A precedential win for E&U’s “David,” attorney Jacqueline Schuh and client against “Goliath,” the Department of Veterans Services.
E&U attorney and retired Lt. Col. (JAG), Jacqueline M. Schuh, and client, Richard W. Staab (“Dick”), made history this past July with a holding that obligates the Department of Veterans Services to pay out an estimated 2+ billion dollars in monies owed to veterans for healthcare benefits denied since 2010. The case began when Dick was returning his wife to the nursing home after an anniversary dinner date, as she was a long-time resident due to suffering with MS. Dick suddenly fell ill with a heart attack followed by a severe stroke, and was unable to communicate and coordinate costs of care with the VA while he spent six months rehabilitating in a private nursing home. More specifically, given that Dick was 76 years old at the time, the costs of the emergency care and subsequent placement for rehabilitation was partially covered by Medicare, but the VA denied coverage for the remaining costs of care which totaled approximately $48,000.00. Dick, living on a fixed income with very little assets, and his wife on Minnesota Medical Assistance, drained all of the couples’ assets to pay these uncovered bills. Attorney Schuh assisted Dick with several appeals and lost. She then connected with the Veterans Legal Services Program (“VLSP”) in Washington, D.C. Together Schuh and VLSP appealed and the ruling was overturned. The effect was so far reaching in terms of veterans and entitlement to reimbursements going back to hundreds of thousands of veterans who had been denied benefits since 2010, that the VA then appealed. The expected pay-out, in addition to Dick’s $48,000.00, is expected to be over 2 billion dollars for U.S. veterans around the world. The case was prepped and all ready to argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit when the VA abruptly withdrew its appeal in June of this year; the Court entered an Order July 17, 2017 dismissing the case. The decision in Dick’s case now stands as law, and the VA must now put the infrastructure in place to process Dick’s reimbursement, as well as those of other veterans. The case is very significant in terms of its far-reaching impact and the dollars which must be paid to entitled veterans. The hope is that the VA will complete its internal processes before Dick and many others pass away because their claims die with each veteran who dies prior to payment. Dick’s comments are that, “I cannot believe this…” while Schuh commented, “…we were a small cog in the wheel of justice and won this David and Goliath fight”; a rarity in the legal arena given the disparity in resources.