NVLSP Impact Report





Nehmer Class Action member Richard G., U.S. Army, 1966–1968

1980 NVLSP ’s predecessor—the National Veterans Law Center—wins class action lawsuit requiring the Army to upgrade to “honorable” the derogatory discharges illegally issued to 7,000 Vietnam veterans. 1980 NVLSP predecessor publishes the Military Discharge Upgrade Manual, the nation’s first treatise for advocates representing veterans seeking an upgrade of a less than honorable discharge.

1984 Vietnam Veterans of America ( VVA ) hires NVLSP to create a VVA representation program by training, accrediting, and supervising non-lawyer advocates to represent veterans and their survivors nationwide on claims for VA benefits.

1987 NVLSP attorneys obtain a court injunction prohibiting the VA from beginning a planned phase-out of Vet Centers—the dozens of counseling centers that still help veterans in need readjust to civilian life.

1980–88 NVLSP attorneys join the VVA to lobby Congress for repeal of the long-standing ban on court review of VA decision-making. Almost all other veterans service organizations oppose.

1988 Congress repeals the long-standing ban on court review of VA decision-making and creates the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ( CAVC ) to review VA decisions denying benefits.

1989 NVLSP persuades a U.S. district court that the VA failed to use the pro- claimant process required by Congress when it promulgated regulations calling for the denial of claims based on exposure to Agent Orange.The Court voids nearly 30,000 VA decisions denying claims and requires the VA to promulgate new rules using the process Congress intended.The VA does not appeal.

1991 NVLSP and the VA sign a consent decree in the Agent Orange class action, requiring the VA to pay more than $4.6 billion in retroactive compensation from 1991 to 2017 to hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans and their survivors for numerous types of diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.

1991 NVLSP publishes the Veterans Benefits Manual, the nation’s first treatise on veterans benefits law, in an effort to increase the pool of effective advocates available to veterans seeking VA benefits.

1992 Congress begins funding the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (established by NVLSP , Disabled Veterans of America, the American Legion, and Paralyzed Veterans of America) to recruit, train, and mentor private bar attorneys to provide free representation to the many veterans who appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims without a representative. Congressional funding of this program continues to this day.

1993 In a class action lawsuit funded by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, NVLSP forces the VA to pay more than $60 million in retroactive compensation and tens of millions of dollars in prospective compensation to more than 600 Puerto Rican veterans whose total (100 percent) disability ratings for their service-connected mental disorders were reduced as a result of illegal rules applied by the VA in Puerto Rico, but nowhere else.

1999 NVLSP joins forces with Lexis Law Publishing to produce annually revised editions of the nation’s leading treatise on veterans law— NVLSP ’s Veterans Benefits Manual —in both print and electronic form. Since 1999, nearly 50,000 copies have been sold.

1981 NVLSP , successor to the National Military Discharge Review Project and National Veterans Law Center, is incorporated as a nonprofit.



Iraq: 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101rst Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs 2



2011 In the landmark Sabo v. U.S. lawsuit, NVLSP obtains a class action court order requiring an increase in the military disability rating assigned to more than 2,200 veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and were medically separated for post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD ) without the military disability benefits to which they were lawfully entitled. As a result, more than 1,100 of these veterans receive permanent disability retirement benefits, including lifetime military health care for both the veteran and his or her spouse, and their minor children. 2,200 VETERANS MEDICALLY SEPARATED FOR POST- TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER NVLSP’S CLASS ACTION COURT ORDER INCREASES THE MILITARY DISABILITY RATING FOR

Iraq: 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing

2001 NVLSP obtains a court order in Liesegang v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs to require the VA to assign May 8, 2001, rather than July 9, 2001, as the effective date for an award of benefits under the VA ’s Agent Orange diabetes regulation. This ruling secures over $10 million for 14,000 Vietnam veterans suffering from type 2 diabetes.

2002–06 NVLSP challenges a range of legal issues to secure unlawfully denied benefits for veterans on several fronts, including Gutierrez v. Principi .This case establishes binding court precedent to allow disability compensation for undiagnosed illnesses. Specifically, veterans of the Persian Gulf and Iraq wars do not need to prove that the medical illness is connected to service.

2007 NVLSP launches the national pro bono program, Lawyers Serving Warriors®. NVLSP has screened the claims of up to 400 veterans each year, placing them with private law firms and corporate legal departments for representation at no cost to veterans.

2009 NVLSP obtains a court order invalidating the 2007 VA rule that required VA regional offices to (a) withhold from veterans any decision awarding a large amount of retroactive compensation and (b) give VA officials in Washington, D.C., time to review and modify the large award without the knowledge or participation of the veteran.

2014 NVLSP discovers that for over 30 years the Department of Defense has erroneously withheld taxes from 133,000 disabled veterans’ disability severance payments, which are supposed to be tax-free. NVLSP obtains the sponsorship and leadership of Senator John Boozman ( R - AR ), Senator Mark Warner ( D-VA ), and Congressman David Rouzer ( R - NC ), and the “Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016” was passed, providing eligible veterans the right to seek a refund of taxes they may have paid on their Disability Severance Pay.

2016 NVLSP convinces the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to strike down as contrary to statute, the VA regulation denying reimbursement to veterans for any part of the emergency medical expenses they incur at a non- VA facility simply because the veteran has health insurance that covers part of the expenses incurred, in Staab v. Shulkin — NVLSP ’s precedential victory.The VA estimates that as a result of NVLSP ’s victory, it will be forced to readjudicate over 370,000 reimbursement claims.

2017 NVLSP creates a first-of-its-kind app, the VA Benefit Identifier , to help veterans determine the specific VA benefits to which they are entitled. NVLSP makes the app available in English and Spanish. To protect privacy, no data or personal information is retained.

2018 NVLSP secures a landmark victory for veterans by persuading the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to overturn a 19-year-old lower court precedent that prohibited the VA from awarding disability benefits to a veteran for disabling pain related to military service if the pain is not linked to a medical diagnosis.

2018 The Department of Veterans Affairs ( VA ) finalized a rule in January that, despite NVLSP ’s court victory in the 2016 Staab v. Shulkin case, prohibits the VA from reimbursing veterans for almost all of their non- VA emergency medical expenses. In October, NVLSP files another class action, Wolfe v. Wilkie , challenging the VA ’s January rule.

2000 NVLSP develops partnerships with several veterans service organizations, and launches in-person training programs in veterans benefits law for non-lawyer advocates who are accredited to represent VA claimants.This builds the pool of educated veterans’ representatives.

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