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Federal Court Orders VA to Provide Transparency of Its Decisions & Payments to Thousands of Veterans

Released 9/2/21 | Tags: Class Actions, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Veteran's Benefits

Federal Court Orders VA to Provide Transparency of Its Decisions and Payments to Thousands of Veterans Entitled to VA Reimbursement of Emergency Medical Expenses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -September 2, 2021

WASHINGTON -On September 1, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide additional measures of transparency in its ongoing readjudications and payments to tens of thousands of veterans entitled to reimbursement of emergency medical expenses in the class action Wolfe v. McDonough. The Court ordered VA to provide copies of its readjudication decisions to National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and pro bono counsel at Sidley Austin LLP, who together serve as counsel for the class of veterans who have applied to the VA for reimbursement of their emergency medical expenses incurred at non-VA facilities that are not covered by the veteran’s private insurance. VA must also provide an explanation of its efforts to find veterans who are owed reimbursements but who VA claims it has been unable to locate.

The special master in the case found that these measures are necessary because of VA’s ongoing errors and misreporting of its compliance with the CAVC’s 2019 and 2020 decisions striking down VA regulation denying veterans reimbursement of emergency medical expenses and ordering VA to readjudicate its pervious denials of class members’ claims. The pervasive errors in VA’s previous status reports to class counsel, explained the Special Master, the Honorable Thomas B. Griffith, “combined with the evidence that many veterans whom VA reports as having all claims adjudicated have received no contact from VA at all, let alone payment where appropriate, is sufficient to rebut the presumption of regularity” that VA is complying with the Court’s orders. 

The CAVC adopted the special master’s report and recommendation, explaining that the newly required transparency into VA’s readjudication process is “designed to implement the relief we have previously ordered and to allow class counsel to effectively monitor compliance with our order.”  The VA will have to provide this additional information to NVLSP starting with its next scheduled status report, due in October.

“The CAVC’s order will help ensure that no veteran is left behind in VA’s readjudications of reimbursement claims. The tens of thousands of veterans whose reimbursement claims were wrongly denied deserve no less,” said National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) Executive Director Paul Wright. “We appreciate the Court’s recognition that, as class counsel, we require accurate information to ensure that VA fixes its wrongful handling of veterans’ claims.”

Based on the VA’s past estimates, compliance with Wolfe decision will require VA to pay from $1.8 billion to $6.5 billion in reimbursements to hundreds of thousands of veterans who have filed or will file reimbursement claims during the period from 2016-2025.

Background information on Wolfe v. McDonough
04/09/20- Federal Court Orders VA to Begin on April 13, 2020 to Send Corrective Notices to 1 Million Veterans
01/24/2020- Veterans Court Rejects VA’s Motion to Postpone Reimbursing Veterans for Emergency Medical Expenses
09/10/2019 - Federal Court Strikes Down VA Regulation Denying Veterans Reimbursement of Emergency Medical Expense
04/01/2019 - In Response to NVLSP’s Class Action Lawsuit, VA Admits It Misled Tens of Thousands of Veterans
1/02/2019 - NVLSP Files Class Action Lawsuit Accusing VA of Disseminating False Information To Veterans
10/30/18 - The 8-Year Battle Continues: NVLSP Again Sues VA Over Continued Refusal To Comply With 2010 Statute

Background Information on the Staab Decision
01/17/2018 – VA Finalizes Rule Requiring Payment for Non-VA Emergency Claims Under NVLSP Court Victory in Staab
11/29/2017 – Video: Staab v. Shulkin – A Pivotal Case for Veterans
06/16/2017 – NVLSP Wins $2 Billion in Medical Care Benefits for Hundreds of Thousands of Veterans, Applauds VA Secretary’s Decision to Voluntarily Withdraw VA Appeal in Staab v. Shulkin
04/11/2016 – Court Rules That VA Has Shortchanged Veterans Since 2009 By Refusing to Reimburse Them for Emergency Medical Expenses Not Covered by Insurance

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:
Patty Briotta, office 202-621-5698, patty@nvlsp.org

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