Media Relations: Lawsuit Wins Benefits for Veterans with PTSD
In December 2008, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) filed a class action lawsuit, Sabo v. United States, on behalf of seven veterans from the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force. The seven veterans were discharged from military service as a result of a finding by a Physical Evaluation Board (“PEB”) that they were unfit for continued active duty service due, at least in part, to PTSD, and were assigned a disability rating for PTSD of less than 50%.
NVLSP’s lawsuit alleged that the military services violated the law by failing to assign a 50% disability rating to those discharged for PTSD – a disability rating that entitles the veteran to disability retirement benefits.
As a result of the class action and the settlement, the U.S. military agreed to pay lifetime disability retirement benefits to 1,029 veterans with PTSD who were denied these benefits upon discharge from the military following wartime service in Iraq or Afghanistan. To remedy the violations, these veterans will receive through the settlement:
- entitlement to lifetime military disability retirement payments (which may result in the veteran receiving monthly payments from the military above what the veteran is receiving from the VA) retroactive to the date of discharge.
- eligibility to apply for Combat-Related Special Compensation (which may increase the veteran’s monthly disability payments further).
- lifetime military healthcare (TriCare) for the veteran, his or her spouse, as well as their children until at least age 18.
- lifetime commissary and military post exchange privileges.
- eligibility to purchase life insurance coverage through the Survivor Benefit Plan.
- reimbursement for expenses paid for the medical treatment of the veteran, the veteran’s spouse, and the veteran’s minor children, from the date of the veteran’s separation from military service.
Steppingstone LLC managed media relations related to the lawsuit. We issued multiple news releases, fielded hundreds of media inquiries about the case, and held three press conferences at the National Press Club with updates on the case. We prepared veterans to speak with the media and at the news conferences and assisted with messaging and talking point development. We drafted news releases and managed news media outreach. The case was reported on by CNN, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, the New York Times, and many, many other media outlets.
Video – 2010 news conference – plaintiff Tyler Einarson
Video – 2009 news conference at the National Press Club – attorney Bart Stichman, co-founder and joint executive director of NVLSP
Client: National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP)
Services Provided by Steppingstone LLC: news release writing, media relations, interview preparation, talking points/messaging, spokesperson support, press conference management