Law Firms Rushing to Veterans' Aid | WisCommunity

Law Firms Rushing to Veterans' Aid

Via - The U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA) is infamous for its culture of claim denial (like a particularly mean health insurance company) and its systemic bureaucratic hostility to veterans.

But increasing numbers of civilian attorneys are stepping up to the plate to assist veterans.

"The need is staggering," said Gordon Erspamer, a Morrison and Foerster attorney in Walnut Creek, Calif., who has worked on veterans&; cases since the 1970s. (Lynne Marek, ">The National Law Journal)

">Morrison and Foerster is engaged in an unprecedented, class action, pro bono case on behalf of 100,000s of vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Lynne Marek of ">The National Law Journal has a great piece on attorneys battling the VA on behalf of veterans.

Reports Marek:

Veterans who had some kind of representation got $6,225 more annually, on average, than those who didn&;t, according to a 2005 Veterans Affairs Inspector General report. That principle held true in the first case resolved by the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law clinic, begun this month. The clinic helped a Vietnam War veteran increase his monthly disability compensation to $2,600 from $350 by helping him apply for a benefit related to his inability to work, said professor Joon Sung.

Another example is Michigan ">attorney Robert Walsh, who is an ex-VA staff attorney now working with veterans to keep them from being shortchanged by the VA.

Walsh, a gruff Army Vietnam veteran, maintains an informal network of attorneys who know what is becoming common knowledge on Capital Hill: That the VA is systemically operating to deny returning veterans aid and benefits.

"To understand how the VA operates is to see a culture of denial. There are regulations in place to protect veterans, and they ought to be followed, " said Walsh.

Walsh is representing Wisconsin Navy veteran ">Keith Roberts who is a victim of VA retaliation against Roberts for Roberts&; repeatedly criticizing the VA as fraudulent and incompetent. In the middle of Roberts&; claim, the VA ignored VA regulations and went straight to U.S. Atty Stephen Biskupic to indict and convict Roberts on federal wire fraud on the merits of his disputed VA benefits claim.

In one of the many ironies of the Bush administration, those most opposed to assisting veterans are those most dedicated to making and sustaining war.

If a small fraction of the Vietnam war veterans still suffering from PTSD were to file for disability benefits, the federal government would be forced to pay the costs roughly equal to what is spent in two months sustaining the war in Iraq.

But many rightwingers pooh pooh the notion that Vietnam-era veterans, for example, might still suffer today from the effects of their service. [Author&;s note: If you are going to make this argument, do it from the safe confines of plush D.C. think tanks, and don&;t tell veterans this crap to their faces.]

Paul Sullivan of ">Veterans for Common Sense is another veteran (and former VA project manager) who now helps other veterans obtain the respect and the benefits to which they are entitled against the Bush administration taking its cues from the ">veterans’ benefits-hostile American Enterprise Institute scholar, Dr. Sally Satel.

Writes Sullivan is his blog: "Our 4,077 U.S. military deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are the worst possible consequence of military service. Yet what about our 250,000 wounded, injured, and ill combat survivors and their families who suffer for a lifetime?"

As the veterans criminal and civil cases increasingly land in federal court and the backlogs of veterans cases pile up at the VA, some observers see major revisions coming of the ">Veterans Judicial Review Act, the legislation intended to streamline the process for veterans of obtaining their needed and deserved treatment and benefits.


September 26, 2007 - 9:06am