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A Possible Legal Enhancement in the Works for Veterans Seeking VA Benefits

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Washington, DCThe inability for deserving veterans to obtain VA disability benefits is thanks in part to a continuing backlog at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and the status quo in the non-traditional court system that precludes plaintiffs from launching class-action lawsuits. According to a report late last year in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ 12/30/15), there continues to be a groundswell of support to reform the status quo. However, for now, veterans in need have little choice but to languish in a lengthening queue for veteran benefits.

The problem, according to the WSJ, lay with the creation, in 1988, of the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. There remain thousands of veterans still without disabled veterans benefits and still having not benefited from a claims review more than a year after initially filing.

And yet, the Veterans appellate court does not have the power, according to its original mandate, to hear aggregated cases. Instead, it can only review individual cases. That’s a blow for a group of veterans having filed a lawsuit on behalf of thousands of similarly situated veterans, seeking prompt decisions from Veterans Affairs.

The US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims says it can’t hear the case, filed last year, as it’s technically a class action.

Well, now there is the beginnings of a groundswell of support from various sectors saying “enough already,” and agreeing that the status quo needs to change.

Veteran’s advocates are looking to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for an olive branch. To that end, the Court is considering arguments that class actions should qualify and be heard by the veteran’s court.

According to the WSJ, a group of veteran’s organizations have joined forces to push the effort. Without the potential for a class action, or aggregated litigation in some form, “similarly-situated veterans will be treated in dramatically different ways,” the group says.

Two former VA lawyers, identified as Will Gunn and Mary Lou Keener, filed their own briefs in support of the change.

“Justice does not prevail when sick and indigent veterans wait five to seven years to learn the results of their appeals,” the lawyers wrote, adding that the veterans court “should not lack a tool that would allow it to clarify legal rules and more expeditiously resolve a backlog of claims appeals that dishonors and harms those who have served in our nation’s armed forces.”

So-called non-traditional courts lack the full authority of regular federal courts granted to them under Article III of The US Constitution. However, other non-traditional bodies such as the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and even bankruptcy courts have found ways to promote efficiencies by finding pathways to case consolidation, or the creation of a class-action equivalent.

Advocates agree that too many deserving veterans numbering into the thousands have waited too long for the outcome of a review for disabled veterans benefits.


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Our veterans need all the help they can get. The Aid and Attendance benefit can be a great help to senior veterans and their spouses who need help paying for care. I suggest the website It tells you how to apply for the Aid and Attendance benefit and has a large amount of information regarding the benefit.


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