NVLSP Impact Report

According to Bortel, “ NVLSP was amazing.” She credits Gardner and Kirschner, her pro-bono attorneys, with giving her back her confidence about her future. “Justin answered all the questions I had. He was on top of things. “I felt really confident about the future and the process. I didn’t have the stress about what was going to happen later.They already told me how everything was going to be laid out.They told me how they were going to be presenting.They prepared me really well. “They knew everything about the process. It was not difficult for me to trust them.” Bortel concluded, “If not for NVLSP , right now I would be totally devastated.” H

“If not for NVLSP , right now I would be totally devastated.”

Unfortunately, despite her desire to serve, the Army referred her to its Disability Evaluation Process, where the Physical Evaluation Board ( PEB ) determined that Bortel’s shoulder disability rendered her unfit for continued service. She could no longer expect to help other injured soldiers. To have her dream of a military career cut short was difficult. But even worse, she realized that when she ultimately had to transition into civilian life, her serious chronic medical conditions would block her from being employed as a nurse—which had been her ultimate goal. Moreover, to Bortel’s dismay, the PEB failed to find her ankle disability unfitting, denying her a disability retirement. Disability retirement status provides lifetime military medical care for her and her spouse, lifetime retirement pay, and access to military bases and commissary privileges. Instead, the PEB ’s decision entitled her to only a one-time severance payment and no ongoing military benefits. Bortel was told that she could appeal the PEB ’s decision and attempted to navigate the appeals process herself, but she was overwhelmed. “It was so complicated and full of terms I could not understand,” said Bortel. “The process itself is really stressful. Just picture that your life is going to change completely. And you haven’t planned on that. All your goals and dreams no more.”Desperate for assistance, Bortel reached out to NVLSP and asked us to take her case. “ NVLSP is something that people like me need.They know everything,” said Bortel. “They make you feel better going through a tough process.” Though she was stationed in Germany, NVLSP was able to assist her. NVLSP placed her case with Latham &Watkins attorneys Allen Gardner and Justin Kirschner.With less than a month to prepare for an appeal to the Formal Physical Evaluation Board, Gardner and Kirschner had their work cut out for them in a compressed time frame. Gardner and Kirschner, with the assistance of NVLSP staff attorney Esther Leibfarth, prepared a top-notch legal defense to add Bortel’s ankle disability as unfitting and to secure Bortel the necessary 30 percent disability rating to qualify for permanent medical retirement based on her extensive ankle and shoulder injuries.



National Veterans Legal Services Program H

Impact Report

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