Media Relations: Lawsuit Wins Benefits for Veterans with PTSD

By on Wednesday, March 12, 2014

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 produced in 2013 about the lawsuit

News release – 2012 – settlement approved by judge

News coverage – 2011 – The Washington Post

News coverage – 2011 – CNN

News coverage – 2011 – Medical News Today

News coverage – 2011 – Northwest Military News

News release – 2011

Video – 2011 news conference announcing settlement at the National Press Club

News coverage – 2010 – Associated Press

News coverage – 2010 – CNN

News coverage – 2010 – Military.com

Video – 2010 news conference – plaintiff Tyler Einarson

Video – 2010 news conference – attorney Bart Stichman, co-founder and joint executive director of NVLSP – additional footage

Video – 2010 news coverage by NBC News

News release – 2010

News release – 2010 announcing a major development

Video – 2010 news coverage by WJLA-ABC

Video – 2009 news conference at the National Press Club – attorney Bart Stichman, co-founder and joint executive director of NVLSP

News release – 2008 announcing the lawsuit was filed

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

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