Justia Military Law Opinion Summaries

by
McGuffin began his employment with SSA as a preference-eligible veteran, entitled to receive CSRA (Civil Service Reform Act, 92. Stat. 1111) protections after one year. During his first months, McGuffin had a low case completion rate and had cases that were past the seven-day benchmark. He requested training; SSA sent him to a training course. SSA was apparently otherwise satisfied with his work. About eight months after his hiring, SSA began to consider terminating McGuffin. It was noted that, as a preference-eligible veteran in the excepted service, McGuffin would acquire procedural and appellate rights after completing one year of service, so that “McGuffin must be terminated prior to the end of his first year” while another employee could be terminated "within her 2-year trial work period.” Although his work improved, four days before attaining full employee status, SSA terminated McGuffin for failure to “satisfactorily perform the duties” of the attorney advisor position. In a case under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. 4301–35, which prohibits discrimination based on military service, the Federal Circuit reversed the Merit Systems Protection Board. SSA closed the door on McGuffin before the end of his first year to avoid the inconvenience of defending itself should McGuffin assert his procedural CRSA safeguards. McGuffin’s preference-eligible veteran status was a substantial factor in SSA’s termination decision. McGuffin was not performing so poorly as to justify the rush to remove him. View "McGuffin v. Social Security Administration" on Justia Law

by
Montelongo was a West Point student cadet, 1973-1977, then served in the Army 1977-1996, from which he retired. From June 21, 2001, to March 28, 2005, Montelongo served as a civilian presidential appointee in the Air Force. An Air Force human resources officer advised Montelongo that his time as a cadet could be “bought back” and credited toward an eventual civil service annuity under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), 5 U.S.C. 8401–8479. Montelongo made the small payment to “buy back” his four years at West Point and, in 2017, applied for a FERS annuity. The Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board concluded, and the Federal Circuit affirmed, that only his time as a presidential appointee (just under four years) counted as creditable civilian service. Montelongo did not satisfy the five-year threshold requirement for a FERS annuity. Montelongo’s cadet time was “military service” that was creditable service under 5 U.S.C. 8411(c)(1) but was not “civilian service” for which section 8410 sets a five-year minimum for annuity qualification. View "Montelongo v. Office of Personnel Management" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Association's complaint, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act regarding the Association's provision of diabetes-related care in the U.S. Army's Child, Youth, and School Services (CYSS) programs. When this action began in 2016, the Army had in place United States Army Regulation 608-10 and a 2008 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Memorandum (collectively, "Old Policy"), which together prohibited CYSS staff from providing essential medical care for diabetic children. In 2017, defendants revoked the Old Policy and replaced it with a New Policy that provides for possible diabetes-related accommodations. The panel held that the Association's challenge to the Old Policy was moot. In this case, defendants have satisfied their burden of clearly showing that they cannot reasonably be expected to reinstitute the Old Policy's blanket ban. Therefore, because the Association seeks only prospective relief, its challenge to the policy, and the injuries incurred thereunder, were moot. The panel also held that the Association lacked standing to challenge the New Policy, because the Association lacked organizational standing by failing to show an injury in fact, and representational standing where none of its members had standing to sue in their own right. View "American Diabetes Assoc. v. United States Department of the Army" on Justia Law

by
Sharpe checked in aboard the USS Carl Vinson in 2006. The aircraft carrier was undergoing an overhaul and was uninhabitable. Sharpe was instructed to report to the Media Department in the Newport News complex. Sharpe regularly reported to this onshore location throughout his assignment. He never performed regular duties onboard the Carl Vinson nor did he “eat, work, live, stand watch or serve any punishment aboard" any ship. In 2007, a reporter contacted the Fleet Forces Public Affairs Office about Sharpe’s alleged involvement in “hate group activity.” Sharpe was ordered to report to his home while NCIS investigated. Sharpe was informed that the Commanding Officer intended to impose a non-judicial punishment; the CO issued a punitive letter of reprimand. Sharpe inquired about demanding a trial by court-martial. The CO cited the “vessel exception,” which denies the right of a service member “attached to or embarked in a vessel” to refuse a non-judicial punishment and demand a trial by court-martial, 10 U.S.C. 815(a). The Assistant Secretary of the Navy approved a recommendation to discharge Sharpe. Sharpe formally separated from the Navy in 2009. In 2012, Sharpe submitted a successful application for Correction of Naval Record, requesting reinstatement and that his naval record be corrected by removing documentation pertaining to his non-judicial punishment. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court’s determinations with respect to back payment of regular and special pay, allowances, allotments, compensation, emoluments, and other pecuniary benefits. View "Sharpe v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Cameo Williams, Sr. was a veteran of the United States Army, who spent his entire service stateside - never overseas or in combat. But for years, based on false statements about combat service, he obtained VA benefits for combat-related PTSD. The issue presented for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in this case was whether it mattered about Williams’ lies about overseas service to obtain his PTSD benefits. The Court rejected Williams’s argument that his lie was not material under 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2), as well as his two challenges to evidentiary rulings. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the United States for negligent supervision and training. Plaintiff alleged that he suffered emotional and physical distress after the Veterans Administration (VA) sent him a letter erroneously stating that his corneal ulcerations were not service-connected. The court held that the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA) limits district courts' jurisdiction over suits involving a VA benefits determination. Therefore, the Board's determination that the February 2015 letter contained a "clear and unmistakable" error does not constitute an admission of negligence such that the district court would no longer need to review a benefits determination in deciding plaintiff's claim. Therefore, the action was properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Newcombe v. United States" on Justia Law

by
A 1941 Executive Order, ordered into the service of the U.S. armed forces all of the organized military forces of the Philippines, a U.S. territory. Various Filipino military organizations and more than 100,000 members of the Philippine Commonwealth Army served the U.S. during World War II. After the war, Congress passed Surplus Appropriation Rescission Acts, 38 U.S.C. 107, providing that service in these Filipino military organizations “shall not be deemed to have been active military, naval, or air service.” Filipino veterans were not eligible for the same benefits as U.S. veterans. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, 123 Stat. 115, 200–02, established a $198 million fund to provide one-time payments to Filipino veterans: $15,000 for U.S. citizens and $9,000 for non-citizens. The statute required Filipino veterans to apply for this payment within one year of the statute’s enactment. The VA required that the relevant service department verify the veteran’s service. The VA treats the service department’s decision as conclusive, regardless of other evidence documenting service. The VA denied Cruz’s application because the Army certified that Cruz did not have service as a member of the Philippine Commonwealth Army, including recognized guerillas, as “he was not listed in the Reconstructed Guerilla Roster” The Federal Circuit reversed in part. The VA can generally rely on the service department’s determination in deciding eligibility for payment but, in this context, must give the veteran a meaningful opportunity to challenge his service record through the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. View "Dela Cruz v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

by
While serving on a Navy aircraft carrier in 1969, Francway was hit by wind: “[t]he resulting fall caused him to injure his back.” He “was placed on bedrest for a week and assigned to light duty for three months.” In 2003, Francway filed a VA claim for service connection for his back disability. In 2003-2011, Francway was examined multiple times by an orthopedist and had his medical records separately reviewed by the orthopedist and an internist. They concluded that Francway’s current back disability was not likely connected to his 1969 injury. After multiple appeals and remands, Francway submitted new evidence from his longtime friend, attesting to Francway’s history of back disability. The Board again remanded, with instructions that Francway’s “claims file should be reviewed by an appropriate medical specialist” and that the examiner should reconcile any opinion with the statements from Francway's "buddy statement.” Francway was again examined by the orthopedist, who concluded that Francway’s symptoms were unlikely to be related to his injury but did not address the “buddy statement.” The internist reviewed Francway’s file and the “buddy statement,” and reached a similar conclusion. The Board concluded that there was insufficient evidence of a nexus between Francway’s 1969 injury and his current disability and that the VA had complied with the remand orders. The Veterans Court concluded that Francway had not preserved his claim that the internist who reviewed the “buddy statement” was not an “appropriate medical specialist” under the remand order. Francway had not challenged the examiner’s qualifications before the Board. The Federal Circuit affirmed, noting that the Board and Veterans Court properly apply a presumption of competency in reviewing the opinions of VA medical examiners. View "Francway v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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