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Pacer fees are too high, class action alleges

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts illegally charges excessive fees for Pacer, the federal electronic court records system, a lawsuit (PDF) filed Thursday asserts. The case alleges that the 10-cents-per-page download fee, capping out at $3, is much higher that the actual cost of providing public records, and may prevent access to important court records. It was brought by the Alliance for Justice, the National Veterans Legal Services and the National Consumer Law Center. [more]

Released 4/21/16 | Tags: Class Actions

According to Court of Appeals, VA improperly rejected vets’ emergency medical reimbursements

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims recently held that the Department of Veterans Affairs had been using an invalid regulation since 2009 to deny reimbursement to veterans for emergency medical costs incurred outside of the V.A. health care system. “This is a major win for veterans, and their families,” said Bart Stichman, joint executive director of National Veterans Legal Services Program and an attorney in the case. “This practice has violated federal law since at least 2009. The court’s ruling means the V.A. will have to amend the unlawful regulations it should have amended in 2009 and do right by these veterans.” He added that the ruling was “not just a win for one veteran,” but that “veterans who have pending claims for reimbursement will benefit. Plus, veterans whose reimbursement requests were turned down years ago may now be able to get paid by claiming that the previous denial contained ‘clear and unmistakable error.’ “ [more]

Released 4/20/16 | Tags: Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

VA gets ‘F’ for claims approvals

The percent of disability claims approved by the Veterans Affairs Department for Persian Gulf War-related illnesses has declined steadily in the past five years, resulting in record lows, according to a new report. [more]

Released 4/19/16 | Tags: Agent Orange

Court rules against the VA in private-pay case

A three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has ruled unanimously that the Department of Veterans Affairs ignored the “plain language” of a 2010 statute meant to protect VA-enrolled veterans from out-of-pocket costs when forced to use non-VA emergency medical care. The panel ordered the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to vacate its decision to deny Air Force veteran Richard W. Staab roughly $48,000 in health care costs he was forced to pay following open-heart surgery in December 2010. The board “failed to properly apply the statute and relied on an invalid regulation” to deny Staab’s claim, the court ruled. [more]

Released 4/14/16 | Tags: Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

Veteran Wins Medical Claim Against the VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs must cover $48,000 in emergency medical bills at a non-VA hospital accrued by a veteran who qualifies for Medicare, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled. Richard Staab served in the Air Force as a radio operator from 1952 to 1956. He suffered a heart attack and one or more strokes in 2010 and was hospitalized at a non-VA hospital, where he subsequently underwent open heart surgery. He was discharged six months later. The VA refused to pay his medical bills, saying he was ineligible because he was covered by Medicare — though Staab sought reimbursement for medical expenses not covered by Medicare: $48,000 in laboratory and other hospital services. [more]

Released 4/14/16 | Tags: Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

Defense Has Wrongly Taxed Disabled Combat Vets For Years

Veterans who had to medically retire from the military because of combat-related injuries during the last two decades have lost out on thousands of dollars in severance pay because the Defense Department improperly taxed those payments. It’s unclear how many veterans have been affected, but the nonprofit National Veterans Legal Services Program estimated it could be close to 14,000 vets who were wrongfully taxed, going back as far as 1991, for a total of $78 million in lost compensation. [more]

Released 4/7/16 | Tags: Congressional Legislation, Veteran's Benefits

Agent Orange benefit screening process scrutinized in Congress

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is looking into whether a contractor thoroughly reviewed the files of Vietnam veterans who might deserve benefits for illnesses linked to exposure to Agent Orange. A contractor that pre-screens veteran files for evidence of those illnesses often spent just minutes reviewing each file, internal company documents show. [more]

Released 3/31/16 | Tags: Agent Orange

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