Paul Hastings Secures Pro Bono Victory for U.S. Veterans and Caregivers

February 29, 2024

Paul Hastings LLP, along with pro bono partners the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and Public Counsel, secured a landmark victory for veterans and their caregivers in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  The Federal Circuit affirmed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Veterans Court) invalidating a rule that precluded hundreds of thousands of veterans and their family caregivers from appealing adverse benefits decisions. 

In 2010, Congress created the Caregiver Program to provide benefits to caregivers of seriously injured combat veterans, including assistance with daily living activities for veterans and a monetary stipend for caregivers. The purpose of the program is to support veterans’ caregivers and ensure they can provide the best care possible for their veteran loved ones.  The Department of Veterans Affairs, however, did not allow benefits decisions under the Caregiver Program to be appealed outside of the VA—in contrast to other VA benefits decisions which can be appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and federal appellate courts.  As a result, tens of thousands of veterans and caregivers whose Caregiver Program benefits have been denied or revoked lacked any meaningful way to challenge those decisions.

In July 2020, Paul Hastings filed a class action petition in the Veterans Court asking for a writ of mandamus to require the VA to allow Caregiver Program decisions to be appealed in the same way as other VA benefits decisions.  In April 2021, the Veterans Court ordered that Board and judicial review be made available for pending and future Caregiver Program decisions  The court certified a class of past claimants and required the VA to provide them with the opportunity to pursue appeal rights for any past benefits denial.  The VA appealed the Veterans Court’s decision.

The Federal Circuit has now unanimously affirmed.  The court of appeals held that Congress did not intend to preclude Board or judicial review of eligibility decisions under the Caregiver Program, aside from a narrow category of discretionary decisions “on the furnishing of assistance or support.”  The Federal Circuit also rejected the VA’s reliance on its prior regulation, holding that, by its own terms, the regulation did not bar review outside of this narrow category.

“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,” said Paul Hastings partner Igor Timofeyev, who argued the appeal.  To date, the VA notified over 400,000 veterans and their caregivers about their review rights, and almost 14,000 of them have already availed themselves of those rights.

Litigation partner Igor Timofeyev led the Paul Hastings pro bono team, which included partners Kurt Hansson,  Barry Sher, Josh Bennett, and Scott Carlton; Senior Of Counsel Marty Edelman; and Of Counsel Randall Johnston.

More details about the decision can be found here.

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