US Supreme Court’s Decisions: Rules Against Veteran Who Sought To Challenge A 1977 Denial Of A Disability Claim

WASHINGTON, DC (June 15, 2022) The Supreme Court will soon announce its decision in a historic abortion case that will affect millions of Americans.


The justices meet each week and review pending cases. All nine of them have to agree they are finished and have nothing further to add. Then the decision is ready to go and set to be released the next week.

But all of that happens privately.

The court usually announces “decision days” only a few days in advance. And they never say which cases will be decided on those days. So it’s a guessing and wait game.

Many legal experts expect the abortion case will come in the term’s final week.

The Court’s fundamental function is adjudication of important issues including women’s rights and the right of unborn babies who can not speak for themselves.

Opinions Released

The U.S. Supreme Court has two dozen cases remaining including on abortion, guns, climate change, & religion.

The U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in the George v. McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs case.

The Facts:

“Kevin George joined the Marine Corps in 1975, he did not disclose his history of schizophrenic episodes, and a medical examination noted no mental disorders. After George suffered an episode during training, the Marines medically discharged him. George then applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs under 38 U. S. C. §1110 for veterans’ disability benefits based on his schizophrenia. A regional office of the VA denied George’s claim, and the VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals denied his appeal in 1977.” 

“The Board denied George’s claim for collateral relief, and the Veterans Court affirmed. The Federal Circuit also affirmed, concluding that the application of a later invalidated regulation does not fall into the narrow category of “clear and unmistakable error” permitting revision of a final decision.” 

The Opinion

The Court agrees with the Federal Circuit.  George argues that the VA has distorted the history
of agency practice that the 1997 statute codified.  But the Court decided that that the Board’s application of a then binding regulation is not the kind of “clear and unmistakable error” for which collateral relief is available under §§5109A and 7111.

Justice Barrett,  delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Judge Roberts, and Justices Thomas, Alito, Kagan, and Kavanaugh, joined. Judge Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion.  Judge Gorsuch also filed a dissenting opionion, in which Judge Breyer, joined and in which Judge Sotomayor joined as to all but Part II-C.

Judge Barrett’s Opinion

Justice Barrett delivered the opinion of the Court. Veterans may claim benefits for disabilities connected to their military service subject to statutory and regulatory requirements. When the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denies a benefits claim, that decision generally becomes final after the veteran exhausts the opportunity for direct appeal. But a statutory exception permits the veteran to seek collateral review at any time on grounds of “clear and unmistakable error.” We must decide whether
that exception allows relief from a VA decision applying an agency regulation that, although unchallenged at the time, is later deemed contrary to law. We hold that it does not.


Source: US Supreme Court



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