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National Veterans Legal Services Program Newsletter

 Justice for Warriors



Here at the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), the start of 2012 brings renewed commitment and dedication to assisting veterans and service members. With thousands of veterans recently home from Iraq and Afghanistan, we must now work harder than ever to ensure that the government delivers to our nation's veterans and active duty personnel the benefits they are entitled to because of disabilities resulting from their military service.


This newsletter highlights several recent victories that we have garnered and features attorneys and other legal professionals who are the linchpin of what we do at NVLSP.




Lifetime Health Benefits or Increased PTSD Disability Rating Awarded for Thousands


On December 22, 2011,  Judge George W. Miller at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims granted final approval to a historic settlement victory for disabled veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The settlement obtained by NVLSP and pro bono co-counsel Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in the class action lawsuit Sabo v. United States will benefit thousands of veterans who were medically discharged due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) between 2003 and 2008, but were denied the benefits to which they were legally entitled.


"These veterans served our country in time of war, but have waited 3 to 8 years to receive the disability benefits which they've earned for their service," said Bart Stichman, co-executive director of NVLSP, which filed the class action lawsuit in 2008 along with Morgan Lewis.






What the Sabo Settlement Will Mean for Veterans  


Aimee Sherrod, Air Force (Jackson, TN)    


Air Force veteran Aimee Sherrod served three deployments from 2001-2005, with service in both Iraq and Pakistan. She saw the horrors of war firsthand. She was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD and separated from the military without the benefits to which she was entitled.


Under the settlement, she and her husband will receive healthcare benefits for life and their children will receive healthcare benefits until age 18 or longer. She is entitled to reimbursement of health expenses incurred for herself and her family from 2005 to 2011, eligible to apply for combat-related special compensation, can participate in the Survivor Benefit Plan, and can use the military commissary and post exchange. Two years after her discharge, Sherrod was one of seven named plaintiffs filing the class action lawsuit, Sabo v. United States, on behalf of thousands of veterans with PTSD who were illegally shortchanged on their benefits.


Timothy Martin, Army (Sparta, TN)


Veteran Timothy Martin served in the Army for 9 years. In his role as a Bradley gunner in Iraq, Martin was in multiple firefights and his vehicle was struck by improvised explosive devices. He was told he could no longer serve in the military due to his PTSD, but was separated from the military without retirement benefits and a low disability rating, well below what the law stipulated. Martin is a single father with two children. "My family struggles to make ends meet," said Martin in a sworn declaration filed with the court.


Under the settlement, Martin and his children will receive healthcare benefits through TriCare. He is also eligible for monthly disability benefits, entitled to reimbursement for health expenses incurred for his family since 2006, eligible to apply for combat-related special compensation, can participate in the Survivor Benefit Plan, and can access the military commissary and post exchange.




NVLSP received a $1,000 donation thanks to RoxAnn Mack, a paralegal in the Boulder, CO office of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. Last October, Ms. Mack received the 2011 Individual Pro Bono 

RoxAnn Mack
RoxAnn Mack (center), with Faegre Baker Daniels staff

Award from the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).  


The award, which was presented at NFPA's Annual Convention in Minneapolis, recognizes a paralegal who exhibits extraordinary dedication to the delivery of quality legal services to those who cannot afford to pay.  


As part of the NFPA award, Ms. Mack was given $1,000 to donate to the pro bono program of her choice. She selected the National Veterans Legal Services Program, with whom she has worked on veterans benefits cases.





Ensuring Veterans Receive Correct Compensation


As class counsel, NVLSP has a team of six attorneys and a paralegal devoted to ensuring that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) meets its obligations under the Nehmer Court Orders in the NVLSP class action Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These NVLSP attorneys have been working with class members to ensure that the VA assigns them the correct effective date for benefits and pays them the proper amount of retroactive compensation.


On August 31, 2010, the VA added ischemic heart disease, Parkinson's disease, and all chronic B-cell leukemias to its list of diseases presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure. According to the court order in this class action, the VA was required to identify all Vietnam veterans or their survivors who, prior to August 31, 2010, were denied service connection or filed a claim for disability compensation for any of these diseases. The VA must decide those claims based on the current rules regarding Agent Orange claims. If service connection is warranted, the effective date for benefits usually must be the date of the original claim.


Nearly 150,000 veterans or their survivors with claims that required review under Nehmer were identified by the VA.  




Christine Cote Hill, NVLSP Sr. Attorney

Christine Cote
Christine Cote Hill,
NVLSP Sr. Attorney


Christine Cote Hill is a senior staff attorney with NVLSP. She represents veterans and dependents before the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Board of Veterans' Appeals, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and other federal courts.  


She devotes much of her time to mentoring attorneys participating in NVLSP's Lawyers Serving Warriors Program, mentoring attorneys participating in the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, and training advocates in veterans law.


"The most rewarding part of my job is working directly with veterans and their families. We've had some wonderful victories helping veterans obtain the medical care and benefits they deserve," says Ms. Cote Hill.

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 honors its commitment to the 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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