The Extraordinary Power of Numbers
The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) uses its expertise in veterans law to change the lives of veterans and their families. Through class action lawsuits, NVLSP brings claims on behalf of a group of individuals who have been wrongfully denied the benefits they have earned through their service to our country.
Since its founding, NVLSP has represented thousands of veterans in class actions. Most recently, our class action litigation pertains to:
Beaudette v. McDonough (Updated Dec. 2021)
On April 19,2021, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) held that the Veterans’ Judicial Review Act requires that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) permit claimants to appeal PCAFC decisions to the Board of Veterans' Appeals (Board). The court also ordered that VA provide notice to members of the class of their right to appeal Caregiver Program benefits decisions to the Board. As a result, starting on November 17, 2021, the VA began sending notice to hundreds of thousands of severely disabled veterans and their caregivers.
To ensure that VA provides claimants with the right to appeal, the CAVC also certified a class of claimants who previously received Caregiver Program benefits decisions but were not permitted to appeal to the Board, and appointed class counsel to represent the class.
The class includes “all claimants who received an adverse benefits decision under the Caregiver Program, exhausted the administrative review process within the VHA, and have not been afforded the right to appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.”
In September 2021, NVLSP and several veterans service organizations sent a letter to House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Leadership expressing their support for Beaudette decision and disapproval of any legal or legislative effort to undo the Court decision.
On December 3, the Biden administration appealed the Beaudette case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
On December 22, 2021, NVLSP, Public Counsel and pro bono counsel Paul Hastings LLP, have established a website to provide information to seriously disabled veterans and their family caregivers about how to navigate appeals of benefits decisions under the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC or Caregiver Program). The organizations created this website as part of their role as class counsel in the landmark case. The website https://www.vacaregiverclassaction.com/ provides important information about the class action lawsuit, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims decision and how to appeal Caregiver Program decisions.
Emergency Medical Care Reimbursements – Wolfe v. Wilkie and Kimmel v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Updated December 2022)
On October 25, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that VA’s 2018 reimbursement regulation violates the Emergency Care Fairness Act of 2010 (ECFA) that requires VA to reimburse veterans for the emergency medical expenses they incur at non-VA facilities that are not covered by the veteran’s private insurance. Under the court’s order in the case, called Kimmel v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the VA must reimburse veterans for coinsurance costs associated with emergency medical care. The court also required VA to issue a new regulation reflecting the court’s decision within 120 days, or February 22, 2023.
If you received emergency medical care at a non-VA facility and you or the non-VA facility submitted a reimbursement claim to VA between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2020, but have not received a decision from VA on your claim.
Or, if you received a notice from VA under Wolfe v. Wilkie that VA was readjudicating your claim for reimbursement and VA has not decided your claim after that notice,Please fill out this questionnaire so NVLSP can determine if we can assist you.
The Federal Circuit’s October 2022 decision in Kimmel v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs was the latest in a long line of courts striking down the VA’s rules governing reimbursement of emergency medical expenses. You can read the detailed history here
Based on the VA’s past estimates, compliance with this decision will require VA to pay over a billion dollars in reimbursements to hundreds of thousands of veterans with reimbursement claims filed or pending during the period from 2016-2025.
On June 13, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) certified its first class action. The case, styled Godsey v. Wilkie, was a petition for extraordinary relief brought by Covington & Burling LLP and the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP). The petition was filed on behalf of veterans James A. Godsey, Jr., Jeffery S. Henke, Thomas J. Marshall, Pamela Whitfield. It sought relief for all similarly situated VA benefits claimants who have filed an appeal to VA’s highest tribunal, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board), and since have suffered extended delays waiting for VA to begin moving their appeals forward in a process called “certification.”
The CAVC partially granted the petition in the same order that it certified the class action, concluding that 18-month or longer VA delays to begin that process are “per se unreasonable.” “Such delays are particularly intolerable,” the Court stated, “because they consist of nothing but waiting in line: ... no action whatsoever on the part of VA” while the veterans have continued to wait.
The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) represents some of the veterans whose VA appeals have been delayed for a long time in the recently certified Godsey Class Action. In order to help us determine if you are covered by this Class Action, please complete this form.
This lawsuit alleged that between December 17, 2002 and October 14, 2008 the military illegally denied benefits to thousands of servicemembers who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD and were discharged. These servicemembers were entitled to but denied a minimum 50% disability rating for PTSD. Working closely with Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP and lawyers from Hewlett-Packard Company, NVLSP reached a settlement agreement that provided retroactive and future disability benefits to more than 2,200 class members. On July 29, 2011, a news conference was held to announce a proposed settlement highly favorable to members of the class. On December 22, 2011, Judge George Miller at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims gave final approval to the settlement for the Sabo v. United States lawsuit.
Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)* (Updated November 2020)
This landmark case has already resulted in the delivery of over $4.6 billion in VA compensation benefits to veterans and their survivors. The case originated with VA regulations mandating denial of benefits claims by Vietnam veterans who had diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange. In 1989, a federal court found the regulation unlawful, and class members received retroactive and prospective benefits. NVLSP has continued to represent the class as the VA has recognized additional diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, including three recognized in August 2010. In 2011, as class counsel, NVLSP began monitoring over 150,000 VA adjudications of claims related to those three new diseases to make sure Vietnam veterans and their survivors received the benefits they deserve. NVLSP has reviewed over 10,000 of those cases which resulted in approximately $16 million in additional retroactive and prospective benefits to these class members. NVLSP’s monitoring efforts are ongoing.
In an effort to secure retroactive benefits for thousands of so-called Blue Water Vietnam veterans, on July 10, 2020, NVLSP filed a motion for enforcement of the 29-year old class action Consent Decree in Nehmer v. United States Veterans Administration in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The motion was filed with the pro bono assistance of Paul Hastings LLP.
On November 5, 2020 the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in favor of thousands of so-called Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and their survivors in response to the motion filed by attorneys from NVLSP to enforce the 29-year old class action Consent Decree in Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Administration (VA) . The Court ordered the VA to automatically readjudicate thousands of benefits claims that the Court found had been wrongly denied under the Consent Decree. The Court also ordered the VA to pay retroactive compensation if it finds the veteran served in the territorial seas of Vietnam.