May 26, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2015
Los Angeles, CA – For the first time in its 30-year history, MAZON: A Jewish Response To Hunger (MAZON), has filed an amicus brief seeking to overturn a Veterans Administration “Final Rule” which MAZON argues reduces veteran benefits and creates more bureaucratic barriers to nutritional benefits for veterans, especially disabled veterans, who must rely on Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The brief has been filed in the U.S. Court Of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
The MAZON brief argues that the VA’s decision to create “efficiency” in the benefits application process delays and impedes veterans’ access to desperately needed food assistance. MAZON argues that the process which led to the “Final Rule” did not adequately consider the impact of the rule on existing veterans food benefits and failed to adequately consider the difficulties veterans already face when seeking those benefits.
The brief asserts that the VA’s new process penalizes veterans who apply for disability benefits without using the proper form, ignores evidence of disabilities if they are not specifically included on the form and impedes veterans access to SNAP assistance while disability claims are evaluated, a process which typically takes months or years. The brief argues that the "Final Rule" forces veterans to make impossible choices between food, shelter, medical care and their family’s welfare.
“One in four vets from Iraq and Afghanistan deals with sustained hunger,” says Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON. “The 'Final Rule' attempts to address a VA priority – efficiency – but it completely fails to address the real priority: improving access to the benefits veterans have earned. Too many veterans and their families cannot put enough food on their tables. The rule does virtually nothing to make the process of getting food assistance easier or more efficient for them. Instead its net result is a drastic reduction in their benefits – that is a betrayal of the intent of Congress, the VA’s own historical practices and the promises we make to those who serve. The VA’s priorities are perfectly upside down.”
“We have expanded our advocacy to the justice system because we are determined to use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that veterans and those on active military duty never have to worry about where the next meal is coming from,” said Ms. Leibman. “We are confident that the courts will agree that the nation owes them nothing less.”
MAZON’s brief is filed in support of several national veterans organizations that challenged the "Final Rule." They are the American Legion, AMVETS, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Viet Nam Veterans of America and National Veterans Legal Services Program. The law firm of O’Melveny & Myers prepared the brief.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with MAZON to overturn the VA’s 'Final Rule,' which would unjustifiably prolong the threat of hunger to thousands of our veterans and their families,” said Dimitri Portnoi, an attorney with O’Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles. “The 'Final Rule' arbitrarily makes it more, not less, difficult for veterans to receive their earned benefits, and it should not be the final word.”
MAZON is the only national Jewish organization focused exclusively on issues of hunger and is considered one of the leading anti-hunger organizations in the US. In addition to providing support to agencies across the country which assist active duty personnel and veterans, MAZON has recently advocated reforms to the Defense Department’s nutritional support program and advocated for greater and more efficient access for veterans seeking assistance.
With approximately 700 lawyers in 15 offices worldwide, O’Melveny & Myers LLP helps industry leaders across a broad array of sectors manage the complex challenges of succeeding in the global economy. A values-driven law firm guided by the principles of excellence, leadership, and citizenship, O’Melveny’s commitment to these values is reflected in its dedication to improving access to justice through pro bono work and championing initiatives that increase the diversity of the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.omm.com.
The MAZON Amicus Brief which includes statistical & background information is available at here.