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VA Resources

VA Resources

NVLSP and Its Private Law Firm Partner Persuade the Federal Circuit to Overturn 19-Year Precedent, VA Can Now Award Disability Benefits For Pain Related to Military Service

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 4, 2018

Veteran Benefits & Compensation

WASHINGTON – In a sweeping legal victory for veterans, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned a 19-year lower court precedent which prohibited the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from awarding disability benefits to a veteran for disabling pain if it was not linked to a medical diagnosis.

“What this ruling means is that if a physician cannot diagnose the cause of the pain the veteran is experiencing, but the pain is related to an event, injury, or disease that occurred during the veteran’s military service, the veteran should now win disability benefits,” said Bart Stichman, executive director and co-founder of the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and one of the attorneys who represented the veteran in the case.

The Federal Circuit’s decision in Saunders v. Wilkie overturned the 1999 precedential decision issued by the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that said VA had no authority to award benefits for pain alone, if the pain was untethered to a medical diagnosis explaining its cause.

NVLSP partnered with pro-bono counsel, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP, on the case. They won the case on behalf of Gulf war veteran Melba Saunders, who served in the Army from November 1987 until October 1994.

Saunders did not experience knee problems before serving in the Army. During her service, however, she sought treatment for knee pain and was diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome. Her exit examination reflected normal lower extremities but noted she had a history of swollen knee and hip joints and bone spurs on her feet.

Homeless Veterans

Homeless and At-risk Veterans is a real problem in the United States, Canada and around the world.  Here in America, the VA takes care of those who served.

VA’s specialized programs for homeless Veterans serve hundreds of thousands of homeless and at-risk Veterans each year. Independently and in collaboration with federal and community partners, VA programs provide Veterans with housing solutions, employment opportunities, health care, justice- and reentry-related services and more. Learn more about these programs below and at VA’s Programs for At-Risk Veterans and Their Families page.

VA’s specialized programs for homeless Veterans serve hundreds of thousands of homeless and at-risk Veterans each year. Independently and in collaboration with federal and community partners, VA programs provide Veterans with housing solutions, employment opportunities, health care, justice- and reentry-related services and more. Learn more about these programs below and at VA’s Programs for At-Risk Veterans and Their Families page.

Hepatitis C: Test, Treat, Cure

Should you get tested? Learn if you are at risk

Did you know that Veterans are more likely to have hepatitis C? The good news is that new treatments for hepatitis C are available at VA and can cure most people in about 12 weeks. VA has cured about 80,000 Veterans of hepatitis C so far. Join our march toward curing 100,000.

If you haven’t had a hepatitis C test, ask your VA doctor about it at your next appointment. Risk factors for hepatitis C include if you:

  • Were born between 1945 and 1965
  • Have ever used a needle to inject drugs, even if once and long ago
  • Had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
  • Are a health care worker who had blood exposure to mucous membranes or to non-intact skin, or a needle stick injury
  • Were on long-term kidney dialysis
  • Were born of a mother who had hepatitis C at the time
  • Are a Vietnam-era Veteran

The test for hepatitis C is a simple blood test. If you are diagnosed with hepatitis C, effective treatment is available from VA. The new treatments are oral medications (no injections) and last about 12 weeks. Side effects during treatment are minimal compared to older treatments and much more effective; the new treatments can cure over 90% of patients. If you know you have hepatitis C and haven’t yet come in for treatment, please contact VA today. Hepatitis C can be damaging your liver if left untreated and can lead to cancer in some people. In most cases, only your regular copay is required for treatment. You can learn more about testing and treatment on the VA hepatitis website.

One of My HealtheVet’s most popular features is Secure Messaging, which provides you with a new level of access to talk to your doctor about hepatitis C testing and treatment.

Veterans who have been cured are encouraging other Veterans to get treatment today. As one Veteran shares, “If you value life, if you value your wife, family, and grandkids, then you need to try this program. It will extend your life and you’ll have more time with your family, which is the most important thing. Never give up hope.”