A historic settlement victory for disabled Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has been achieved, the NVLSP (National Veterans Legal Services Program) has announced. The class action lawsuit Sabo versus United States is good news for thousands of ex-servicemen and women who were medically discharged due to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) between 2003 and 2008 - these people did not get the benefits they were entitled to.
Bart Stichman, co-executive director of NVLSP, which filed the class action lawsuit in 2008 along with Morgan Lewis, said:
"These veterans served our country in time of war, but have waited 3 to 8 years to receive the disability benefits which they've earned for their service. Today, a terrible wrong to our nation's war veterans is being righted."
Lead partner for the team at Morgan Lewis, Jim Kelley , who along with colleagues at NVLSP and in-house counsel at HP and Pfizer provided free legal counseling to veterans who sought to opt into the class action lawsuit, said:
"For more than a thousand military families, today's settlement brings some well-deserved peace of mind. We are gratified that the government will finally make good on its promise to meet the healthcare needs of these veterans and their loved ones."
As a result of the class action and settlement, the US military has agreed to pay disability retirement benefits (for life) to 1,029 veterans with PTSD who were discharged from the military after serving in the Iraq/Afghanistan war and were denied benefits.
In a 2008 lawsuit, the NVLSP alleged that the military services violated the law by not assigning a 50% disability rating for individuals discharged with PTSD. This rating should have entitled them to disability retirement benefits.
These veterans will now receive:
- Lifetime military disability retirement pay - this may be more than their current VA payments. The monies will be retroactive to the day of discharge.
- They will be eligible to apply for Combat-Related Special Compensation; this could increase their disability payments even further
- TriCare (healthcare) for life for the veteran, spouse and children under the age of 18
- Commissary and military post exchange privileges
- They will be eligible to buy life insurance through the Survivor Benefit Plan
- Reimbursement for expenses incurred for medical treatment for the veteran, his/her spouse and minor children, retroactive to the day of discharge
All class members will be told of the settlement and will have an opportunity to object, after which the Court of Federal Claims decides whether to grant final approval to the settlement. The Court is expected to rapidly grant final approval.
"This is a happy ending to a sad chapter of military mistreatment of those who served our country in time of war. The veterans covered by this agreement were exposed to highly traumatic events during deployment, only to return home and be shortchanged on benefits after the military found they suffered from PTSD that was so severe that they needed to be discharged.
For the veterans impacted by the settlement with young families, getting healthcare benefits will make a huge difference in their daily lives. For those drowning in family medical bills incurred during the 3-8 years they waited for their benefits, the settlement offers reimbursement. Many of them will likely be awarded hundreds of additional dollars every month in combat related special compensation. They will be able to shop at military commissaries and get other benefits that help their families. The settlement is a huge victory for veterans and their families."
Written by Christian Nordqvist