VA disability claims are individual claims. A doctor examines the veteran and determines the extent of the disability. Then a Claims Examiner determines if the Veteran’s disability is service-related. Both these determinations are subject to higher review. Class actions are different in many ways.
Individual Veterans may form a class and take collective action to right a wrong. Essentially, a class must be a lot of people with the same grievance. In VA disability class actions, all members of the class have usually been denied benefits. That by itself is not enough: they have to have been denied benefits for the same reason.
Sometimes, individual action is the best way to get the benefits you deserve. Sometimes, collective action is better. A VA disability attorney gives you solid advice about these different options. In the end, the goals are the same. These goals are financial benefits, medical care, and official recognition of your sacrifice.
Agent Orange Claims
Perhaps the most famous veterans class action claim was Vietnam veterans’ longstanding fight for Agent Orange illness compensation.
In 1978, the CBS affiliate station in Chicago aired a comprehensive expose called “Agent Orange: Vietnam’s Deadly Fog.” Investigative reporter Bill Kurtis based the story on a series of VA interviews with Agent Orange widows and victims. Shortly thereafter, the first veteran filed suit, demanding compensation for Agent Orange-related illness.
Just before his death, the plaintiff in this case famously told his mother “I got killed in Vietnam and didn’t know it.”
The VA immediately denied that there was any connection between the defoliant and cancer or any other serious illness. The fight for benefits seemingly reached an end in 1991, when Congress ordered the VA to make a list of presumptive Agent Orange illnesses. This list has grown over the years, as has the Veterans who are eligible for disability benefits.
Even after that presumption, the company behind Agent Orange denies it. In 2004 a Monsanto spokesperson said “we are sympathetic with people who believe they have been injured and understand their concern to find the cause, but reliable scientific evidence indicates that Agent Orange is not the cause of serious long-term health effects.” So this fight might not be completely over.
One recent class action is from Navy veterans who served off Vietnam’s coast. These Blue Water veterans argued that even though they never set foot on land in Vietnam, they should not be excluded. When they won, the court ordered VA to reconsider any claim it denied for that reason. This is an example of the power of class actions to help large numbers of veterans in one lawsuit.
Veterans of these long, difficult, and faraway wars in Southwest Asia face a litany of physical, emotional, and other issues that the VA had not dealt with in the past, at least in large numbers. These veterans joined together in one of the most successful class action claims against the VA.
When a traumatic event in service causes PTSD severe enough to require release from active duty, that service member is entitled to a rating of at least 50%. For several years, military Physical Evaluation Boards ignored that rule and sometimes assigned lower ratings.
This led to Sabo v. United States, a 2008 class action lawsuit. Sgt. Sabo, like many others, received a rating of only 10% for PTSD. Under the Sabo settlement agreement, if you were found unfit for service in part because of PTSD, you are entitled to at least a 50% disability rating for at least the six months after service.
Led by seven plaintiffs, the Sabo class action covers thousands of veterans and their families. This is where class actions are at their most powerful: vindicating the rights of everyone who was mistreated the same way, whether or not they personally have the ability to go to court.
Count on Dedicated Attorneys
Class actions are often the most effective way for Veterans to get the benefits they deserve. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box to your right. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.