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Marine Corps Veteran Oscar Torres Wins Long-Overdue Military Medical Retirement

Released 3/18/24 | Tags: Class Actions, Veteran's Benefits

Marine Corps Veteran Oscar Torres Wins Long-Overdue Military Medical Retirement


ARLINGTON, VA— Sgt. Oscar Torres (Ret.)—a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and the lead plaintiff in the nationwide class action Torres v. Del Toro—has won a ruling of medical retirement that had been unjustly denied to him by the U.S. Navy as a result of its unlawful “Properly Referred” policy for over six years.

Sgt. Torres served honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserves from August 2007 to January 2018. As a result of his service, Sgt. Torres incurred numerous debilitating injuries to his shoulders, wrists, hands, back, knees, ankles, and feet. Sgt. Torres was referred to the Navy’s Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) to be considered for medical retirement. But due to the unlawful “Properly Referred” policy implemented by Navy, the PEB refused to consider all of Sgt. Torres’ potentially disabling conditions—resulting in him being denied the medical retirement to which he was entitled.

Sgt. Torres was represented by the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and pro bono counsel, Donald Friedman and Tommy Tobin, at Perkins Coie LLP. He filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of himself and a class of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps veterans—medically discharged between September 12, 2016 and June 11, 2018—who were denied military disability retirement as a result of the Navy’s use of the “Properly Referred” policy. The Court held that it was unlawful of the Navy to prevent the PEB from considering all of a servicemember’s disabilities. The court vacated the PEB decisions of all class members, instructing the Navy to remedy its error.

The Navy created the Torres Class Action Review Board (CARB) to review and re-adjudicate the PEB decisions of the approximately 3,700 veterans in the class—including Sgt. Torres. And on February 28, 2024, the Torres CARB reevaluated Sgt. Torres’ case—including all of the conditions it previously ignored under the “Properly Referred policy—and determined that Sgt. Torres would be retroactively medically retired.

“We are thrilled that Sergeant Torres, a distinguished Marine who served his country with honor and distinction, will receive his well-deserved retirement benefits,” said Donald J. Friedman, Of Counsel at Perkins Coie. “While there are many more members of the Torres class who are still waiting for their own re-adjudications, this decision is a testament to Sergeant Torres’ leadership on behalf of his fellow veterans in addressing the Navy’s unlawful Properly Referred policy. We are very proud to have assisted Sgt. Torres and NVLSP in this matter.”

“Sergeant Torres now has his rightfully earned medical retirement benefits, and NVLSP is honored to have played a role in that accomplishment,” said NVLSP Equal Justice Works Fellow Matthew Handley. “There remain outstanding injustices for other members of the Torres class, and we encourage all eligible Navy and Marine Corps veterans to take advantage of the opportunity to have their prior PEB decisions re-adjudicated.”

More information about Torres v. Del Toro and the Properly Referred Policy can be found on NVLSP’s website here.

The Navy has agreed to provide free legal counsel to all class members who are being reconsidered through the Disability Evaluation System Counsel Program (DESCP). The DESCP may be reached at (202) 875-1198 or DESCP_TorresUnit@us.navy.mil. Members of the Torres class are also eligible for the assistance of a PEB Liaison Officer (PEBLO), who can be reached at (202) 685-6436 at peb_peblo_comms.fct@navy.mil. Members of the Torres class may also go here to apply for free legal assistance through NVLSP’s Pro Bono Program, Lawyers Serving Warriors®.

About The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP)
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 18 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 $5.4 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:
NVLSP: Patty Briotta, office 202-621-5698, patty@nvlsp.org

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