Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Firms offer free legal help for injured troops

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 4, 2007 17:37:54 EDT

Three national law firms have agreed to provide free legal representation for combat-injured service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., as they try to navigate the complicated military disability rating process.

A formal announcement is expected Wednesday about a partnership between the law firms and Disabled American Veterans to provide the legal help.

“Investigative reports have revealed a significant number of cases where the U.S. military appears to have assigned low disability ratings to service members with serious injuries and thus avoided paying them full military disabled retirement benefits,” the DAV said in a prepared statement. “This partnership has been created to help protect the rights of those injured soldiers who have given so much of themselves to protect us.”

The three law firms have all done substantial pro bono work on other issues, but have joined DAV after complaints about problems with the military’s disability system, which determines such things as whether a service member receiving a one-time separation benefit or monthly payments for life if they must leave the military because of disabilities.

The firms are Foley & Lardner LLP; LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP; and King & Spalding LLP. Each of the firms has offices around the world.

While the free legal aid applies only to those in the Washington area, DAV officials said they consider this a test of what could become a larger, nationwide program.

The House of Representatives has approved legislation that would require the government to provide legal help for injured service members facing the disability evaluation and ratings process, once as a separate bill and later as part of the 2008 defense authorization bill. The Senate has not taken up similar legislation, although Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, said he expects a bill to improve benefits for service members injured in combat will be prepared later this year, separate from the annual defense policy bill.

The House-passed plan, called the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act of 2007, requires assignment of an independent advocate to any service member facing the disability evaluation process. The advocate would not be a lawyer, but rather a medical professional.


1 comment:

lakerfan116 said...

I was injured at Katrina. I am in the Oregon National Guard. 2 1/2 years later I lost my job due to the injury. I have no medical because I lost my job. From infantryman to walking with a cane. Do you think the Army has done anything? How much time do they need. I have a family and we are days from being homeless. Nobody knows what to do with an injured soldier. My LOD sat for 18 months. Can anyone help?