Released 4/6/23 | Tags: Class Actions, Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), Veteran's Benefits
NVLSP and Veterans Advocacy Groups File Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Review Federal Circuit’s Decision Blocking Veterans From Seeking Justice Through Class Actions
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America Join NVLSP in Requesting Supreme Court Intervention
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 6, 2023
WASHINGTON – On March 30, 2023, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) filed a “friend of the Court” brief in Skaar v. McDonough urging the Supreme Court to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s decision in that case. NVLSP’s brief argues that the Federal Circuit’s decision would doom the ability of veterans who challenge in court the legality of a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy that adversely affects entitlement to VA benefits from obtaining class relief on behalf of all the veterans harmed by the challenged policy. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America joined NVLSP’s brief as amici curiae, or friends of the Court.
The Skaar case ruling limits class membership to only those who have secured a final Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) decision that has been, or can still be, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) within the 120-day appeal period. This extremely narrow window essentially prevents veterans who obtain a CAVC decision invalidating a VA benefits policy from forcing the VA to apply that decision to numerous other veterans whose benefits were denied based on the invalidated policy.
In their brief, NVLSP and the other veterans groups highlight the critical value that class actions have had in the past and should have in the future for ensuring that similarly situated veterans are able to receive relief when systemic VA failures and delays prevents them from receiving the benefits to which they are entitled.
“Undeniably, if this ruling is allowed to stand it will have tragic life-changing impact for veterans with service-related disabilities and their families who do not have access to the legal representation necessary to pursue on an individual basis an appeal of a common VA error all the way to the CAVC,” said NVLSP Executive Director Paul Wright. “This ruling sets an extraordinarily high bar for veterans to meet to qualify their case as a class action on behalf of similarly situated veterans. We hope the Supreme Court will recognize the devastating effect of this ruling and correct this egregious injustice.”
“This ruling is unjust. It’s already bad enough that some of those who have fought on behalf of our nation, have found themselves fighting the VA back here at home. But a successful fight of one veteran against the VA should be able to benefit many, and not arbitrarily restricted. We hope the Supreme Court steps in on behalf of our nation’s veterans and recognizes their right to join a class action suit to get access to the benefits they’ve earned and deserve.” said Allison Jaslow, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“Vietnam Veterans of America has long championed judicial review, and we fought hard to establish the Court of Veterans Appeals. The prospect of a veteran not being able to participate in a class-action suit is a shameful denial of justice to these veterans who raised their hand in defense of our Nation,” said Jack McManus, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America.
The veterans’ advocates filed their amici curiae brief with the pro bono assistance of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP. Read the full brief here.
“For years, the veteran’s class action has helped groups like NVLSP, IAVA, and VVA ensure that no veteran is left behind,” said Finnegan attorney Alex Harding. “It was a privilege to work with these organizations and we join them in looking forward to the Supreme Court’s response.”
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 $5.4 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 https://www.nvlsp.org/.
Patty Briotta, office 202-621-5698, firstname.lastname@example.org