Monday, January 26, 2009

State-by-State Legal Assistance to Military Personnel (LAMP)

This state-by-state listing of Legal Assistance to Military Personnel (LAMP) resources is under development: help us here!
If your state is not listed yet, leave a comment and I'll make it a priority. The purpose is service!

Nationwide, see also: the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance to Military Personnel

Report: Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans

The Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses released the report Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans, in November 2008.

This massive (465 page) report summarizes and references the science known to date, in language that's reasonably easy to read (there's just a lot of it).

The Report's Findings In Brief

"Gulf War illness, the multisymptom condition resulting from service in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, is the most prominent health issue affecting Gulf War veterans, but not the only one.The Congressionally mandated
Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses has reviewed the extensive evidence now available, including important findings from scientific research and government investigations not considered by earlier panels, to determine what is known about the health consequences of military service in the Gulf War. This evidence identifies the foremost causes of Gulf War illness,
describes biological characteristics of this condition, and provides direction for future research urgently needed to improve the health of Gulf War veterans.

Gulf War illness is a serious condition that affects at least one fourth of the 697,000 U.S. veterans who served in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. This complex of multiple concurrent symptoms typically includes persistent memory and concentration problems, chronic headaches, widespread pain, gastrointestinal problems, and other chronic abnormalities not explained by well-established diagnoses. No effective treatments have been identified for Gulf War illness and studies indicate that
few veterans have recovered over time.

Gulf War illness fundamentally differs from trauma and stress-related syndromes described after other wars. Studies consistently indicate that Gulf War illness is not the result of combat or other stressors and that Gulf War veterans have lower rates of posttraumatic stress disorder than veterans of other wars. No similar widespread, unexplained symptomatic illness has been identified in veterans who have served in war zones since the Gulf War, including current Middle East deployments.

Evidence strongly and consistently indicates that two Gulf War neurotoxic exposures are causally associated with Gulf War illness: 1) use of pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills, given to protect troops from effects of nerve agents, and 2) pesticide use during deployment. Evidence includes the consistent association of Gulf War illness with PB and pesticides across studies of Gulf War veterans, identified dose-response effects, and research findings in other populations and in animal models.

For several Gulf War exposures, an association with Gulf War illness cannot be ruled out. These include low-level exposure to nerve agents, close proximity to oil well fires, receipt of multiple vaccines, and effects of combinations of Gulf War exposures. There is some evidence supporting a possible association between these exposures and Gulf War illness, but that evidence is inconsistent or limited in important ways.

Other wartime exposures are not likely to have caused Gulf War illness for the majority of ill veterans. For remaining exposures, there is little evidence supporting an association with Gulf War illness or a major role is unlikely based on what is known about exposure patterns during the Gulf War and more recent deployments. These include depleted uranium, anthrax vaccine, fuels, solvents, sand and particulates, infectious diseases, and chemical agent resistant coating (CARC).

Gulf War illness is associated with diverse biological alterations that most prominently affect the brain and nervous system. Research findings in veterans with Gulf War illness include significant differences in brain structure and function, autonomic nervous system function, neuroendocrine and immune measures, and measures associated with vulnerability to neurotoxic chemicals. There is little evidence of peripheral neuropathies in Gulf War veterans.

Gulf War illness has both similarities and differences with multisymptom conditions in the general population. Symptom-defined conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivity occur at elevated rates in Gulf War veterans, but account for only a small proportion of veterans with Gulf War illness.

Studies indicate that Gulf War veterans have significantly higher rates of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) than other veterans, and that Gulf War veterans potentially exposed to nerve agents have died from brain cancer at elevated rates. Although these conditions have affected relatively few veterans, they are cause for concern and require continued monitoring.

Important questions remain about other Gulf War health issues. These include questions about rates of other neurological diseases, cancers, and diagnosed conditions in Gulf War veterans, current information on overall and disease-specific mortality rates in Gulf War veterans, and unanswered questions concerning the health of veterans’ children.

Federal Gulf War research programs have not been effective, historically, in addressing priority issues related to Gulf War illness and the health of Gulf War veterans. Substantial federal Gulf War research funding has been used for studies that have little or no relevance to the health of Gulf War veterans, and for research on stress and psychiatric illness. Recent Congressional actions have brought about promising new program developments at the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, but overall federal funding for Gulf War research has declined dramatically since 2001.

A renewed federal research commitment is needed to identify effective treatments for Gulf War illness and address other priority Gulf War health issues. Adequate funding is required to achieve the critical objectives of improving the health of Gulf War veterans and preventing similar problems in future deployments. This is a national obligation, made especially urgent by the many years that Gulf War veterans have waited for answers and assistance."

---from Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans


Hardcopy of this report is available by Contacting the Committee.

About the Committee

"The Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses was created by Congress in 1998, and first appointed by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi in January, 2002. The mission of the Committee is to make recommendations to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on government research relating to the health consequences of military service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War.

According to its charter, the guiding principle for the work of the Committee shall be the premise that the fundamental goal of Gulf War-related government research is to improve the health of ill Gulf War veterans. Research priorities will be judged against this standard."

--- from the Committee's website

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Veterans Court: How It Works In Albany, New York

The Albany, (New York) Times Union reports on an interesting idea that might be useful nationwide:

Special service for those who served

"First came drug courts, followed by domestic violence courts, and now interest is mounting within the criminal justice system to do its part to help veterans who may find themselves standing before judges.

Many men and women returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have difficulties adjusting to civilian life. Some have injuries. Others suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and may resort to drugs or alcohol to cope.

Courts, nationally and in the Capital Region, are paying attention to vets facing charges, just as drug addicts have avoided time behind bars through drug court programs and defendants in domestic violence cases have been given treatment and counseling, so judges want to help veterans, especially those whose cases involve nonviolent crimes.

In January 2008, Buffalo City Court Judge Robert T. Russell Jr. established what is believed to be the country's first Veterans Court. Now, two Albany City Court judges have sent a letter to local veterans' officials, noting their awareness of vets who "may have special needs due to service-related issues."

"In the past, we have attempted to address theses issues with your assistance so that qualified veterans could be diverted from the criminal justice system to the appropriate service provider," said the letter written by Judges William Carter and Thomas Keefe. "Based upon the early success of the Veterans' Court in Buffalo ... we think that this is an appropriate time to contact you and reaffirm our commitment to these men and women who have served in the armed forces."

"We requested updated information from the veterans organizations and let them know that we support them and our veterans," Carter said. "If it is determined that there is a need for a veterans court, we hope to be part of it."
Read the complete article by Carol DeMare at "Special Service For Those Who Served"

Saturday, January 3, 2009

PTSD Treatment Class Action Suit Launched

The National Veterans Legal Services Program recently filed a class action lawsuit charging that the U.S. Army is denying OEF/OIF veterans the benefits to which they are entitled to treat Post-Traumatic Shock Disorder (PTSD).

According to its press release (selected links added):



Advocates say veterans from Iraq & Afghanistan were shortchanged the support they are entitled to


WASHINGTON – In a class action lawsuit filed on December 17, 2008 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) charged that for many years, the U.S. Army shortchanged an entire class of soldiers who returned from service in Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the benefits to which they are entitled.

"I experienced firsthand the horrors of war" said Juan Perez, an Iraq veteran and one of five plaintiffs in the lawsuit. "My expectation was that the military would be there for me, and my country would be there for me. Instead, the way I was treated felt more like a slap to the face."

The five veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan filing suit in the case seek to represent the large number of soldiers the Army found to be unfit for continued military service because of their PTSD, but who then were illegally deprived of the disability benefits and free health care to which they were entitled under federal law.

“I don't think we can do enough for the veterans who put themselves in harm's way to fight the war on terrorism,” said James J. Kelley, a partner with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP, which is representing the plaintiffs on a pro-bono basis with counsel from NVLSP. “Sometimes the intervention of the court is required to ensure that the right thing is done.”

For many years, the law has required the Army to assign a disability rating of at least 50% to all those it discharged for PTSD. A rating at 30% or more entitles a soldier to monthly disability benefits for the rest of the soldier’s life, to free health care for the soldier and his or her spouse for the rest of their lives, and to free health care for their children while they remain dependents.

Instead of following the law, the Army rated the PTSD suffered by these soldiers as less than 50% disabling in a transparent effort to avoid its responsibility to care for its wounded soldiers. In most cases these soldiers were rated well below the 30% rating level needed to qualify for monthly disability benefits and free health care.

On October 14, 2008, the Department of Defense called a halt to the Army’s illegal conduct by ordering the Army to assign at least a 50% rating to those soldiers discharged due to PTSD in the future. The lawsuit filed by NVLSP seeks to hold the Army accountable for its failure to take any steps to rectify its failure to follow the law for those discharged in the last six years with a less than 50% rating, prior to the Department of Defense’s order in October 2008.

One in five veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffers from PTSD or major depression, according to a study by the RAND Corporation announced in April 2008.

“Every American should be outraged that our veterans are being tossed aside when they can no longer serve and without the benefits they are entitled to,” said Bart Stichman, co-executive director of NVLSP. “The denial of benefits hurts these veterans and their families in countless ways. They deserve better, and this lawsuit could potentially help thousands.”

Stichman said that because of public outrage following investigative reporting into poor treatment of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2007, his office was swamped with calls from law firms wanting to provide free help to these veterans. Because of this outpouring of concern, NVLSP launched the Lawyers Serving Warriors(TM) project, which offers free legal help to active duty personnel who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom and are facing administrative separation, or going through a medical or physical evaluation board. They also help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have received an inappropriate discharge or disability rating, or are having difficulty with a claim with the VA for disability compensation, or a claim for Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance benefits.

Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans seeking help from Lawyers Serving Warriors™ are urged to visit the website at and submit information through the “Request Free Legal Help” button on the left side of the screen.

More information and the legal complaint for the lawsuit are available at


The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veterans service organization that has been serving active duty personnel and veterans since 1980. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to our 25 million veterans and active duty personnel by providing them the federal benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVSLP offers training for attorneys and other advocates, connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help, publishes the nation’s definitive guide on veterans benefits, and represents and litigates for veterans and their families before the VA, military discharge review agencies, and federal courts. For more information go to


Morgan Lewis is an international law firm with more than 1,500 lawyers in 22 offices located in Beijing, Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Dallas, Frankfurt, Harrisburg, Houston, Irvine, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Palo Alto, Paris, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Princeton, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C. For more information about Morgan Lewis, please visit


Ami Neiberger-Miller, Public Affairs,"