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Justice for Warriors Newsletter
February 2019 
NVLSP's PACER Fee Class Action Garners National Attention
The National Veterans Legal Services Program challenge to excessive Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) fees gained national attention on February 4, 2019 from The New York Times which examined the case and the numerous supporting briefs from judges and other media outlets. NVLSP filed a class action with two other nonprofits,the National Consumer Law Center and the Alliance for Justice, in 2016 seeking to recover excessive overcharges .
The issue of these excessive fees even prompted two lawmakers, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., to introduce new legislation recently, the Electronic Court Records Reform Act, that would remove online paywalls and make federal court records free to the public.

The case has garnered broad media support. Numerous outlets have covered this case including Bloomberg LawThe New RepublicThe ABA Journal The Hill  and  The Progressive Pulse  just to name a few.
Undeterred: Staab Fight Continues
In 2018, we saw our landmark victory in Staab v. Wilkie languish as the Dept. of Veterans Affairs  failed to comply with the Emergency Care Fairness Act of 2010 (ECFA). The VA finalized a rule to require the VA to reimburse veterans for non-VA emergency medical expenses in January 2018.

Yet, the VA found a way to attempt to avoid reimbursing veterans. VA claims they cannot reimburse for co-pays, cost shares or deductibles required by other health insurance veterans may have. The VA's broad interpretation of "co-pay" is the basis of our second class action filed in October 2018 against the VA in
Wolfe v. Wilkie . When we further learned that the VA was sending out false informatio n to veterans regarding their eligibility for this type of reimbursement, we filed an amended petition to address this issue and created a new class action. NVLSP's legal strategy was validated when the court ruled in our favor on February 1, 2019 and approved our amended petition.  The VA now has until March 15, 2019 to respond to our petition. Oral argument is scheduled for May 14.

Recognizing the potential wide scale impact of the VA's misinformation, we took several proactive steps to identify more members of the class.  We created a survey form on our website to invite possible claimants to submit their information.  In addition, we publicized this survey and a new dedicated email [email protected] in several interviews which appeared in various media outlets including the American Legion magazine and ConnectingVets.com. These two articles ("YES, the VA has to reimburse you for emergency medical costs - despite what they say," and "Questions about the lawsuit over emergency medical cost reimbursement at non-VA facilities?") proved extraordinarily successful in attracting new prospects for our class action which we are vetting. 

On February 21, 2019, NVLSP Executive Director Bart Stichman and Mr. Staab were featured on WSAW-TV in Wisconsin.
Paul Wright, Deputy Executive Director

NVLSP is pleased to welcome and spotlight our new Deputy Executive Director, Paul Wright. In his new role, Paul will serve as second-in-command of NVLSP. He will manage all aspects of NVLSP's operations and establish policies and procedures that promote NVLSP's culture and mission.

Paul has more than 20 years' experience as in-house legal counsel as well as operational and financial expertise. Most recently, Paul served as general counsel, compliance officer and director of contracts & legal at IMPAQ International. 

Paul began his military career enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He subsequently became a cadet in the U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps and went on to serve as Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army.  He led, trained and managed over 50 attorneys and paralegals. He advised senior military and civilian personnel on a spectrum of issues including tax, criminal, family, immigration, claims, consumer and international law. He also provided legal support to 20,000 soldiers and civilian Department of Defense personnel in the Republic of Korea. He served with distinction and was awarded the Army Achievement Medal for Outstanding Performance as tax center officer in charge and the Army Commendation Medal for outstanding performance as a legal assistance attorney.   

"Paul possesses an impressive combination of organizational, legal, nonprofit and military experience that will be extremely valuable as NVLSP continues to grow. His strategic acumen will help drive NVLSP to new heights in advancing our mission to ensure veterans receive the benefits they have nobly earned in military service," said Bart Stichman, Executive Director of NVLSP
What's New? 
The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act

On August 23, 2017, the President signed into law the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, designed to streamline the claims and appeals process for pursuing disability compensation benefits. The law took effect on February 19, 2019.
NVLSP has been busy at work reviewing and analyzing the new rule to assess its implications and to help support veterans advocates and attorneys.
To that end, NVLSP will be issuing a special supplement to our comprehensive Veterans Benefits Manual. NVLSP will also be hosting a special webinar in March on this topic. So watch our website and social media channels for the new supplement and sign up soon for our upcoming webinar on March 27-29.
One Year Old and Going Strong, 
NVLSP's  VA Benefit Identifier App

The Nationa l Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP)'s free, landmark app, VA Benefit Identifier , for military v eterans and their advocates is just a little more than one-year old. In that time, NVLSP's VA Benefit Identifier  has appeared in U.S. Veterans magazine , Prosper Blog and ConnectingVets.com and helped thousands of veterans navigate the complex landscape of VA regulations and determine the specific VA benefits to which they are likely entitled. It is available through the NVLSP website,    Apple App Store,  or  Google Play Store.

Whether a veteran served in World War II or the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or if there's concern regarding possible exposure to Agent Orange or other conditions, the NVLSP VA Benefit Identifier App can help identify valuable benefits that may have been overlooked.

The NVLSP App helps verify whether a veteran should file a claim for service-connected disability benefits or nonservice-connected disability pension. It covers all possible disabilities covered by VA regulations and is available in both English and Spanish. To protect privacy, no data or personally identifiable information is retained. Upon completion, the results of the survey can be emailed or printed and used as a reference when filing claims for VA benefits.

For optimal results, veterans should have documents available about their military service (DD Form 214), information about medical conditions and any prior VA decisions or related communications to facilitate completion of the survey. Once it is finished, veterans are advised to schedule an appointment with a veteran's advocate chosen from a list of Veterans Service Organizations furnished in the app. Veterans advocates are regularly available to assist with applications for VA disability benefits, free of charge.

A key highlight of the NVLSP's VA Benefit Identifier App is its ability to appropriately recommend when veterans should file for specific conditions, prompting them to submit an "intent to file" form with the VA, while further providing timelines and instruction on how to proceed with a formal claim.

If you haven't tried NVLSP's VA Benefit Identifier App yet, you should or better yet, share it with a veteran.

NVLSP Webinar Trainings

The National Veterans Legal Services Program continues its dedication to veteran law education by growing its webinar schedule in an effort to educate more attorneys and veterans advocates on strategies for securing disability benefits for their clients. Over the course of the 2019 spring season, experienced NVLSP attorneys will lead  discussions on the following topic:

NVLSP Advisory Council

NVLSP's Advisory Council is pleased to announce plans for the Fourth Annual Row for Warriors Dragon Boat Race in August 2019!  Click here to see pictures from last year's event.

Row for Warriors is the signature event of the NVLSP Advisory Council. The dragon boat race helps to raise funds and awareness of NVLSP's mission to ensure our nation's active duty personnel and veterans receive the disability benefits to which they are entitled. Row for Warriors was part of the Annual Capital Dragon Boat Regatta at The Wharf.

More information to come in the months to come as we prepare for the event. Please email [email protected] with any questions.  
Ways You Can Help

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. You can 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!