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NVLSP, Vet Advocates File Supreme Court Amicus to Ensure Veterans Can Challenge VA Decisions

Released 3/7/22 | Tags:

NVLSP and Veterans Advocacy Groups File Amicus Brief Calling on U.S. Supreme Court to Ensure Veterans Can Challenge VA Decisions Based on Plainly Unlawful Regulations

National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Service Women’s Action Network Join NVLSP in Urging Court to Reverse Federal Court Decision that Bars Veterans’ Opportunity for Relief


WASHINGTON – Today, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) filed a “friend of the Court” brief in George v. McDonough, urging the United States Supreme Court to reverse the Federal Court’s ruling that the petitioner could not challenge a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) decision that applied a statutory interpretation that a court later determined was plainly unlawful. National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA)  Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), and Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) joined NVLSP to file the brief as amici curiae, or friends of the Court.

To ensure that veterans receive the benefits they earned through their service to our country, Congress created an exception to the usual rules of the finality of decisions to permit veterans to challenge VA decisions based on “clear and unmistakable error” (CUE).  CUE allows veterans to open previously denied claims and receive retroactive benefits to the date of the original claim. In their brief, NVLSP and the other organizations detail the vital role that CUE has served for nearly a century to help veterans secure retroactive relief for VA errors. NVLSP’s brief urges the Supreme Court to hold that using a VA regulation that is plainly contrary to statute constitutes clear and unmistakable error.

“Clear and unmistakable error is a critical safety net to ensure that veterans receive the benefits to which they are entitled,” said NVLSP Director of Litigation Renee Burbank. “Because of the unique history of the veterans benefits system, many veterans have suffered under unlawful VA rules without the opportunity to challenge them before their decisions became final. The Supreme Court must reject the VA’s efforts to limit veterans’ ability to seek legal remedies based on VA’s errors.  The Federal Court ruling would be devastating for Mr. George and countless veterans like him.”
The case is brought by Kevin George, who first applied for disability benefits in the 1970s and was denied due to a VA regulation that the agency later recognized was counter to Congressional directive.  Many decades later, he reapplied for benefits when that regulation was deemed invalid. 

The veterans’ advocates filed their amici curiae brief with the pro bono assistance of Williams & Connolly LLP.  Read the entire brief here.

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 22 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 $5.2 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 https://www.nvlsp.org/.

Media contact:
Patty Briotta, office 202-621-5698, patty@nvlsp.org

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