US firms lead fight for disabled army veterans’ compensation

Foley & Lardner, LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae and King & Spalding are to provide pro bono legal advice to help combat-injured US soldiers apply for compensation.

The three US firms are advising wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington DC and the US National Naval Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland, on how to navigate the military disabilityrating process of compensation eligibility assessment.

They are providing the advice to soldiers in conjunction with Disabled American Veterans (DAV), a 1.3 million-member not-for-profit organisation that represents disabled US war veterans.

DAV has complained about problems with the military’s disability-rating system, which determines whether service members will receive one-time separation benefits or monthly payments for life if they must leave the military because of disabilities.

In a statement, the DAV claimed: “Investigative reports have revealed a significant number of cases where the US military appears to have assigned low disability ratings to service members with serious injuries and thus avoided paying them full military disabled retirement benefits.

“This partnership [with the three firms] has been created to help protect the rights of those injured soldiers who have given so much of themselves to protect us.”

The chair of Foley’s national pro bono legal services committee Ed Baxa said the firm would, if necessary, file lawsuits to force compliance with US federal law, which requires that the “benefit of the doubt” be given to veterans in disability claims. Baxa added: “Clearly, no representation can be more unifying than representation of our returning wounded soldiers, who have given so much for our nation and its values.”

The scheme will initially only be open to veterans in the DC area, but could be extended to other military hospitals. The LeBeouf team on the project will be led by DC pro bono chair Steven Lambert, while the King & Spalding team will be led by DC managing partner Sedwick Sollers.