More than two thousand veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were denied disability benefits for their post-traumatic stress disorder will receive lifetime coverage, the National Veterans Legal Services Program announced today, the result of a class action settlement with the federal government.
Represented pro bono by lawyers from the D.C. office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, as well as in-house counsel working for free from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Pfizer Inc., the veterans served between 2003 and 2008.
“For more than a thousand military families, today’s settlement brings some well-deserved peace of mind,” said James Kelley II, lead partner for the team at Morgan Lewis, which also included Brad Fagg and Charles Groppe. “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.”
The veterans filed their complaint in the Court of Federal Claims in December 2008, and in 2009, the court certified it as a class, with 2,161 soldiers opting in. The members were were found by a physical evaluation board to be unfit for continued service due, at least in part, to post-traumatic stress disorder, but were assigned a disability rating of less than 50% — the rating that entitles a veteran to disability retirement benefits.
The settlement entitles the veterans to:
· Lifetime military disability retirement payments retroactive to the date of discharge.
· Eligibility to apply for Combat-Related Special Compensation (which may increase the veteran’s monthly disability payments further).
· Lifetime military healthcare (TriCare) for the veteran, his or her spouse, as well as their children until at least age 18.
· Lifetime commissary and military post exchange privileges.
· Eligibility to purchase life insurance coverage through the Survivor Benefit Plan.
· Reimbursement for expenses paid for the medical treatment of the veteran, the veteran’s spouse, and the veteran’s minor children, from the date of the veteran’s separation from military service.
The settlement must still be approved by the court.
Barton Stichman and Amy Fletcher represented the National Veterans Legal Services Program.
Bryant Snee and Douglas Mickle of the Justice Department represented the government, as did Jacob Wolf of the Military Personnel Branch Army Litigation Division, John Goehring of the Air Force General Litigation Division, and Kathleen Kadlac of the Office of the Judge Advocate General.