Press Release

Morgan Lewis Applies Fee Award from Pro Bono Veterans Benefits Class Action to Support Legal Fellows Serving Veterans Community

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC, December 20, 2017: The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has affirmed a $3.9 million fee award in favor of Morgan Lewis and the National Veterans’ Legal Services Program (NVLSP) for efforts to secure corrective relief on behalf of a class of more than 2,000 veterans who were denied critical disability retirement benefits. Morgan Lewis will apply its fee award to a fellowship program developed to serve the legal needs of the veteran community. NVLSP will use its portion to help defray the substantial investment of time and resources that it made in the underlying case.

In 2008, Morgan Lewis and NVLSP, a prominent legal services organization serving veterans and active duty military personnel, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans whose disability retirement benefits were denied following a diagnosis of severe post-traumatic stress (PTS). Through a joint effort, the firm and NVLSP ultimately secured corrective relief for the entire class, but shortly thereafter the US government appealed. On Friday, December 15, the Federal Circuit affirmed the nearly $4 million fee award under the Equal Access to Justice Act.

“We’re extremely gratified that the legal system ultimately recognized what these men and women, who have made immeasurable sacrifices, were entitled to under the laws of this nation that they fought so bravely to protect, and the affirmance of the fee award is an appropriate final chapter to the saga,” said Morgan Lewis lead counsel, partner Brad Fagg.

The firm’s award will help fund three fellowships through Equal Justice Works, the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of postgraduate legal fellowships. The fellowships will be awarded to recent law graduates who will dedicate two years of full-time work to delivering legal services to veterans.

“Morgan Lewis has distinguished itself as a national pro bono leader in representing veterans,” said David Stern, executive director at Equal Justice Works. “We were thrilled to learn that the firm chose to dedicate a portion of the fee award from this case to support three Equal Justice Works Fellows.”

The first of these Fellows, Richard Prebil, has just begun his work to assist veterans with PTS to obtain discharge upgrades at Military Assistance Project (MAP) in Philadelphia. A second fellowship will be awarded by Morgan Lewis in the coming weeks.

“Using the law as an instrument of healing, MAP is grateful to partner with Morgan Lewis and Equal Justice Works,” said MAP Executive Director Dr. Cecilia Cardesa-Lusardi. “As a result of our collaboration, Fellows like Richard will be able to dedicate the energy, time, and resources necessary to serve those who’ve served us all so selflessly.”

Morgan Lewis regularly handles individual veterans’ benefits matters before the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the firm also plays a substantial role in driving how the VA benefits landscape is shaped across the United States through pro bono impact litigation.

Globally each year, Morgan Lewis provides more than 1,500 pro bono clients with the highest possible level of service. The firm has provided legal services to many hundreds of nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, and has changed the lives of thousands of individuals who otherwise would not have had access to representation. Morgan Lewis has long treated pro bono hours as billable. Every eligible lawyer at the firm is expected to contribute at least 20 hours to pro bono representations annually, and in fiscal year 2017, nearly 100% of the firm’s lawyers met that goal with a total contribution of more than 115,000 hours.