A lawsuit was established to get much-needed care and monetary compensation for veterans who suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the Middle East Wars has extended the deadline allowing more veterans to sign on to the pending ligation.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans by the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and pro-bono counsel Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Military veterans who were discharged between December 17, 2002 and October 14, 2008 are eligible to join the class-action lawsuit if they think they were short-changed with their military separation benefits.
Judge George W. Miller of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims signed an order giving eligible veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan until November 10, 2010 to join (or “opt-in to”) Sabo v. United States.
The agreement reached with the military services could establish veterans who join the lawsuit a disability rating upgrade and expedited records review which could result in improved health care for veterans and their families.
There are approximately, 42 percent, or 1,835 veterans, who signed and sent in “Opt-in Forms” before the extension. At least 2,623 other veterans are eligible to join the lawsuit and become class members, according to NVLSP.
While the extension was welcome news for the law firm that brought class-action lawsuit against the government, other veterans questioned the need for any deadlines when it comes to treatment and care combat veterans.
Since the Veteran Affairs has relaxed its rules on PTSD/TBI, this case should be held in abeyance until Department of Defense and VA get their act together and then use it to force compliance if long delays continue to plague veterans, one Marine said.
“More than a third of the eligible veterans are severely disabled, with VA disability ratings for PTSD of 70 to 100 percent,” said Bart Stichman, co-executive director of the NVLSP. “It’s not easy for them to understand the legal notice and what are the advantages of joining the lawsuit, even though they stand to potentially gain significant lifetime financial and health care benefits for themselves and their families.”
Stichman also said NVLSP plans to continue calling eligible veterans for the next three months, and is encouraging families and friends of eligible veterans to get involved on behalf of OIF/OEF veterans.
“Anyone who knows an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran discharged between December 17, 2002 and October 14, 2008 because of PTSD should ask if he or she has received a legal notice and opted into this lawsuit,” said Stichman. “These veterans and their families were treated unjustly and denied the benefits to which they were entitled. This is about getting them the lifetime military benefits that they have earned and deserve. More information is available at www.ptsdlawsuit.com.”
Eligible veterans who join the lawsuit are entitled to review of their PTSD disability rating by the military on a priority basis, a guaranteed correction of military records to show a higher military disability rating for PTSD for the six-month period following the date of release from military service, as well as a determination of whether the new rating should be permanently increased, decreased, or remain the same after the six-month period, a NVLSP statement read.
As a result of an increase in their military rating for PTSD, class members could receive back pay of disability benefits, reimbursement for healthcare expenses the military should have covered, as well as a higher amount of future benefits to which they and their families are entitled –the judgment could potentially provide millions of dollars in additional benefits over time.
“The disability ratings which are the subject of the lawsuit are critically important to ensuring veterans receive the benefits which they have earned and deserve,” NVLSP explains. “For years, the law has required the military to assign a disability rating of at least 50 percent to all veterans discharged for PTSD. A permanent disability rating of 30 percent or more entitles a veteran to monthly disability benefits for the rest of the veteran’s life, to free lifetime health care for the veteran and his or her spouse, and to free health care for their minor children.”
Requirements veterans must meet to join the class-action lawsuit include;
1. Veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force.
2. Veterans who were found by a Physical Evaluation Board to be unfit for continued service due to or at least in part, to PTSD.
3. Veterans who were assigned a disability rating for PTSD of less than 50 percent.
4. Veterans who were released, separated, retired, or discharged from active duty after December 17, 2002, and prior to October 14, 2008 (regardless of whether such release, separation, retirement, or discharge resulted in the individual’s placement on the Temporary Disability Retirement List).
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