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Justice for Warriors Newsletter
July, 2015


Exciting things have been happening at the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP). In this newsletter, you will learn about a recent legal victory on behalf of a Navy veteran, NVLSP's latest class action litigation, a new Lawyers Serving WarriorsŪ program to assist wrongfully discharged veterans, tips to help veterans safeguard their disability benefits, and more!


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Recent Victory

Military Retirement, Life-long Medical Care Secured for Disabled Navy Vet


An Operations Specialist, Petty Officer Second Class in the U.S. Navy suffered from a mental disorder which was so severe, the Navy Physical Evaluation Board should have recommended her for a disability retirement. A VA examiner evaluated her and issued a rating decision that resulted in a 30% disability rating for the same mental disorder, which would have entitled her to a permanent disability retirement from the military with monthly disability retirement payments, medical care for life, and military commissary and exchange privileges.


The Navy did not apply the same criteria when evaluating the veteran, however, and only assigned a disability rating of 10%, which meant she only received a one-time severance payment, and would not receive any disability retirement compensation or medical insurance. Even though it was required by law to follow the same guidance as the VA for evaluating a mental disorder, the Navy had created its own internal standards that it used to evaluate the veteran's mental disorder that was contrary to the standards used by the VA and other service branches.   


The veteran submitted an application to the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) for a review of the Navy's 10% disability rating determination. The PBDR recommended that the veteran's disability rating be increased to reflect the VA's 30% rating. Unfortunately for the veteran, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy rejected the PBDR's recommendation, and maintained her disability rating at 10%, which denied her a permanent disability retirement from the military.


Attorneys from Dechert LLP and NVLSP filed a lawsuit on behalf of the veteran in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in May, 2014. Dechert and NVLSP attorneys argued that the Navy's decision to reject the recommendation from the PBDR was arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with law.


The Judge agreed with Dechert and NVLSP attorneys, and found that the Secretary of the Navy's decision must be set aside and remanded for a new decision from the Navy that is based on the VA's rating criteria. In April 2015, the Navy announced that it had accepted the recommendation from the PDBR to permanently retire this Petty Officer Second Class with a disability rating of 30%. As a result of her permanent disability retirement, the veteran is now entitled to monthly disability retirement payments, access to Tricare health insurance for herself and family, and other benefits that go along with being a military retiree.

In This Issue:
2015 Webinar Schedule
NVLSP has released the webinar schedule for 2015!

2015 Webinar Schedule
NVLSP Creates Advisory Council
In 2015, NVLSP created an Advisory Council comprised of emerging leaders in the area of veterans law and advocacy. The mission of the Advisory Council is primarily to improve the visibility of NVLSP with a new generation of potential veterans' advocates and NVLSP supporters.
Benefits Delayed: After as Long as 25 Months, Combat Veterans Still Waiting for Records Needed to Apply for Disability Payments, Lawsuit Says
Seven Veterans Sue Department of Veterans Affairs for Unreasonable Delay
On April 20, 2015, seven veterans - represented by NVLSP and Public Citizen filed a lawsuit against the VA, claiming that the agency has ignored written requests for their own records. Without the documents, the veterans cannot apply for military disability benefits and cannot seek a change in disability rating.

"Disability benefits are critical for veterans suffering from injuries sustained in service to their country," said Rachel Clattenburg, the Public Citizen attorney handling the case. "Forcing a combat-wounded veteran to wait hundreds of days for records to apply for disability compensation is unacceptable. This lawsuit is not just about records; it is about ensuring that our country keeps its promise to its service men and women, and their families."


Bart Stichman, co-founder and Join Executive Director of NVLSP added: "Veterans who have been injured and disabled in combat should not be forced to wait months or years to receive their records from the VA so they can apply for disability benefits."


Read the full press release here


Read the article covering this lawsuit on Military.com  


NVLSP & VSO's File Lawsuit to Stop VA From Changing the Informal Claims Process
American Legion, AMVETS, Military Order of the Purple Heart, NVLSP and the Vietnam Veterans of America ask court to declare VA rule eliminating informal claims unlawful

On March 20, 2015, America's leading veteran's service organizations filed a lawsuit against Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert A. McDonald seeking to stop the implementation of a new VA rule eliminating most informal VA claims and limiting the types of claims VA will adjudicate. The American Legion, AMVETS, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, and the Vietnam Veterans of America joined forces to file the lawsuit together.

5 Tips to Help Veterans Safeguard Disability Benefits, In Light Of VA's Changes
A new rule by the Department of Veterans Affairs that became effective on March 24, 2015 ends much of the informal claims process for VA disability benefits and limits the types of inferred claims VA will adjudicate.  The rule leaves injured and disabled veterans at a serious disadvantage when applying for VA disability compensation.

NVLSP has released 5 tips to help veterans safeguard their disability benefits, in light of VA's new changes:

New Initiative to Assist Veterans Wrongfully Discharged for a Personality Disorder
NVLSP has launched a new initiative to provide free legal representation to service members who have been wrongfully discharged from a military service branch for personality disorder or adjustment disorder.

Our initiative aims to correct the military records of those who have been improperly discharged for personality disorders and adjustment disorders. Through NVLSP's Lawyers Serving WarriorsŪ project, at no cost to the service member, our program will assign an attorney to represent the service member in filing an appeal with a board for correction of military records. The attorney will obtain and review all relevant service personnel and medical records, and draft and submit a legal brief to the applicant's board for correction of military records seeking to nullify the improper discharge and possibly seek medical retirement benefits.
NVLSP on Capitol Hill
As the leading experts in veterans law, NVLSP is regularly called on by congress to offer testimony on legal issues concerning the veteran and military benefits system. In doing this, NVLSP strives to ensure that the system is fair and provides the support that our men and women in uniform deserve.

On April 15, NVLSP Joint Executive Director Ron Abrams testified before the House Subcommittee On Disability Assistance & Memorial Affairs. He presented NVLSP's position on six bills being considered by the committee, and offered recommendations for revising the legislation to ensure that veterans receive the fair and equitable treatment they deserve. Click the following link to read his full testimony. Testimony

In January, Congress requested the expert testimony of NVLSP Joint Executive Director Bart Stichman, who commented on the veterans appeals process and made five recommendations for Congress to improve the system. Click the following link to read about these five important recommendations.
NVLSP Hosts Women Writing About War: Authors Forum

On May 27, NVLSP hosted a panel discussion titled: Women Writing About War: A Panel Discussion Moderated by Judy Woodruff. The discussion was insightful and covered a broad range of topics about women in the military and military families. Pictured are 
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour, Tanya Biank, Kayla Williams, and Kirsten Holmstedt.

NVLSP would like to offer a special thanks to WilmerHale LLP for hosting the event, and to all our participants and attendees for making this such a productive and valuable discussion. We appreciate your support for NVLSP and our work to help our nation's veterans, service members and their families.

Support NVLSP Through AmazonSmile 
NVLSP is participating in Amazon.com's charitable giving program, AmazonSmile. Through this initiative, Amazon will donate a percentage of the price of purchases made through NVLSP's dedicated link below.

Shoppers will find the exact same prices on the items they are purchasing, with the added bonus of helping to raise funds to assist veterans. If you plan to shop on Amazon.com, please consider using the link below. Don't forget to bookmark the page so that you can help veterans every time you shop!

Thank You!
Thank you for your interest in NVLSP's work to secure justice for our nation's veterans and servicemembers.


Bart Signature 
Barton F. Stichman, Joint Executive Director

Ron Sig

Ronald B. Abrams, Joint Executive Director
National Veterans Legal Services Program
P. O. Box 65762
Washington, DC 20035