Justice for Warriors Newsletter

August 2022

NVLSP issued the following statement on July 28 after the Senate failed to pass the PACT Act the night before:

Statement from National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP)

Executive Director Paul Wright

NVLSP is outraged at the vote to block the passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act in the Senate. Veterans suffering from the devastating effects of toxic exposures do not have time to waste or wait to receive the medical care and benefits our country owes them. Veterans are dying or critically ill because of their service to our country. The Senate needs to live up to its promise to our veterans now—our veterans don’t have a recess from their illnesses neither should the Senate. It’s time to put politics aside and do the right thing for veterans. Pass the PACT Act now.


NVLSP, VSOs Applaud the U.S. Supreme Court Decision to Uphold Antidiscrimination Rights of Service Members and Veterans

Pro Bono Assistance from Perkins Coie LLP

NVLSP applauds the U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which protects service members and veterans from employment discrimination based on their military service or on disabilities related to their service. A Texas court had eliminated USERRA’s right of action against state government employers, effectively eliminating the law’s protections for hundreds of thousands of veterans and noncareer service members who work for state governments. NVLSP filed a “friend of the Court” brief in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety. NVLSP was joined by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) joined in filing the brief as amici curiae. The brief was filed with the pro bono assistance of Perkins Coie LLP. Learn more


NVLSP Sues VA to Publicly Release Guidance Related to Benefits Adjudications for LGBTQ+ Veterans With Less Than Honorable Discharges

NVLSP filed a complaint in federal court, seeking access under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to a recently issued Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) guidance that the VA has not made public. The guidance, which the VA announced in September 2021, provides instruction to VA claims adjudicators in reviewing benefits claims for servicemembers discharged under the anti-LGBTQ+ policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” or for their gender identity or HIV status. Click here to read more.

NVLSP Greatly Disappointed by U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Denying Veterans Right to Relief Under “Clear and Unmistakable Error” For Decisions Based on Clearly Unlawful VA Rules

Pro Bono Assistance from Williams & Connolly LLP

NVLSP is disappointed the United States Supreme Court failed to grant relief for a former Marine, Kevin George, whom the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denied benefits based on an unlawful regulation. In George v. McDonough, the Supreme Court upheld a Federal court’s ruling that the “clear and unmistakable error” did not permit granting relief to Mr. George even though a court invalidated the VA’s regulation as clearly defying the law. NVLSP filed a brief, joined by National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), and Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) as amici curiae, or friends of the Court. The amici curiae brief was filed with the pro bono assistance of Williams & Connolly LLP. Learn more.

Federal Court Issues Initial Ruling in Favor of Veterans Seeking Back Awards of Combat-Related Special Compensation over $10,000 -Court Denies U.S. Motion to Dismiss Class Action Lawsuit

Pro Bono Assistance from Sidley Austin LLP

The United States Court of Federal Claims denied the federal government’s motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit in the case styled Paige v. United States seeking back awards of Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) for amounts over $10,000. The lawsuit applies to veterans who had not received the full amount of CRSC they were owed because the military illegally imposed a 6-year ceiling on the amount it would pay in retroactive compensation. The class is represented by NVLSP with the pro bono assistance of Sidley Austin LLP. Veterans who are owed amounts under $10,000 are covered by a separate NVLSP and Sidley case, Soto v. United States, which had a ruling from the District Court for the Southern District of Texas in December 2021 ordering retroactive payments. Click here to learn more.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­BURN PITS WHITE PAPER

NVLSP and Burn Pits 360 released their white paper, “Five Decades of VA Service Connection Presumptions,” which confirms that positive statistical association, not causation, is the predominant standard for establishing service connection presumptions. This Report analyzes almost fifty years of presumptions created by statute or regulation and finds that Congress and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have historically decided whether a disease merits a presumption of service connection through the use of a “statistical association” test, rather than a more demanding causation or etiological standard. The Report also concludes that VA is currently using the higher causation standard, rather than the historical standard, in determining whether to grant presumptions of service connection for diseases due to exposure to toxic chemicals spewed by burn pits on military bases in Southwest Asia. The white paper was prepared with the pro bono assistance of Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP. Learn More



Save the Date! The annual benefit event will be held on Wednesday, November 16, 2022 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. This year’s theme is Delivering on Our Promise.

The Annual Benefit Reception is pivotal in raising the resources that allow NVLSP’s team of experts to address the changing needs of our nation’s veterans and service members. The event will shine a spotlight on national leaders and advocates who are working to advance the lives of veterans.

Event webpage coming soon. Please email Katherine Mann to learn about sponsorship information.


NVLSP was cited in Military.com news coverage on the Supreme Court decision in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety. Also, you can check out NVLSP’s Director of Litigation Renée Burbank’s interview on Spectrum News commenting on the result.

Check out Renée’s interview in a Washington Post article discussing how the VA has not provided its guidance related to benefits adjudications for LGBTQ+ veterans with less than honorable discharges. Learn more about NVLSP suing the VA to publicly release this guidance above.

NVLSP Staff Attorney Abigail Reynolds and Director of Training and Publications Rick Spataro discussed discharge upgrades and disability benefits with Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Director Zaneta Adams on her weekly radio show, the Veterans Perspective, in July (July 9, 2022 episode). 

This June, NVLSP staff members were delighted to attend Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Women Veterans Conference showcasing great achievements of women veterans.

Check out Pro Bono Director Rochelle Bobroff on WilmerHale’s In the Public Interest podcast discussing the work Lawyers Serving Warriors® does!

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­PROGRAM SPOTLIGHT:


­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­NVLSP’s pro bono program Lawyers Serving Warriors® (LSW) offers free legal assistance to service members and veterans from all eras nationwide with applications for disability benefits, both at the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs.

The model program, founded in 2007, achieves enormous multiplier effects by referring hundreds of cases annually to our pro bono network of volunteer attorneys from law firms and corporate law departments across the country. Each volunteer attorney receives training and guidance from NVLSP's team of expert attorneys.

Over the last 2 years alone, LSW has placed 901 cases with our partners. If you would like to learn more about the program, check out the newly released 2021 Report on its Pro Bono Program!

The program currently offers assistance on the following types of claims:          

  • Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC)
  • Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
  • Discharge Upgrades
  • Military Medical Retirement
  • Appeals

If you would like to learn more about LSW or apply for assistance, please click here.

NVLSP is also pleased that the LSW program will be hosting two Equal Justice Works fellows starting in September 2022! Learn more about Matthew Handley and Zach Outzen’s projects on the Equal Justice Works website.


David Sonenshine

David Sonenshine is a Senior Staff Attorney in NVLSP’s pro bono program, Lawyers Serving Warriors® (LSW). David has been a great member of the NVLSP’s team of expert attorneys for over 12 years. Through his position, David has experience across the spectrum of LSW focus areas. As a LSW mentor, he greatly enjoys working alongside pro bono volunteer attorneys. David also represents veterans directly at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Before joining the NVLSP team, David was an officer in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. David served three years on active duty. As a judge advocate, he served as a military prosecutor and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. David was able to gain legal experience immediately out of law school and had the opportunity to serve his country.

David saw a unique opportunity to build on that experience by joining NVLSP. He sees his role at NVLSP as a way to give back to those who saw combat by fighting for their earned benefits. During his time in service, David saw firsthand the sacrifices of service members and families and those sacrifices continue to inspire him today. This informs his work with veterans and volunteer attorneys every day.

For David, there is a great need for organizations like NVLSP. Without legal assistance, it is difficult for veterans to fight for the benefits they deserve. Young service members and veterans with traumatic injuries need their benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, and accessing those services would be very difficult without organizations like NVLSP.

Outside of NVLSP, David likes spending time with his family and attending the sporting events of his two sons.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­SPECIAL LIVE WEBINAR


VA Accreditation Training – Attorney and Agent Practice Before the VA

NVLSP will be conducting a special webinar that will satisfy both the initial and biennial 3-hour CLE requirements of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for attorney and agent accreditation under 38 C.F.R. § 14.629(b)(1). We will provide key information about practice before the VA, including representation of VA claimants, the VA claim and appeal process, and some of the most important types of VA benefits. It will be filled with advocacy advice from NVLSP attorneys who, together, have over 80 years of experience practicing veterans law: Bart Stichman, Co-founder and Special Counsel of NVLSP; Rick Spataro, Director of Training and Publications; and Alexis Ivory, Senior Staff Attorney. It is a must-see for both new and experienced veterans advocates!

The webinar will be held on: Thursday, August 4, 2022, 1:30 PM-5:00 PM EDT (including short breaks)

The cost of this webinar is $225.00. This live webinar is eligible for 3 hours of CLE credit and can be used toward VA accreditation requirements.

Click here to learn more.

For other Training and Publications materials: NVLSP also has over 40 previously recorded webinars that are available at your convenience as well as in-person training, the Online Basic Training Course, the Veterans Benefits Manual, and the VA Benefit Identifier App.


We hope this newsletter inspires you to become more active with NVLSP. If you want to help NVLSP do more for our veterans, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Follow us on Twitter, connect with us on LinkedIn, and like us on Facebook.
  2. Help us promote our free App for veterans.
  3. Tell a friend about NVLSP.

We look forward to connecting with you again soon!


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