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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting summary judgment for Dollar General in an action brought by plaintiff, after returning from military service, alleging that the company denied him reemployment as required under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). The court held that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to plaintiff's resignation; a reasonable jury could find that plaintiff's application for the store manager position at the Bryant store was sufficient to give a reasonable employer adequate notice that he was a returning service member seeking reemployment; Dollar General was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's USERRA claim because he was not obligated to seek reemployment through the leave coordinator; and judicial estoppel did not bar plaintiff's USERRA claim. View "Scudder v. Dolgencorp, LLC" on Justia Law

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Section 511(a) of the Veterans' Judicial Review Act barred the Community's action against the VA for failing to reimburse the Community for the care it provided to veterans at tribal facilities. In this case, the Community sought review of the VA's determination that two provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did not require the VA to reimburse the Community absent a sharing agreement. The panel held that such a determination fell under the jurisdictional bar of section 511(a) because it was plainly a question of law that affected the provision of benefits by the Secretary of the VA to veterans, and the relief requested could clearly affect the provision of benefits. The panel also held that the presumption in Montana v. Blackfeet Tribe of Indians, 471 U.S. 759, 766 (1985), did not apply to section 511(a). Finally, the Community's argument that the district court had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1362 was waived. View "Gila River Indian Community v. US Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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Arthur served on active Army duty, 1940-1945, as a prisoner of war of the German government for 25 months. He was service-connected for several disabilities and had VA claims pending when he died in 2011. Winters pursued those as a substituted claimant and her own claims for accrued benefits as his surviving spouse. In 2013, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals denied some claims and granted service-connected benefits for others, found that the awards were inextricably intertwined with Winters’s accrued benefits claim, and remanded for initial disability ratings and to readjudicate the accrued-benefits claim. The Board determined that a subsequent letter in which Winters sought earlier dates “d[id] not constitute [a] motion for revision,” directed the letter to the Regional Office, but did not notify Winters of its determination so that the 120-day appeal period did not start to run. In 2014, the Board denied Winters’s claims for entitlement to an earlier effective date and for accrued benefits. In 2016, the Veterans Court dismissed an appeal of the 2013 decision for lack of jurisdiction and vacated the 2014 decision as premature because the 2013 decision was not final. Winters sought attorney fees and expenses under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d) for that decision. The Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of her application. The court lacked jurisdiction to award EAJA fees relating to an appeal over which it did not have jurisdiction. With respect to the 2014 Board decision, Winters was not a “prevailing party.” View "Winters v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action under the Federal Tort Claims Act brought by a surviving spouse, alleging wrongful death and malpractice when a medical center operated by the VA caused Randy Tunac's death. The panel held that, to the extent the complaint alleged negligence by VA healthcare employees, it had jurisdiction under the FTCA. However, the negligence claims regarding VA operations must proceed under the congressionally-mandated pathway set forth in the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA), and any appeal can be heard only by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The panel held that, to the extent the court had jurisdiction, the claims were barred by the FTCA's statute of limitations and those claims were not equitably tolled. In this case, the two year statute of limitations had long run when plaintiff filed her administrative claim and any alleged concealment by the VA of a widespread problem regarding delayed treatment did not result in concealment of the operative facts that would merit equitable tolling. View "Tunac v. United States" on Justia Law

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The federal catchall statute of limitations in 28 U.S.C. 1658(a) applies to private suits alleging violations of section 303(c) of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action under the SCRA as time-barred. The panel held that the complaint arose under an Act of Congress enacted after 1990 and was thus governed by the four year statute of limitations period in section 1658(a). In this case, plaintiff filed suit almost six years after the sale of his home and thus his complaint was untimely. View "McGreevey v. PHH Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), alleging that the employer violated USERRA by failing to promptly reemploy her and the violation was willful. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting relief to plaintiff under USERRA, holding that the district court did not clearly err by finding that the employer acted willfully and plaintiff was entitled to liquidated damages. View "Mace v. Willis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking records related to the suicide of Admiral J.M. Boorda. Specifically, plaintiff sought six pages of handwritten notes regarding official business found in the backseat of Adm. Boorda's official vehicle and the suicide note to Adm. Boorda's wife. The Eleventh Circuit held that the Navy improperly withheld the backseat notes because it withheld the responsive records when plaintiff asked for them. The court also held that FOIA contained nothing that would allow an agency to withhold records simply because it had previously given them to the requester, and the court rejected the Navy's argument that plaintiff's claim as to the backseat notes was precluded by the parties' prior litigation. The court also held that the suicide note was subject to protection under exemption 7(c), which covers records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes if their production could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sikes v. United States Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's retaliation claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and grant of summary judgment for the VA on plaintiff's discrimination claim. Plaintiff filed his retaliation claim after he was subjected to a peer review process to look into his medical care of a patient who suffered renal failure. Plaintiff amended his complaint to add the discrimination claim after the VA issued a memorandum addressing an incident where plaintiff left a patient alone and outlining future expectations. In regard to the retaliation claim, the court held that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies because he filed in federal court prematurely, and failed to make a waiver or estoppel argument to excuse his failure to exhaust. The court also held that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to the third element of the prima facie case of racial discrimination where he failed to show an adverse employment action. In this case, the VA's peer review process was not an adverse employment action under Title VII. View "Stroy v. Gibson" on Justia Law

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The VA determined that West, a Viet Nam veteran, was eligible for a disability pension. Two days later West died. Four days later—without knowing that West had died—the government sent West a check for $8,660--his pension benefit retroactive to June 2013. In March 2014, a Kentucky probate court appointed West’s ex-wife, Brenda, as the Estate's executor. Brenda endorsed the VA check, the estate’s only cash asset, and deposited it into an escrow account. After three months, the VA determined that West’s estate was not entitled to the money, 38 U.S.C. 5121(a), and directed the bank to wire the $8,660 back to the U.S. Treasury. The bank complied. The Estate did not learn until later that its account had been drained of funds. More than 18 months later, the Estate obtained a Kentucky probate court order requiring the government to return the funds. The government removed the matter to the district court, which remanded the matter back because the $8,660 was already subject to the probate court’s jurisdiction. The Estate unsuccessfully sought attorneys’ fees. The Sixth Circuit reversed the remand order; the dispute can be litigated only under the procedure set forth in the Veterans’ Judicial Review Act, 102 Stat 4105. The court noted “concerns about the government’s expropriation of the Estate’s funds without any advance notice or process.” View "Estate of West v. United States Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that the political question doctrine barred an action brought by United States military personnel, civilian contractors, and surviving family members against KBR for injuries allegedly caused by KBR's waste management and water services across Iraq and Afghanistan. The court held that the action presented a political question because the military's control over KBR was plenary and actual under the first Taylor v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Servs., Inc., 658 F.3d 402, 408–409 (4th Cir. 2011), factor. The court need not reach the Federal Tort Claims Act preemption issue and thus affirmed in part and vacated in part. View "Metzgar v. KBR, Inc." on Justia Law