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Fed Circuit Unanimously Upholds Right of Veterans & Caregivers to Challenge VA Caregiver Decisions

Released 3/1/24 | Tags:

Federal Circuit Unanimously Upholds the Right of Veterans and Caregivers to Challenge Decisions Related to VA Caregiver Benefits
Over 400,000 Veterans and Their Caregivers Can Appeal VA Decisions to Board of Veterans’ Appeals and to Court


ARLINGTON, VA – On February 27, 2024 the United States of Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit unanimously upheld a lower court decision granting hundreds of thousands of veterans and their family caregivers the right to appeal decisions relating to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (Family Caregiver Program). The affected class of veterans and caregivers, led by Jeremy and Maya Beaudette, were represented by pro bono class counsel at Paul Hastings LLP, Public Counsel, and the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP).

Jeremy Beaudette is a seriously injured Marine Corps veteran who served five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His wife, Maya, quit her job to care for her husband full time, and in 2013, they were admitted into the Family Caregiver Program. They remained in the program for more than four years, but VA abruptly removed them when the agency refused to reschedule a medical examination while Mr. Beaudette recovered from two major surgeries. The Beaudettes tried to appeal their removal from the program to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board), but VA maintained that Caregiver decisions were not reviewable by the Board.

In 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) ruled that Family Caregiver decisions are appealable and ordered to VA provide notice to over 400,000 veterans and caregivers that they now had the right to appeal their decisions to the Board.  By February 2024, almost 14,000 veterans and their caregivers had either appealed a Caregiver program decision or submitted a supplemental claim or request for higher-level review.  Nevertheless, the VA appealed to the Federal Circuit in an attempt to undo those appellate rights.

In its decision affirming the CAVC decision, the Federal Circuit court rejected the VA’s argument that Congress had insulated the entire program from judicial review, which meant that veterans and caregivers had no recourse outside the Veterans Health Administration. Instead, the court held that only a narrow category of medical determinations “affecting the furnishing of assistance or support” lie outside the Board’s jurisdiction.

“This victory secures the rights of hundreds of thousands of veterans and caregivers like the Beaudettes who applied to the Caregiver program over the years and were unjustly denied, removed, or had their benefits reduced,” said Renee Burbank, Director of Litigation at NVLSP. 

“We are very pleased with the Federal Circuit’s decision, which vindicates the right of deserving veterans and their caregivers to receive proper agency and judicial review of their benefits denials.  Such review is an important safeguard of fair agency decision-making, and is critical where support for our veterans and their families is concerned,” said Paul Hastings litigation partner Igor Timofeyev, who argued the appeal.

“This ruling is a monumental victory for injured veterans and their caregivers, who have long endured the challenges and injustices of the Caregiver Program,” said Amanda Pertusati, Public Counsel's Interim Directing Attorney of the Center for Veterans’ Advancement. “Over the years, our team has received countless calls from frustrated veterans and caregivers impacted by this troubled program. The ability to appeal denials, granted by the lower court's ruling in April 2021, has been a transformative change for these heroes and their families. We are thrilled that this right has been upheld, ensuring justice prevails.”

The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veterans service organization that has served active duty military personnel and veterans since 1981. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to its 18 million veterans and active duty personnel by ensuring they have the benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVLSP has represented veterans in lawsuits that compelled enforcement of the law where the VA or other military services denied benefits to veterans in violation of the law. NVLSP’s success in these lawsuits has resulted in more than $5.4 billion dollars being awarded in disability, death and medical benefits to hundreds of thousands of veterans and their survivors. NVLSP offers training for attorneys and other advocates; connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help when seeking disability benefits; publishes the nation's definitive guide on veteran benefits; and represents and litigates for veterans and their families before the VA, military discharge review agencies and federal courts. For more information go to www.nvlsp.org.

About Paul Hastings LLP
With widely recognized elite teams in finance, mergers & acquisitions, private equity, restructuring and special situations, litigation, employment, and real estate, Paul Hastings is a premier law firm providing intellectual capital and superior execution globally to the world’s leading investment banks, asset managers, and corporations.

About Public Counsel:
Public Counsel is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice, as well as to amplifying the power of our clients through comprehensive legal advocacy. Founded on and strengthened by a pro bono legal service model, our staff and volunteers seek justice through direct legal services, promote healthy and resilient communities through education and outreach, and support community-led efforts to transform unjust systems through litigation and policy advocacy in and beyond Los Angeles.

Media contacts:
For NVLSP: Patty Briotta (202) 621-5698, patty@nvlsp.org
For Paul Hastings: Jovan Cabanday (212) 318-6540, jovencabanday@paulhastings.com

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