Akin Gump Secures Pro Bono Victory for Disabled Veteran
(Washington, D.C.) - A team from Akin Gump achieved a significant victory for disabled war veteran Glenn Minney, when the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to immediately reinstate disability benefits for Mr. Minney, whom Akin Gump is representing on a pro bono basis.
In 2005, while deployed in Iraq as a medic for the Marines, Mr. Minney was permanently blinded by a mortar explosion and retired from the armed forces. Thereafter, Mr. Minney began working for the Veterans Administration (VA), but because the VA was unable to accommodate his visual impairment, he was forced to retire. He then applied for, and obtained, disability benefits. Before leaving the VA, Mr. Minney was told by the agency that he could resume working and still maintain his disability benefits as long as he did not work for the federal government. He then got a job as a legislative liaison for the Blind Veterans Association (BVA), a private organization, and continued to receive disability benefits.
In February 2015, OPM sent Mr. Minney a letter advising that his disability benefits would be terminated if his salary at any new job exceeded 80 percent of his pay at his previous VA job, a restriction of which Mr. Minney was previously unaware. On May 8, 2015, OPM sent another letter indicating that because Mr. Minney’s BVA salary exceeded the 80 percent limitation, his benefits would be terminated on June 30, 2015. Lawyers from Akin Gump then filed a Request for Reconsideration contesting this decision.
After OPM advised that the VA could cut off Mr. Minney’s benefits while the reconsideration request was pending, Akin Gump filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia requesting injunctive relief that would prevent OPM from terminating Mr. Minney’s disability benefits. In spite of the pending lawsuit, OPM proceeded with the termination of Mr. Minney’s benefits, leaving him without necessary benefits and, more importantly, medical insurance coverage.
After significant briefing and two hearings, Judge Richard Leon issued his decision ordering that OPM “immediately reinstate” Mr. Minney’s disability benefits. As Judge Leon described the matter, “[t]his is a tragic case of a severely wounded and much decorated war veteran seeking reinstatement of disability benefits that the federal bureaucracy at the Office of Personnel Management extinguished on a technicality.” Judge Leon went on to rule that “injunctive relief is not only appropriate, it is necessary to remedy the profound injustice committed by the federal bureaucracy against a blind war veteran. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a situation more extraordinary – or an individual more deserving – of such relief!”
The cross-office Akin Gump team was led by Washington, D.C. litigation partner Larry Tanenbaum and included litigation counsel Joseph Whitehead and Jennifer Woodson, senior counsel Robert Humphreys, and associates Carolyn Perez and Jake Itzkowitz.
Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 900 lawyers in offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
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