For Immediate Release
Contact: John Hoellwarth
National Communications Director
AMVETS (American Veterans)
AMVETS National Headquarters, August 30, 2018 – The nation’s largest and most inclusive Congressionally chartered veteran service organization, American Veterans (AMVETS) is weighing in on the implications of a federal court decision that last week opened the door for veterans to file class action lawsuits against the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“We’d watched for decades as Vietnam veterans fought for benefits related to Agent Orange exposure, and we now see a similar circumstance occurring with burn pit exposure, military sexual trauma, and other issues that affect certain classes of veterans today,” said Joseph Chenelly, AMVETS National Executive Director. “This new court decision could be a gamechanger in prompting our government to acknowledge the inherent hazards of military service and the due process rights that we owe our veterans when trends make it obvious that military service can be conclusively linked to certain afflictions.”
The U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals ruled last week in the case of Monk v. Wilkie that the plaintiff failed to meet the standard for a class-action suit. But the facts of the case compelled an unprecedented decision that the court will entertain future cases where legal standing for a class action lawsuit can be adequately proven.
Prior to the court’s decision, private lawsuits filed by individual claimants carried the burden of proving that specific harm or damage to their personal circumstances occurred while serving in the military. But class-action lawsuits, which were not an option prior to the recent decision, may soon be an available remedy for plaintiffs who can prove that illegal or harmful activity had impacted a larger group of veterans, dependents, and survivors.
“The court’s decision doesn’t mean that every veteran will be in a position to mount a class-action lawsuit against the VA, nor does AMVETS advocate for that,” said Chenelly. “But when the number of veterans who served in the same region under the same circumstances are impacted by a common affliction reaches a tipping point, they need another option to make their collective voices heard. The court’s decision may soon give them that option.”
AMVETS is the nation’s most inclusive Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization, representing the interests of more than 20 million veterans. It is open to and fights for all veterans who served honorably, including reservists & guardsmen. AMVETS has been a nonpartisan advocate for veterans and their families for more nearly 75 years. amvets.org