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NVLSP Reinstates Request for Injunction After Pentagon Reneges On Agreement

Released 2/18/20 | Tags:

NVLSP Reinstates Request for Injunction After Pentagon Reneges On Agreement To Put All DRB and Correction Board Decisions Back Online For Public View

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 18, 2020

WASHINGTON – On February 3, 2020, the National Veterans Legal Services Program’s (NVLSP) filed a renewed motion for preliminary injunction in response to the Pentagon’s reneging on its agreement to return all the past decisions of the Discharge Review Boards (DRBs) and Boards for Correction of Military Records (BCMRs) (collectively, the Boards) that the Pentagon removed 10 months ago from its public reading room. The Defendants in this renewed motion include the Secretaries of the military departments, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and the Secretary of Defense.  NVLSP filed its renewed motion for preliminary injunction with the pro bono assistance of Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP.

“It was bad enough that the Pentagon removed all Board decisions from public view in April 2019, requiring NVLSP to file a lawsuit to compel the Pentagon to follow the law.  Now the Pentagon’s about face on its agreement to publish all past Board decisions adds insult to injury.  Its unlawful actions continue to harm NVLSP and other veteran advocates who rely on access to these decisions to help them represent and secure critical benefits for veterans and their families,” said National Veterans Legal Services Program Executive Director Bart Stichman.

In its renewed motion, NVLSP stated, “Despite the re-publication of a select group of Board decisions, Defendants continue to violate explicit, non-discretionary requirements related to the publication of Board decisions provided by federal statute, regulation, and agency policy. NVLSP’s access to Board decisions continues to be severely limited, which hinders its ability to operate effectively. Now that Defendants have backed out of their agreement with NVLSP, its harm will continue unabated into the future unless the Court requires Defendants to promptly return the improperly removed old decisions to the electronic database and publish new decisions that have been languishing for months.”

NVLSP’s renewed motion seeks:

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 earlier promises to commence publishing decisions on January 31, 2020, NVLSP had withdrawn its motion for preliminary injunction on January 17. 

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.

Background

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.

About 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 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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