Released 1/17/20 | Tags:
In Response to NVLSP Lawsuit, Pentagon Swiftly Agrees to Promptly Make All DRB and Correction Board Decisions Publicly Available
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 17, 2020
WASHINGTON – In response to the National Veterans Legal Services Program’s (NVLSP) motion for preliminary injunction, the Pentagon has agreed to promptly make all past decisions of the Discharge Review Boards (DRBs) and Boards for Correction of Military Records (BCMRs) (collectively, the Boards) publicly available. This agreement includes the Secretaries of the military departments, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and the Secretary of Defense. NVLSP filed its lawsuit and injunction motion with the pro bono assistance of Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP on Jan. 2, 2020.
“The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is delighted that the Pentagon responded swiftly to remedy its unlawful practice and promptly publish all past Board decisions because access to these decisions is vital in helping veterans obtain the benefits they are rightfully due,” said NVLSP Executive Director Bart Stichman.
The Pentagon agreed to take all the actions NVLSP sought in its preliminary injunction motion:
1. To immediately republish the hundreds of thousands of past decisions of the Boards in the Public Reading Room that the Boards had removed from public view in April 2019; and
2. To ensure going forward that all Board decisions are promptly added to the Reading Room within 60 days of the Board decision.
Based on the Pentagon’s promises, NVLSP today filed a notice of withdrawal without prejudice of plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction. According to the notice, the Pentagon agreed to the following publication timeline for the Board decisions:
• By January 31, 2020—at least 90% of the old decisions (pre-April 2019) for the Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard will be reposted on the website;
• By January 31, 2020—all of the Army’s decisions between 2009 and April 2019 will be reposted on the website.
• By February 14, 2020—all remaining old decisions (pre-April 2019) for the Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard will be reposted on the website;
• By February 28, 2020—all of the Army’s pre-2009 decisions will be reposted on the website.
• By March 31, 2020—the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard will have all of their decisions through at least December 31, 2019 posted and they hope to have more recent decisions up by then as well.
“This result will go a long way toward helping many former service members fight to gain access to the critical benefits and support services they deserve,” said Matthew McGuire, Counsel at Hunton Andrews Kurth. “We are proud to represent the National Veterans Legal Services Program in this important matter.”
NVLSP’s lawsuit remains pending in the District Court to ensure that all past Board decisions are made publicly available and that the Boards provide a usable index that allows veterans and their advocates NVLSP to effectively research past decisions.
On Jan. 2, 2020, NVLSP filed a lawsuit in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia seeking a declaratory judgment that the military ’s removal and continued withholding of the decisions of the Boards from the Public Reading Room is unlawful. NVLSP’s lawsuit also requested that the Court issue a declaratory judgment that Defendants’ failure to properly index DRB and BCMR decisions in a usable and concise form is unlawful.
NVLSP also seeks a permanent injunction requiring the military to:
c. continue to publish all decisions of the Boards electronically within a reasonable time after the decision; and
d. maintain an index of decisions that allows users to easily find relevant decisions.
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.
For NVLSP: Patty Briotta, office 202-621-5698, firstname.lastname@example.org