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Veterans Win Landmark Class Action Settlement From U.S. Navy For New Disabilities Ratings

Released 3/27/24 | Tags:

Veterans Win Landmark Class Action Settlement
From the U.S. Navy For New Disabilities Ratings Including Contributing Conditions

-More Than 3,300 Navy and Marine Corps Veterans Denied Medical Retirement Benefits will be Provided New Review of Ratings for Contributing Conditions-


WASHINGTON – On March 23, 2024, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered a landmark order requiring the Navy to provide new disability ratings to thousands of Navy and Marine Corp veterans.  The ruling stems from the class action lawsuit, Springs v. Del Toro, which challenged the Navy’s unlawful practice that denied military medical retirement benefits to more than 3,300 Navy and Marine Corps veterans for more than 15 years. 

The veterans, represented by pro bono counsel Dechert LLP, in coordination with the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), sought declaratory and injunctive relief under the Administrative Procedure Act in order to force the Navy to correct their records to accurately reflect their full disability ratings as mandated by law. The lawsuit alleged that the Navy's failure to provide disability ratings for conditions that contributed to unfitness unjustly deprived class members of critical military medical retirement benefits, including access to healthcare, essential for veterans injured during their service and their families' well-being. 

The court denied the Navy’s initial motion to remand and instructed the Navy to consider the impact of a recent NVLSP case at the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Sissel v. Wortmuth, which required a rating for a contributing condition. Dechert and NVLSP argued that Sissel required the Navy to rate the contributing conditions for all class members in Springs. The Navy has now agreed to re-calculate all class member’s combined disability ratings by adding the VA rating assigned at discharge to class member’s contributing conditions and to notify class members of the outcome of the resulting new review of medical retirement ratings. The District Court entered an order remanding the case for the Navy to supply revised ratings, with status reports to the court every 180 days.

The Dechert litigation team was led by partner Christina G. Sarchio and included associates Phillip Garber and Christopher J. Merken in addition to paralegal Michael Lebair. The NVLSP team included Senior Managing Attorney Esther Leibfarth and Director of Lawyers Serving Warriors® Rochelle Bobroff.

“We remain steadfast in ensuring that veterans receive the benefits they have rightfully earned through their service,” said Sarchio, the Dechert partner who led the pro bono team.

“For nearly two decades, the Navy has struggled to adequately recognize and provide benefits to Navy and Marine Corps veterans for disabilities contributing to their medical discharge,” added Merken.

“We are elated by the settlement, which marks a significant step in our fight for veteran rights and will pave the way for thousands of veterans to potentially receive additional veterans benefits that are owed to them,” concluded Garber, former U.S. Navy Corpsman.

“We are thrilled that the litigation has resulted in the Navy finally applying VA ratings for contributing conditions, as required by law,” said NVLSP Senior Managing Attorney Esther Leibfarth. “We look forward to many additional veterans obtaining their long overdue full benefits of medical retirement.”

If you are a Navy or Marine Corps veteran who was denied a medical retirement as a result of the lack of a rating for an unfitting contributing condition, NVLSP encourages you to email LSW.ClassAction@nvlsp.org to learn more about this case.

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.

About Dechert
Dechert is a global law firm that advises asset managers, financial institutions and corporations on issues critical to managing their business and their capital – from high-stakes litigation to complex transactions and regulatory matters. We answer questions that seem unsolvable, develop deal structures that are new to the market and protect clients' rights in extreme situations. Our 1,000+ lawyers across 21 offices globally focus on the financial services, private equity, private credit, real estate, life sciences and technology sectors.

Media contacts:
For NVLSP: Patty Briotta, 202 621 5698, patty@nvlsp.org
For Dechert: Marichelli Hughes, Senior Public Relations Manager, United States, Dechert LLP,+ 202 261 3367 Direct,marichelli.hughes@dechert.com

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