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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.