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Class Action Lawsuit to Yield Better Benefits for Thousands of Veterans With PTSD & Their Families

Released 1/25/10 | Tags: Class Actions, PTSD

Veterans must opt-in by July 24 for disability rating upgrade and expedited review of benefits, NVLSP and Morgan Lewis available to counsel veterans on their rights as class members

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January 25, 2010

WASHINGTON—Following an order issued by the judge overseeing Sabo v. United States, legal notices are being mailed this week to more than 4,300 veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom and were diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  

The court’s notice invites them to join a class action lawsuit filed in December 2008 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims by signing and submitting an “opt-in” form no later than July 24, 2010.  Submitting this form will allow these veterans to take advantage of a negotiated resolution that guarantees an upgrade in the veteran’s disability rating and an expedited review by a military correction board to determine the full extent of the rating improvement.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of seven veterans by the non-profit National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and pro bono counsel Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, alleges that between December 17, 2002 and October 14, 2008, the military illegally denied benefits to an entire class of service members who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD and were discharged from service.

As a result of the suit, the military has agreed to expedite a review of records to increase the disability ratings previously issued to all class members.  To help affected veterans navigate the process of seeking the benefits to which they are entitled, NVLSP and Morgan Lewis are bringing together approximately 100 volunteer lawyers to offer free counseling to all class members.

The disability ratings which are the subject of the lawsuit are critically important to veterans with PTSD.  A permanent disability rating of 30% or more entitles a veteran to monthly disability benefits for the rest of the veteran’s life, to free health care for the veteran and his or her spouse for life, and to free health care for their minor children.  

“For years, the law has required the military to assign a disability rating of at least 50% to all veterans discharged for PTSD.  This rating (above 30%) would give them the medical benefits they need.  And, in October 2008, the Department of Defense in fact ordered the military to assign a 50% rating for PTSD going forward,” said Bart Stichman, co-executive director of NVLSP.  “Yet, each of the seven named plaintiffs in our lawsuit received a rating of 10% or less.  We believe there are thousands more who were likewise shortchanged.” 

Eligible veterans who join the suit will be entitled to expedited review of their disability rating, a correction of military records to show their rating for PTSD was at least 50% 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 their rating is increased, class members may receive back pay of disability benefits, reimbursement for health care expenses the military should have covered, as well as future benefits to which they and their families are entitled—potentially millions of dollars in benefits over time.

“Even if the military board does not end up permanently raising a veteran’s PTSD disability rating, the veteran retains the right to ask the court to do so,” added Stichman. “In short, they cannot end up worse off by virtue of joining the lawsuit and agreeing to a board review.”

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%, 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 whether such release, separation, retirement, or discharge resulted in the individual’s placement on the Temporary Disability Retirement List).

Veterans who do not receive the legal notice, but who believe they may qualify as a class member in Sabo vs. United States, should go to www.ptsdlawsuit.com to obtain information about their rights in the lawsuit.  

Press information, more information about Lawyers Serving WarriorsTM and the legal complaint for the lawsuit are available at www.nvlsp.org. Press and media interview requests should be directed to Ami Neiberger-Miller, cellular 703.887.4877, ami@steppingstonellc.com.

The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veterans’ 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.

Morgan Lewis provides comprehensive transactional, litigation, labor and employment, and intellectual property legal services to clients of all sizes—from global Fortune 100 companies to just-conceived startups—across all major industries.  Its international team of attorneys, patent agents, employee benefits advisors, regulatory scientists, and other specialists—nearly 3,000 professionals total—serves clients from 22 offices in the United States, Europe, and Asia.  For more information about Morgan Lewis or its practices, please visit: www.morganlewis.com.


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