Federal court ruling helps injured veterans

While many of our posts have reported on the growing backlog of disability cases, we came across a story that described the difficulty some injured veterans had in appealing their claims. The difficulty involved a rule that disallowed veterans from appealing claims in different jurisdictions than where the claim was originally filed.

For example, a veteran in Ohio could not appeal a claim made by a judge in North Carolina. Apparently thousands of claims were summarily rejected because of this rule, with any regard to their merits. However, this rule was challenged in federal court, and the judge sided with injured veterans. It directed the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to abolish the practice, writing that such a practice was an “unwarranted denial of benefits,” and that veterans depended on such benefits to purchase food and pay for medical care.

The VA promised to stop applying the rule. Unfortunately, a number of VA appeals judges did not receive the order, and continued to apply it against the federal court’s ruling. A whistleblower notified attorneys representing individual veterans, and the court issued another order warning the VA of its ruling and threatening sanctions for further noncompliance.

It was unclear how many veterans were affected by the rule or where the appeals were filed, but the story exemplifies the need for those who are seeking benefits to have experienced legal counsel to guide them through the process. A veterans’ disability lawyer will be able to review your claim an help navigate all the pitfalls that can delay (or derail) a disability claim.

Source: Sun-Sentinel.com, VA denied veterans due process, court says, March 25, 2013.