November 2008. 



Davis Wright Tremaine and NVLSP Obtain Benefits for Iraq War Veteran

In January 2003, thirty-three year old, Staff Sergeant Allen Guse was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). As a result of his combat service, Mr. Guse suffered mental, back and hearing disabilities. He was medically discharged in June 2006.  More than two years later, Mr. Guse, a married veteran with three children, approached NVLSP through its Lawyers Serving Warriors program for help with his VA benefits claim.


After reviewing his case, NVLSP attorneys identified previous claims that may have been improperly denied. NVLSP contacted the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in February 2009. Davis Wright was more than willing to work with NVLSP and provided pro bono service for Mr. Guse. Davis Wright attorney Lauren Giles Wishnie began working on the case for Mr. Guse.


VA Case Backlog Grows

Ron Abrams
Joint Executive Director
A lot of attention has been given this year to the backlog of claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs. But, NVLSP Joint Executive Director Ron Abrams believes that the backlog is not the real issue when it comes to some veterans having to wait years before they receive their benefits. He believes the backlog is just a symptom. The real issue is that the "VA has to repeat its work on many occasions." Ron Abrams was interviewed by the National Journal to get his response to the growing number of claims backlogged at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Click on this
link to watch the National Journals report, "How Big is the VA Backlog" and listen to Ron's response on this topic. Then read the article entitled "Abrams: VA Claims Backlog Not The Real Issue" which outlines what Ron believes is the real problem.

National Veterans Legal Services Program
The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent nonprofit organization that has worked since 1980 to ensure that the U.S. government keeps its pact with our nation's 25 million veterans and active duty personnel by providing them the federal benefits they have earned through their service to our country.

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