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NVLSP, VSOs File Supreme Court Amicus to Uphold Service Members, Veterans Antidiscrimination Rights

Released 2/7/22 | Tags:

NVLSP and Veterans Services Organizations File Amicus Brief Calling on U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold Antidiscrimination Rights of Service Members and Veterans

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America Join NVLSP in Urging Court to Overturn Texas Court Decision Invalidating Protections for State Government Employees


WASHINGTON – Today, National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) filed a “friend of the Court” brief in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety, urging the United States Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which protects service members and veterans from employment discrimination based on their military service or on disabilities related to their service.  A Texas state court had eliminated USERRA’s right of action against state government employers, effectively eliminating the law’s protections for hundreds of thousands of veterans and noncareer service members who work for state governments. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) joined NVLSP to file the brief as amici curiae, or friends of the Court.

In their brief, NVLSP and the other national veterans service organizations explained that Congress deliberately created strong reemployment and antidiscrimination rights to protect service members and help them reintegrate to civilian life. USERRA’s protections include a right to accommodations for veterans and service members who are injured or disabled by their service.  That right is particularly important for those who have served in the post-9/11 era, which has been marked by a range of signature wounds, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and conditions developed from exposure to toxic chemicals in burn pits.

“USERRA is a key part of our nation’s promise to military service members and veterans,” said NVLSP Director of Litigation Renee Burbank. “Congress explicitly intended to protect veterans and service members from discrimination based on their service.  The Supreme Court must reject the Texas court’s attempt to gut the law.”

The case is brought by Le Roy Torres, who served as an Army reservist with a civilian job as a state trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety.  He was deployed to Iraq in 2007, was exposed to toxic fumes from burn pits, and developed lung damage and constrictive bronchiolitis.  When he returned to the United States and sought reemployment with the Texas Department of Public Safety, he requested a different position because of his lung condition, which the state refused.  Instead, it offered him a temporary position.  Mr. Torres resigned and filed suit, alleging that the Department violated USERRA by failing to offer him a job that would accommodate his disability after his return from active duty. Before reaching the merits, a Texas appellate court held that USERRA is unconstitutional insofar as it authorizes suits against state employers, effectively ending USERRA’s protections for the hundreds of thousands of veterans and reserve members who are employed by state governments.

The veterans service organizations filed their amici curiae brief with the pro bono assistance of Perkins Coie LLP.  Read the entire brief here.

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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