After 40 Years of Being Denied Benefits, Marine Veteran Sues the VA and Wins
A Marine veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder will finally receive the benefits he’s entitled to after a 40-year battle against the VA. The publicly funded legal aid program, Northwest Justice Project, announced that the veteran, who wishes to remain anonymous, was awarded $282,000 in retroactive disability pay and will receive $3,000 per month going forward.
Jennifer Budinick, the attorney who represented the veteran, regrets how long it has taken for this veteran to see justice in the court system. “Despite ongoing hardships and health issues, our client persevered through a complex and mishandled process. The claims process is designed to be veteran-friendly but often leaves veterans frustrated and confused,” she said in a statement.
The veteran served as a rifleman in the Marine Corps from 1977 to 1981. In 1979, he was deployed in Puerto Rico during a volatile time in the island’s history. To gain independence, Puerto Rican militant groups and the Organization of Volunteers for the Puerto Rican Revolution launched frequent attacks on service members.
According to an FBI report, in October of 1979, these groups bombed several U.S. government facilities and ambushed a Navy bus at Sabana Seca. Two Navy personnel died, and nine others were wounded in the attack.
The Marine Corps veteran was repeatedly targeted while in Puerto Rico. He was shot at while traveling between bases and received incoming fire intermittently during his service there.
After this stressful deployment, the veteran returned home and endured a series of personal tragedies, including the loss of a murdered family member. Following these events, he began going absent without leave, which resulted in his dismissal from the Marine Corps. This separation made him ineligible for veterans’ benefits.
According to one of his other attorneys, Mariah Hanley, “A VA examiner said that these overlapping traumas ‘interfered with the veteran’s ability to maintain the assigned duties of his military service, as evidenced by continued AWOL offenses; and contributed to a character of discharge identified as Under Other than Honorable Conditions.”
Shortly after being kicked out of the Marines, the veteran began what became a decades-long battle to be compensated for his PTSD. In 2020, the VA finally acknowledged that his dismissal resulted from untreated service-connected mental health issues, but he was still denied the compensation he was requesting.
Following this decision by the VA, Hanley and Budinick became involved in the case and successfully appealed the denial of benefits, ultimately being awarded the $282,000 plus monthly payments going forward.
For many involved in the case, the victory is bittersweet as so many other veterans are languishing in the backlog at the VA. Currently, there are 625,000 open claims, with 255,000 pending for more than 125 days.
The VA is hiring up to 2,000 new employees to deal with the backlog and has said that the backlog will be reduced to 100,000 by 2024. For many veterans awaiting benefits, this cannot happen soon enough.
Despite this resolution, many veterans will still encounter difficulties while appealing VA disability claims, and while this development is encouraging, the chance of being denied remains high. Our New York disability lawyers are proud to assist veterans with benefits claims. Call us at 855-208-7783 or complete an online intake form on our website to schedule a free initial consultation today. We serve Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and more.