Veterans’ advocates win extension through November 10, 2010 forSabo v. United States. NVLSP calls on friends and families of OEF/OIF vets to encourage class members to “opt-in”.
WASHINGTON — Veterans discharged from military service due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) between December 17, 2002 and October 14, 2008 and shortchanged on their military benefits have three additional months to join a class action lawsuit, thanks to a critical deadline extension.
Last Thursday, Judge George W. Miller of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims signed an order giving eligible veterans – almost all of whom served in Iraq or Afghanistan — until November 10, 2010 to join (or “opt-in to”) Sabo v. United States, a class action lawsuit brought in December 2008 by the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and pro-bono counsel Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.
As a result of an agreement reached with the military services, veterans who join the lawsuit are guaranteed a disability rating upgrade and expedited records review, which can potentially lead to additional financial benefits and improved healthcare for veterans and their families.
Approximately, 42 percent, or 1,835 veterans, signed and sent in “Opt-in Forms” before the original July 24, 2010 deadline, making them class members in the lawsuit. At least 2,623 other veterans are eligible to join the lawsuit and become class members.
Class notices were mailed to 4,400 Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans in January 2010. However, many notices were returned as undeliverable by the post office.
Using government sources and public records research, NVLSP staff attorneys called more than 600 eligible veterans as the July 24 deadline approached. They found that many veterans did not understand the legal notice they received in the mail, or never received it.
“More than a third of the eligible veterans are severely disabled, with VA disability ratings for PTSD of 70 to 100 percent,” said Bart Stichman, co-executive director of the NVLSP. “It’s not easy for them to understand the legal notice and what are the advantages of joining the lawsuit, even though they stand to potentially gain significant lifetime financial and healthcare benefits for themselves and their families.”
Stichman says NVLSP plans to continue calling eligible veterans over the next three months, but is also asking families and friends of eligible veterans to get involved and talk with the veterans.
“Anyone who knows an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran discharged between December 17, 2002 and October 14, 2008 because of PTSD should ask if he or she has received a legal notice and opted into this lawsuit,” said Stichman. “These veterans and their families were treated unjustly and denied the benefits to which they were entitled. This is about getting them the lifetime military benefits that they have earned and deserve. More information is available at www.ptsdlawsuit.com.”
Eligible veterans who join the lawsuit are entitled to review of their PTSD disability rating by the military on a priority basis, a guaranteed correction of military records to show a higher military disability rating for PTSD for the six-month period following the date of release from military service, as well as a determination of whether the new rating should be permanently increased, decreased, or remain the same after the six-month period.
The correction of military records will not change the disability ratings that the veteran may have from the VA and no eligible veteran who opts into the lawsuit will risk losing any other military or VA benefits that he or she is already receiving. Nearly all class members who have already gone through the prioritized review with the military have received higher disability ratings and better benefits.
As a result of an increase in their military rating for PTSD, class members may receive back pay of disability benefits, reimbursement for healthcare expenses the military should have covered, as well as a higher amount of future benefits to which they and their families are entitled—potentially millions of dollars in benefits over time.
One hundred volunteer lawyers stand ready to offer free counseling to all class members. The lawyers for the veterans from NVLSP and Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP are donating their services for free. The lawyers involved say their payment is knowing an injustice is being righted for those who have served our country.
The disability ratings which are the subject of the lawsuit are critically important to ensuring veterans receive the benefits which they have earned and deserve. For years, the law has required the military to assign a disability rating of at least 50 percent to all veterans discharged for PTSD. A permanent disability rating of 30 percent or more entitles a veteran to monthly disability benefits for the rest of the veteran’s life, to free lifetime health care for the veteran and his or her spouse, and to free health care for their minor children.
All of the veterans who qualify as class members for this lawsuit were illegally discharged from the military with military disability ratings for PTSD of less than 50 percent. After they were discharged, many of them obtained a higher disability rating for PTSD from the VA, but the lawsuit is aimed at getting these veterans a higher military disability rating and with enhanced military disability benefits that accompany a higher military disability rating.
WHO CAN BE A CLASS MEMBER IN THIS CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT?
All individuals who:
(a) served on active duty in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force,
(b) were found by a Physical Evaluation Board to be unfit for continued service due, at least in part, to the individual’s PTSD,
(c) were assigned a disability rating for PTSD of less than 50 percent, and, as a result,
(d) were released, separated, retired, or discharged from active duty after December 17, 2002, and prior to October 14, 2008 (regardless of whether such release, separation, retirement, or discharge resulted in the individual’s placement on the Temporary Disability Retirement List).
VETERANS WITH QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LAWSUIT
Veterans who have not received the legal notice, but who believe they may qualify as a class member, should go to www.ptsdlawsuit.com or call877-345-8387for more information.
PRESS/MEDIA INTERVIEW REQUESTS
Lawsuit information is available at www.ptsdlawsuit.com. Press information, more information about Lawyers Serving WarriorsTM and the legal complaint for the lawsuit are available at www.LawyersServingWarriors.org. Press and media interview requests ONLY should be directed to Ami Neiberger-Miller, cellular 703.887.4877, email@example.com.
The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veteran service organization that has served active duty military personnel and veterans since 1980. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to its 25 million veterans and active duty personnel by providing them the federal benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVSLP offers training for attorneys and other advocates, connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help, publishes the nation’s definitive guide on veterans’ benefits, and represents and litigates for veterans and their families before the VA, military discharge review agencies, and federal courts. For more information go to www.nvlsp.org.
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