LSW Success Stories
SPC Starks served honorably in the U.S. Army for three years from March, 2005 to December, 2008. During his deployment in Iraq, SPC Starks was exposed to numerous traumatic incidents that included fire fights and mortar attacks. The consistent exposure to these attacks began to negatively affect SPC Starks. He experienced sleep deprivation due to severe nightmares. He became irritable and was deemed a danger to himself and his unit.
Upon his return home in 2008, SPC Starks continued to experience mood swings, nightmares, insomnia, irritability, and other PTSD symptoms. He was soon examined by the Army Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). The PEB determined that his PTSD had manifested because of his symptoms of anxiety and severe sleep disturbance not due to his deployment-related experiences, because of this PEB placed SPC Starks on the Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL).
SPC Starks was reevaluated by the military in December 2009 because of his placement on the TDRL. The examining psychiatrist diagnosed SPC Starks with a condition called Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), instead of PTSD, after just one examination. IED is not a qualifying disorder for disability retirement. Ignoring many years of PTSD symptoms and treatment, the PEB decided that SPC Starks' PTSD-related symptoms only warranted a 10% evaluation and that any additional impairment was attributed to IED. By May 29, 2010, the Army had taken away SPC Starks' retirement benefits and he no longer had access to TRICARE for himself or his family.
In April of 2013, SPC Starks' case came to NVLSP. A staff attorney determined that SPC Starks was wrongfully denied disability retirement. With the guidance of NVLSP's team and attorneys from Hunton & Williams, SPC Starks presented his case before the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR). On February 14th, 2017, SPC Starks won his long battle and was permanently retired from the military due to PTSD. The retired vet and his family have been able to enjoy healthcare and other benefits.
Ms. D served honorably in the Army for multiple periods of service from 1986 to 2010. During her service, Ms. D was physically assaulted, sexually assaulted, and sexually harassed on multiple occasions by other members of the military. On one instance, she was even hospitalized and treated for injuries.
Like many other survivors of trauma, she did not voluntarily disclose the physical and sexual abuse that she suffered while in the military. In 2011, Ms. D was struggling with the after effects of her experiences in the military, and she submitted a disability claim for a mental condition to the VA. The VA Regional Office denied her claim. In desperate need of help, Ms. D requested assistance from NVLSP’s MST program. In March 2015, NVLSP placed her case with a group of attorneys at Kirkland & Ellis. Working with NVLSP, the attorneys helped Ms. D reopen her claim.
The volunteer attorneys spent countless hours on this case, and they decided to fly to meet Ms. D and do an in-person interview in her hometown to support her claim. This was to make her feel comfortable and assured that they could be trusted and would do their best to obtain benefits on her behalf.
The attorneys were able to receive records from 1990 as proof of the assaults that Ms. D had suffered. They also obtained an extensive private medical opinion from George Mason University’s Center for Psychological Services that confirmed a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and linked it to military sexual trauma. The attorneys worked diligently and submitted a fully developed claim, with a written argument and the new evidence to the VA Regional Office.
Thanks to their efforts, Ms. D recently received a rating decision granting 100% service connection for PTSD effective March 2015. The VA assigned a permanent 100% disability rating. She is now receiving monthly disability benefits and back pay for the last year. Because of her disability rating, she is entitled to additional benefits such as medical care, educational benefits, and life insurance waivers. She has support to help her build a new life.
Matthew G. served over 20 years in the U.S. Military, including three tours in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Two decades of serving in one of the most grueling jobs on the planet took its toll on Matthew's body and mind, and he suffered from chronic pain related to back, shoulder, hip, and knee injuries, leg numbness and post-traumatic stress disorder. The VA denied almost all of his disability claims, granting him only a limited amount of compensation, arguing there wasn't enough evidence to support the conclusion that his injuries were service-related. "It was a slap in the face," he recalled.
Thankfully, Matthew learned about the work of NVLSP through a fellow soldier. After contacting NVLSP for help, Matthew's case was placed with a volunteer attorney from DLA Piper who is a participant in the Lawyers Serving Warriors® program. The volunteer attorney was able to obtain a new medical opinion which supported Matthew's case for an increased disability rating. After NVLSP and the volunteer attorney fought for several years to get Matthew the benefits he deserved, this year the VA increased Matthew’s disability rating to 100%, up from his previous 30%. Without the help of NVLSP, Matthew says, "I would've given up" and unfortunately, many veterans find themselves in this same position.
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.
Private First Class (PFC) S served two tours of duty in Iraq from October 2003 to February 2004 and from March 2005 to February 2006. During his tours, PFC S experienced extremely traumatic situations including assisting Army personnel and civilians sift through the carnage of a suicide bomber attack. Upon returning from Iraq, PFC S immediately began experiencing anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, hearing voices, paranoia and hallucinations. He was hospitalized at a civilian mental hospital on two occasions. However, after being discharged the second time, physicians employed by the military changed his diagnoses from PTSD to personality disorder. PFC S was administratively separated from the military for a personality disorder in 2006, without any military disability payments or entitlement to free military health care.
After screening his case, NVLSP placed it with a volunteer attorney participating in the Lawyers Serving Warriors® program. NVLSP and the volunteer attorney both retained clinical psychologists to examine PFC S and review his medical records. Both psychologists prepared lengthy expert medical opinions concluding that at the time of his discharge, PFC S did not suffer from a personality disorder, but he did suffer from severe PTSD. As a result of the efforts of NVLSP and the volunteer attorney, the Army invalidated PFC S’s administrative separation for personality disorder and retroactively corrected his records to show that on October 31, 2006, he was placed on the Temporary Disability Retired List. His placement on the TDRL entitles him to free military medical care and makes him eligible for prospective and retroactive military disability payments in the form of Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC).
Eric A. served in the US Army for 20 years. While deployed to Kuwait in 2003, the vehicle he was traveling in was rear-ended by a truck at over 60 mph. With no seatbelts in the vehicle, Eric hit his head and ended up with a traumatic brain injury. After the accident, he suffered from neck pain and debilitating migraines on a weekly basis. In 2004, the Army determined that Adams was unfit for military service because of his neck disability and migraine headaches, and temporarily retired him. In 2005, he was re-evaluated. “They re-evaluated me, reduced my rating, and said I was no longer eligible for any kind of retirement and…we’re done with you. I really didn’t have any guidance.”
Eric was medically separated after 20 years of service without a permanent disability retirement. In 2011, he applied to the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) which recommended that he be rated at 30% and be granted permanent disability retirement. The Secretary of the Army rejected this recommendation. In November 2011, with help from attorneys at Hunton & Williams participating in NVLSP’s Lawyers Serving Warriors® program, a complaint was filed in court on Eric’s behalf. The Judge issued an opinion in Eric’s favor, and in March 2015, the PDBR reviewed the case again and issued a unanimous decision that recommended a combined 40% disability rating for Mr. Adams. In April 2015, he was permanently retired from the Army with a combined disability rating of 40%. Eric is now eligible for permanent disability retirement and free healthcare. “The quality of my life has improved since I received my benefits. I couldn’t have done it without Lawyers Serving Warriors®.”