WASHINGTON – On December 16, 2021, a federal court in Texas ordered the government to make retroactive payments of Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) to a class of approximately 9,000 Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force veterans who had not received the full amount of CRSC they were owed because the military illegally imposed a 6-year ceiling on the amount it would pay in retroactive compensation. The class is represented by the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) with the pro bono assistance of Sidley Austin LLP.
“The Court’s decision today corrects an injustice to thousands of veterans with combat-related injuries and illnesses who risked their lives in time of war,” said NVLSP Senior Staff Attorney David Sonenshine. “We are grateful the Court rejected the government’s attempt to shortchange disabled veterans from the full payment they earned through their service.”
Combat-Related Special Compensation provides tax-free payments to retired veterans with combat-related disabilities. However, the military denied veterans CRSC payments for the entire period of their military retirement, instead limiting payments to up to six years before the veteran applied for CRSC. The military based its denial of benefits on the Barring Act, a federal law that directs how the government can settle or pay claims when no other settlement authority exists.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas rejected the military’s rationale. “The CRSC Statute provides its own settlement mechanism,” the court explained, and therefore “the Barring Act does not apply.” The court ordered that the government must pay all former service members whose amount of CRSC payment was limited by the government’s application of the Barring Act, and who are owed less than $10,000. The court’s jurisdiction is limited to claims of less than $10,000; NVLSP and Sidley have filed a similar class action lawsuit on behalf of veterans owed $10,000 or more in the United States Court of Federal Claims, Paige v. U.S.
“This win is particularly gratifying. My Dad served in Vietnam and was known in our hometown as being a strong supporter of his fellow United States military veterans, assisting them with filing for and securing the benefits to which they were entitled. He passed away a few years ago, but this victory for thousands of deserving veterans – women and men injured while defending their country – is my way of continuing the important work that was near and dear to his heart,” said Sidley Austin Attorney J. Simone Jones.
The case is Soto v. United States, S.D. Tex. 17-cv-00051.
NVLSP and Sidley filed this lawsuit in 2017 on behalf of named plaintiff Simon Soto and similarly situated veterans. Mr. Soto served in the United States Marine Corps from August 2000 to April 2006. As a result of his service in Mortuary Affairs, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Ultimately, Mr. Soto was medically retired from active duty in April 2006, was placed on Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL) and thereafter was awarded permanent medical disability retirement. In June 2016, Mr. Soto applied for CRSC, which he was awarded in October 2016. However, the Navy limited its payment to Mr. Soto to six years of retroactive CRSC due to the military’s interpretation of the Barring Act.
Interested veterans may reach out to NVLSP at firstname.lastname@example.org if they would like more information about the case, including regarding their inclusion in the Soto class. In addition, veterans may contact NVLSP for information at email@example.com or 202-265-8305, ext. 152. NVLSP also assists veterans with filing initial applications for CRSC and appeals of denials of CRSC. Veterans may apply for assistance with CRSC claims online at NVLSP’s Lawyers Serving Warriors® program.
The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veterans service organization that has served active duty military personnel and veterans since 1981. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to its 22 million veterans and active duty personnel by ensuring they have the benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVLSP has represented veterans in lawsuits that compelled enforcement of the law where the VA or other military services denied benefits to veterans in violation of the law. NVLSP’s success in these lawsuits has resulted in more than $5.2 billion dollars being awarded in disability, death and medical benefits to hundreds of thousands of veterans and their survivors. NVLSP offers training for attorneys and other advocates; connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help when seeking disability benefits; publishes the nation’s definitive guide on veteran 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 www.nvlsp.org.