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NOVA challenged a 2017 Veterans Administration (VA) amendment to 38 C.F.R. 3.321(b)(1), confining the preexisting regulation (as interpreted by a 2014 Federal Circuit ruling) and authorizing the VA “[t]o accord justice to the exceptional case where the schedular evaluation is inadequate to rate a single service-connected disability,” by adopting “an extra-schedular evaluation commensurate with the average impairment of earning capacity due exclusively to the disability.” The regulation does not permit the VA to award extra-schedular disability compensation by considering the synergistic impact of multiple disabilities together. The Federal Circuit upheld the regulation. The VA’s explanation for the change was adequate; the regulation is not on its face arbitrary and capricious. It does not limit “extraschedular rating to a single service-connected disability” but provides for combining multiple disabilities, but not in the manner opponents prefer. The VA explained that the amendment is consistent with the agency’s historical interpretation of the regulation and its predecessors. The VA reasonably concluded that determination of an extra-schedular rating with respect to a single disability is likely to result in a more logical and consistent system of extra-schedular rating than one in which the decision-maker must determine on an ad hoc basis whether extra-schedular rating is appropriate for the synergistic effect of combined disabilities. View "National Organization of Veterans' Advocates, Inc. v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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Hickle began working for AMC in 2004, while in high school. In 2006, he was promoted to Operations Coordinator. In 2008, he joined the Ohio Army National Guard. Before leaving for training, Hickle interviewed for a management position with Kalman, stating that he was going to have to leave for military training for approximately six months; Kalman ended the interview immediately. The person who got the promotion later told Hickle: “Thanks for joining the military. I just got promoted.” AMC promoted Hickle to management when he returned from training; in 2013 Hickle was again promoted. In the interim, Hickle continued his military service, including serving for over a year in Afghanistan. AMC never prevented Hickle from fulfilling his military obligations or denied him time off, but Senior Manager Adler repeatedly expressed disapproval. During meeting with Kalman and Adler, Hickle provided Kalman with a pamphlet on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Adler continued to insinuate that Hickle could or should be fired for taking time off for military duty. After an incident involving allegations of stealing food from the AMC kitchen, there was an investigation, performed by a Compliance Manager. Hickle was suspended and was ultimately fired for “unprofessional behavior.” The district court rejected Hickle’s USERRA suit. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Hickle gathered evidence during discovery that would allow a reasonable jury to find that military service was a motivating factor in AMC’s termination decision. View "Hickle v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc." on Justia Law

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Shea began serving in the Air Force in October 2006. Her pre-enlistment examination indicated a normal psychiatric condition. A January 2007 medical examination resulted in a diagnosis of an adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood. Days later, Shea was struck by a truck while on base and sustained multiple physical injuries. Her subsequent medical records report anxiety, depression, and impaired memory. A medical evaluation board recommended that Shea be discharged. Shea was transferred to Dover Air Force Base, where her then-husband was stationed, to continue her treatment. A physical evaluation board determined in May 2007 that Shea’s pelvic fractures and transverse process fracture were unfitting conditions that were compensable and ratable but that her adjustment disorder with depression and anxiety was not separately unfitting nor compensable or ratable. In July 2007, Shea was discharged because of her physical disabilities. She sought benefits in October 2007. The VA granted benefits for her physical and psychiatric conditions, but rejected a request for a 2007 effective date for the psychiatric-disability benefits. The Veterans Court affirmed. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded to allow the Veterans Court to articulate the correct legal standard in considering Shea’s October 2007 informal application for benefits. While a pro se claimant "must identify the benefit sought,” the identification need not be explicit and should be read in conjunction with other submissions and service treatment records. View "Shea v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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Transgender individuals who serve in the military or seek to do so, joined by the State of Washington, filed suit alleging that the August 2017 Memorandum, implementing President Trump's Twitter announcement that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the military, unconstitutionally discriminated against transgender individuals. The district court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the 2017 Memorandum and defendants appealed. In the meantime, the then-Secretary of Defense studied the issue and produced a report recommending that the President revoke the 2017 Memorandum in order to adopt the report's recommendation. The President revoked the 2017 Memorandum and authorized the Secretary to implement the policies in the report (the 2018 Policy). Defendants then requested that the district court resolve the preliminary injunction on the basis of the new 2018 Policy. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order striking defendants' motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction and remanded to the district court for reconsideration. In light of the Supreme Court's January 22, 2019 stay of the district court's preliminary injunction, the panel stayed the preliminary injunction through the district court's further consideration of defendants' motion to dissolve the injunction. Furthermore, the panel issued a writ of mandamus vacating the district court's discovery order and directing the district court to reconsider discovery by giving careful consideration to executive branch privileges as set forth in Cheney v. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 542 U.S. 367 (2004), and FTC v. Warner Communications Inc., 742 F.2d 1156 (9th Cir. 1984). View "Karnoski v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, appearing in propria persona, appealed from the denial of his petition for a writ of mandate directing the California Army National Guard (CAARNG) to vacate an order separating him, a commissioned officer, from CAARNG. The Court of Appeal held that the Feres doctrine did not bar plaintiff's writ petition. The court also held that plaintiff failed to show that the trial court erred in concluding that CAARNG properly separated plaintiff based on federal regulations incorporated into state law, where states may incorporate federal law regarding appointment and termination of National Guard officers and plaintiff failed to show the trial court erred in concluding that the Military and Veterans Code incorporates NGR No. 635–100, subdivisions (5)(a)(8) and (5)(a)(22). Finally, plaintiff failed to show prejudice from any of the trial court's purported procedural errors. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "DiRaffael v. California Army National Guard" on Justia Law

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Robinson became the Associate Director of the Phoenix Veterans Administration Health Care System in 2012, having started his VA career in 1987. Robinson was aware of scheduling issues, including that it often took more than 30 days for patients to receive new-patient appointments. In 2014, the Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs alleged that veterans died while on “secret” waitlists at the Phoenix VA. Based on an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General and the Department of Justice, Robinson’s removal was proposed for “failure to provide oversight.” The Deciding Official did not take action. Robinson remained on administrative leave for two years, returning to duty in January 2016. The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs questioned why many senior executives were placed on paid leave instead of removed from office. In March 2016, a second proposal for Robinson’s removal issued. The Deciding Official sustained all charges. Robinson was removed. The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed the removal, finding that Robinson was negligent in the performance of his duties and failed to provide accurate information to his supervisors but did not sustain a whistleblowing retaliation charge. The Federal Circuit affirmed the decision as supported by substantial evidence, rejecting Robinson’s claim that he was treated differently than other supervisors. Robinson had notice and a pre-termination opportunity to be heard. Robinson had a duty to ensure compliance with VA policy but the record demonstrated that he did not. View "Robinson v. Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a negligence action brought by plaintiff under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that he received improper treatment at a VA facility. In this case, after plaintiff presented a claim to the VA, the VA issued a final denial. The panel held that plaintiff's appeal was time-barred, because he failed to file the action within six months after the VA mailed a notice of final denial of plaintiff's initial claim, and the statute of limitations did not restart when the VA declined to consider plaintiff's second attempt to file the same claim. View "Redlin v. United States" on Justia Law

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Sucic served on active duty 1973-1979 and 1982-1984. In 2007, he was granted service connection for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), effective January 2003. In 2008, Sucic requested an effective date of June 1992. After remand by the Federal Circuit, the Veterans Court entered judgment in June 2016 and issued its mandate in August 2016. Sucic died five days after the Federal Circuit’s mandate issued but before the Veterans Court vacated the Board’s decision. Sucic’s counsel did not notify the Veterans Court of his death until after the Veterans Court issued its mandate. Sucic’s counsel filed an unopposed motion to recall the Veterans Court’s judgment and remand decision and a motion to substitute Sucic’s three adult children as claimants. The Veterans Court concluded, and the Federal Circuit affirmed, that the non-dependent adult children were not eligible accrued benefits beneficiaries under 38 U.S.C. 5121(a), qualified for substitution. View "Sucic v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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These petitions concern the conduct of a military judge, Colonel Vance Spath, who presided over a current Guantanamo Bay detainee, Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Al-Nashiri, who faces capital charges before a military commission. After receiving a job offer but before retiring from the military, Spath found himself locked in a dispute with Al-Nashiri's defense lawyers, three of whom sought to leave the case. The DC Circuit granted Al-Nashiri's petition for a writ of mandamus and held that Spath's job application to the Justice Department created a disqualifying appearance of partiality. In this case, the average, informed observer would consider Spath to have presided over a case in which his potential employer (the Attorney General) appeared. The court vacated all orders issued by Spath after he applied for the job, and dismissed counsels' petition as moot. View "In re: Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Al-Nashiri" on Justia Law

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While serving in the Navy, Scott developed a bilateral foot disability caused by prolonged standing. In 1973, the VA Regional Office (RO) awarded Scott service connection for bilateral pes planus (flatfoot) and granted him a 0% disability rating under DC (diagnostic code) 5276. In 1990, the RO added to Scott’s service connection hallux valgus deformity (angulation of the big toe toward the other toes) without altering his rating. In 2007, a VA medical examiner diagnosed Scott with plantar fibromas (masses of fibrous tissue in the arch of the foot) in addition to his prior diagnosis. The RO continued Scott’s 0% disability rating. In 2014, the RO increased Scott’s disability rating to 30%; the decision did not mention Scott’s plantar fibromas. In 2016, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals increased Scott’s disability rating to 50%, but did not address the effect of Scott’s plantar fibromas on his rating, finding that Scott was entitled to the rating “under DC 5276 . . . for [his] bilateral pes planus” under the benefit of the doubt rule, 38 U.S.C. 5107(b). The Board concluded that DC 5284, which broadly covers “Foot injuries, other,” without identifying any specific condition, was inapplicable because the service-connected condition, pes planus, is specifically listed. The Veterans Court affirmed. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Veterans Court improperly affirmed based on rationales the Board never provided; the Board erred by failing to consider DC 5284. Foot conditions not specifically listed in the rating schedule may be rated by analogy under DC 5284. View "Scott v. Wilkie" on Justia Law