May 02, 2018
In a matter referred by the New York City Bar Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project, partner Yehudah Buchweitz and associate Kevin Kramer, working in tandem with CBS Vice President and Assistant General Counsel Joseph Richburg, successfully overturned a denial of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits and achieved a waiver of a nearly $20,000 government debt for pro bono client and U.S. Army veteran Kenneth E. Hardy.
Mr. Hardy had previously filed multiple claims for VA disability benefits for a disability he had incurred during and as a result of his military service. The VA had repeatedly denied Mr. Hardy’s claims, finding that there was no connection between his condition and his time in the Army. Over a two-year period, the team sought relevant information from all potential sources, including from the VA itself, the Army and medical facilities that Mr. Hardy had visited throughout his lifetime. After completing this wide-ranging fact-gathering process, the team formally appealed the VA’s denial of Mr. Hardy’s disability benefits, submitting new and material evidence establishing a link between his condition and time in the military. On March 13, 2018, the VA granted the appeal, ruling that Mr. Hardy’s disability was indeed related to his Army service, and providing Mr. Hardy with VA disability benefits.
Mr. Hardy had separately been facing an almost $20,000 debt to the federal government. The debt had arisen out of Mr. Hardy’s inadvertent failure to report his Social Security benefits to the VA, which had resulted in his receipt of total monthly government income -- in the form of his VA pension and Social Security benefits -- in excess of the allowable amount. As a result, the VA had been garnishing Mr. Hardy’s pension to pay down the debt, resulting in a nearly 20% decrease in the monthly income to which Mr. Hardy would have been properly entitled. On December 1, 2016, the Weil team appealed both the validity and the amount of Mr. Hardy’s debt on the basis that the VA had failed to properly explain its basis, and to the extent the debt was deemed valid, requested a waiver of the debt due to Mr. Hardy’s status as an elderly and disabled veteran, the inadvertent nature of his error and his dire financial situation. On September 1, 2017, the VA granted a full waiver of the debt and restored more than $150 per month in VA pension benefits to Mr. Hardy.
The City Bar Justice Center’s mission is to increase access to justice by leveraging the resources of the New York City legal community. In the fall of 2007, the City Bar Justice Center launched the Veterans Assistance Project to provide free legal aid to New York City veterans seeking service-connected disability benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs.