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Bart Stichman To Step Down As NVLSP’s Executive Director, To Remain as Special Counsel

Released 3/11/21 | Tags:

Bart Stichman To Step Down As NVLSP’s Executive Director, To Remain as Special Counsel

-Board of Directors Launches Executive Search-


WASHINGTON—Ron Flagg, the Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP),  announced today that NVLSP Co-Founder and Executive Director Bart Stichman will be stepping down as Executive Director after more than 40 years at the helm.  Stichman will remain with NVLSP as Special Counsel, focusing on NVLSP’s litigation activities. 

As Co-founder and Executive Director, Stichman led NVLSP from its early days to the preeminent veterans legal advocacy organization that it is today.  During the course of his extraordinary career, Stichman has been a trailblazing champion for veterans rights. He has fought to break down barriers and create a more equitable and transparent system to better serve veterans, servicemembers and their families.

“With a career that spans four decades, Bart’s record of achievements for veterans rights is a testament to his profound commitment to veterans as well as his keen legal acumen,” said Ron Flagg, NVLSP Chair. “He has been a visionary leader, repaving the legal landscape that today affords millions of veterans a fighting chance for justice. Many of the legal remedies and resources veterans, servicemembers and their families can access today are a direct result of Bart’s work. “

Beyond co-founding NVLSP in 1981 with attorney David Addlestone, here are a few highlights of his accomplishments:

• Stichman litigated the landmark cases, Giles v. Secretary of the Army and Wood v. Secretary of Defense, which resulted in precedent setting decisions and upgrades in the derogatory discharges illegally issued to over 7,000 Vietnam veterans.  Stichman also worked closely with Vietnam Veterans of America on efforts to repeal two key laws that were longstanding obstructions to justice for veterans and their families.  The first was the Depression-era law that barred veterans from appealing a VA denial of benefits to federal courts.  The second law was enacted in 1862 and it made it a federal crime —punishable by up to two years at hard labor – for a lawyer to charge a veteran a fee of more than $10 to represent the veteran on a claim for veterans benefits.  In 1988 Congress enacted the Veterans' Judicial Review Act, creating a new court –the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) -- with authority to review a final VA decision denying a claim for benefits.  In 2007, Congress finally repealed the $10 lawyer fee cap on representing veterans before the VA.

• Since 1989, Stichman has successfully litigated six significant class action lawsuits against the VA or the military departments.  In Nehmer vs. U.S. Veterans Administration, the Court invalidated VA regulations requiring  the denial of claims for  disability and death benefits filed by Vietnam Veterans and their families for  diseases  associated with exposure to Agent Orange.   In 1991, Stichman negotiated a favorable consent decree with the VA in Nehmer.  The Nehmer consent decree requires VA, whenever it recognizes that the emerging scientific evidence shows that a positive relationship exists between Agent Orange exposure and a new disease, to identify all claims that it had previously denied based on the newly recognized disease and then pay disability and death benefits to these claimants, retroactive to the initial date of claim. Since 1991, the Nehmer consent decree has resulted in payment of more than $4.6 billion in retroactive payments to more than 100,000 Vietnam veterans and their survivors.  The large impact of the Nehmer consent decree is due in part to Stichman’s efforts over the last two decades to file four separate motions for enforcement of the Consent Decree, each of which successfully overturned VA’s refusal to fully comply with its obligations to pay retroactive compensation. 

• Another landmark class action Stichman litigated was Sabo v. United States, which was settled and provided class members lifetime military disability retirement benefits, including lifetime health care for the veteran and his or her spouse, to more than 1,100 veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan who were discharged due to post-traumatic stress disorder.  Stichman then organized NVLSP’s national network of pro bono law firms to successfully represent more than 50% of these veterans on claims for Combat Related Special Compensation.

• Stichman has been the driving force behind NVLSP’s publication of The Veterans Benefits Manual, starting in 1991.  This popular treatise on veterans benefits law is designed to help increase the pool of effective veteran advocates to assist veterans seeking VA benefits. In 1999, NVLSP partnered with Lexis Law Publishing to publish and update the Manual annually and it has grown from its original 950 pages to 2200.

“Bart’s work has had life-changing impact on veterans.  NVLSP and all who advocate for veterans rights today owe him a debt a gratitude.  Bart has been a mentor to many and his influence has made an indelible impression on numerous attorneys and advocates. We are delighted that while Bart will be reducing his workload and spending more time with family, he will continue to work on impact litigation at NVLSP,” said Flagg. 

“As NVLSP marks its 40th anniversary, it is extremely well-positioned for this transition.  NVLSP has a very knowledgeable and dedicated staff of more than 50 who will ensure continued excellence in all of NVLSP’s activities,” Flagg added. “From representing veterans before the VA and federal courts; litigating cases that will enable large numbers of veterans to receive the benefits they need and deserve; training and mentoring NVLSP’s national pro bono network of more than 50 law firms and corporate legal departments to represent those seeking VA and military department benefits; and training and publishing advocacy materials for advocates for veterans.”

“It has been my ultimate privilege and honor to dedicate my life’s work to defending veterans and servicemembers who have been wrongfully denied the disability benefits they are entitled to and ensuring that our government lives up to its promise to provide them with certain benefits if they become injured or sick as a result of their military service,” said NVLSP Co-Founder and Executive Director Bart Stichman. “Over the years, I have had the distinct pleasure of working with the talented NVLSP staff who made my job easier with their tireless dedication and wealth of knowledge. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved for veterans and their families.  The NVLSP Board’s steadfast support gave us the opportunity to grow NVLSP into the dynamic organization it is today. And it is a bittersweet acknowledgment that while we have accomplished a lot, much remains to be done.  I have the utmost confidence that NVLSP will continue to succeed and I am delighted to keep fighting for veterans.”

The NVLSP Board of Directors will manage the search for Stichman’s successor.  Development Resources, inc. (DRi) has been hired to support NVLSP in conducting the search for the next Executive Director. For more information, interested candidates can go to https://driconsulting.com/position/executive-director-4/ or email NVLSP@driconsulting.com.  All applications will be held in confidence and must be received by May 12, 2021.  The target date for Stichman’s transition is July 2021.

The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veterans service organization that has served active duty military personnel and veterans since 1981. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to its 22 million veterans and active duty personnel by ensuring they have the benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVLSP has represented veterans in lawsuits that compelled enforcement of the law where the VA or other military services denied benefits to veterans in violation of the law. NVLSP’s success in these lawsuits has resulted in more than $5.2 billion dollars being awarded in disability, death and medical benefits to hundreds of thousands of veterans and their survivors. NVLSP offers training for attorneys and other advocates; connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help when seeking disability benefits; publishes the nation's definitive guide on veteran 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.
Media contact:
For NVLSP: Patty Briotta, office 202-621-5698, patty@nvlsp.org

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