June 6, 2007 – WASHINGTON – The nation‘s largest organization of disabled veterans is convinced that injured troops are being shortchanged on disability benefits and have hired lawyers to help them.
The Disabled American Veterans is teaming up with three major law firms. It says that injured troops — many of them returning from Iraq and Afghanistan — are getting only a fraction of the government benefits they are entitled to under federal law.
Ronald L. Smith, deputy general counsel for DAV, said the Pentagon has been responsive in correcting problems of mold, peeling paint and cockroaches in outpatient rooms following reports earlier this year of shoddy treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
A preliminary review by Scott‘s group of Pentagon and Veterans Affairs data found the Army was much more likely than the other active forces to assign a disability rating of less than 30 percent — the typical cutoff — to determine whether a person can get lifetime retirement payments and health care.
The three law firms — King & Spalding, Foley & Lardner and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae — will begin to provide lawyers free of charge to patients at Walter Reed, which typically hears 80 cases a month.
Depending on response, the effort may be expanded to military hospitals elsewhere, with lawsuits filed to force compliance with federal law, which requires that the “benefit of the doubt” be given to veterans in disability claims.
“Whatever our view is on current conflicts in the world, whether Iraq or Afghanistan, injured soldiers should receive the level of service that they have given us,” said Steven Lambert, who chairs the pro bono committee in Foley & Lardner‘s Washington office.