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NVLSP Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Government Over Shortchanging Combat-Injured Veterans

Released 3/2/17 | Tags: Class Actions

Veterans who served in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan potentially impacted


WASHINGTON – The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) filed a class action lawsuit today against the federal government on behalf of combat-disabled veterans who were shortchanged on their disability benefits by an unlawful and nationwide government policy.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas with pro-bono legal assistance from Sidley Austin LLP.

The litigation affects combat-injured veterans who were denied their full retroactive payments for Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) because the government wrongfully capped their retroactive payments to six years. More than 85,000 veterans receive CRSC annually. The lawyers believe thousands have already been shortchanged and the total number of veterans harmed by the illegal cap increases every month.

The lead plaintiff is Simon Soto of Brownsville, Texas. Soto is a retired Marine Corps Corporal who was wrongfully denied his full CRSC benefits retroactively in October 2016 when the Navy applied a six-year retroactive payment cap, which deprived him of a portion of the retroactive CRSC payment to which he was entitled by law.  Mr. Soto seeks to represent all Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard veterans impacted. Affected veterans may have served in the Korean War, Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq or Afghanistan.

“Congress created the CRSC program years ago so that veterans with combat-related injuries could receive supplemental tax-free income in addition to the amount they received in VA disability compensation,” said Bart Stichman, co-founder and joint executive director of NVLSP.

“Combat-disabled veterans should not be deprived of disability benefits by an unlawful policy. They deserve the full amount their country owes them,” said Stichman. “We believe veterans impacted by this lawsuit will be owed a gap of one month to many years in benefits, and they have been deprived of anywhere from $133 to $3,200 for each month lost.”

The Class explicitly includes only those who have claims of $10,000 or less.  Stichman explained that “we had to limit the lawsuit to claims for $10,000 or less because the U.S. District Court does not have jurisdiction over individual claims for more than $10,000.” 

Simon Soto served honorably for six years in the Marine Corps and deployed twice to Iraq. On his first deployment he was assigned to mortuary affairs where he searched for, recovered and processed the remains of war casualties. As a result, Soto was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has had extreme difficulty adjusting to civilian life after returning from Iraq.

He was medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2006 and became eligible for military retired pay. He applied to the VA and was awarded disability benefits in 2006. Soto applied for CRSC in June 2016 and it was awarded in October 2016.The Navy assigned a CRSC effective date of July 2010, even though Soto met all of the criteria on January 1, 2008 (the effective date of the statute that extended CRSC entitlement to medical retirees like Soto). As a result of the Navy’s application of the unlawful six-year cap, Soto was shortchanged by more than $5,000 in retroactive CRSC benefits.

Read the legal complaint

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 22 million veterans and active duty personnel by ensuring they have 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 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: Ami Neiberger-Miller, 703.887.4877, ami@steppingstonellc.com


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