National Veterans Legal Services Program

Established in 1981, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), a high-impact, independent nonprofit organization, has been dedicated to ensuring that our government lives up to its obligations to provide our 22 million veterans and active service members the benefits they have earned due to disabilities resulting from their military service to our country.

NVLSP advances its mission by directly representing individual veterans on disability claims at no cost to the veterans; bringing class actions and other law reform litigation for veterans  to remove systemic barriers to justice; recruiting, training, and mentoring thousands of volunteer attorneys and veterans’ advocates to represent veterans; providing representation through our Lawyers Serving Warriors® pro bono program; and producing and distributing advocacy and educational materials to enable other advocates to assist veterans and their families in securing the benefits they have earned.

Since its founding, NVLSP has secured more than $5.2 billion in disability, death and medical benefits for veterans and their survivors, many of whom rely on these recoveries as a substantial or even primary sources of income. Most recently, NVLSP made history in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) convincing the Court to certify its first two class certification in the landmark cases, Godsey v. Wilkie and Wolfe v. Wilkie.

THE CASE:  The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) seeks support for a law reform project challenging the legality of a policy employed by the United States Department of the Navy that has resulted in the discharge of more than 16,000 members of the Navy and Marine Corps without the military disability retirement benefits to which they are entitled. The proposed project involves a class action lawsuit against the United States Department of the Navy to be filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Congress has provided a generous disability retirement system for those service members who are medically discharged as not fit for continued military service due to disabilities incurred in service.  Since 9/11, Congress has found that in order to avoid the expense of providing lifetime medical care to disabled veterans and their families, the military departments often “low-ball” the disability rating assigned to service members who have medical conditions that make them unfit for continued military service. The lawsuit would seek an injunction requiring the Navy to change the way it assigns disability ratings to comply with applicable laws and regulations.

While NVLSP will seek the pro bono services of a law firm to serve as co-counsel on this substantial undertaking, NVLSP would provide the subject matter expertise on the laws and regulations governing military disability retirement, secure appropriate class representatives, and communicate with and review the records of putative class members after the lawsuit is filed.

Grant contact: Ana Reyes, Director of Development, (202) 265-8305