Puller Clinic Wins Two Cases at Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
The Puller Clinic won two cases for clients at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) during the Fall 2022 Semester. Unusually, both victories are newsworthy because they came via single-judge memorandum decisions. Most cases that the Puller Clinic litigates at the CAVC are won via joint settlement before a judge becomes involved.
For all CAVC cases, students must review the Record Before the Agency (RBA) and write a short memorandum that explains the VA legal errors; this is done in preparation for a settlement conference. If a case doesn’t settle, it could go all the way to a judge for a decision. If that happens, the Puller Clinic must write an official brief based on the RBA. It then has the option to reply to the VA’s brief. The CAVC operates via motion practice, and the process has several strict deadlines.
One of the cases concerns the VA’s refusal to acknowledge a Navy veteran’s PTSD diagnosis. Students David Keirstead ‘22, Lauryn Hardy ’23, Daniel Ruesta ’22, and Timothy Allison ‘22 all assisted throughout the process under the supervision of Professor Caleb Stone. The other case is about a Marine veteran’s cancer and its potential relation to toxic water exposure at Camp Lejeune. Students Catrina Curtis ’22, Rachel Sowder ‘22, Jacqueline de Leeuw Huang ’22, and Claudia Dubay ‘23 all helped with the case under the supervision of Professor Michael Dick.
While neither of these victories will lead immediately to financial compensation, both favorable decisions direct the VA to fix the errors that it previously made in the adjudication process. Hopefully the veterans will eventually prevail in these claims. The Puller Clinic has now won 35 cases at the CAVC.