The Supreme Court of the United States has heard a case that could have a substantial effect on veterans looking to apply for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Depending on how the Supreme Court rules, it could have a substantial impact on veterans and their ability to apply for benefits after application deadlines have already passed. It could also affect the amount of compensation they will receive once they have applied for disability benefits.
What is This Case?
In the case of Arellano v. McDonaugh, the plaintiff is a veteran who served in the United States Navy from 1971 to 1981, assigned to the aircraft carrier Midway. During his service, the ship collided with a merchant vessel, causing him to nearly fall overboard and resulting in him witnessing the deaths of at least two people, an event that caused substantial psychological issues. He applied for VA disability benefits in 2011 and was accepted, but was denied compensation for any time prior to his application because he did not apply in the year following his service.
What is the Issue Being Decided?
The primary legal issue is whether the principle of equitable tolling should apply in these circumstances. Equitable tolling is a common law legal principle that allows the court to waive the statute of limitations on certain legal claims (such as application deadlines) in cases where a person did not, or could not, have availed themselves of their legal rights within the statutory time period. In this case, the plaintiff argues that the nature of his disability meant he could not reasonably have applied for benefits during the year following his service.
Why Does This Matter?
Depending on how the Supreme Court rules, it could potentially open the door for many veterans who missed out on compensation due to missing disability application deadlines. This is especially important for disabled veterans who often spend the period after leaving service recovering from their disability and readjusting to civilian life. In many cases, their disability may impede their ability to complete an application, and they may not have the assistance they need to comply with all application requirements.
How Could This Affect You?
If you or a loved one applied for veteran disability benefits, but missed out on compensation because you did not apply within the initial application deadlines, this case could allow you to potentially collect on more compensation, depending on how it is decided. However, obtaining that compensation would require filing an appeal, which can be complicated and difficult. In that case, you should speak to a lawyer with experience handling VA disability claims, who can help you to obtain the benefits you deserve.
The attorneys of Sullivan & Kehoe place a special focus on assisting disabled veterans. Our veterans’ disability lawyers are still available for remote consultation on your legal issues. Call our office at (800) 395-7830 to schedule a consultation in our New York City, Garden City, Kings Park, Riverhead, or White Plains office, or visit our contact page.