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Veterans Claims Court celebrates 25 years

Veterans Claims Court celebrates 25 years

By John Glynn

Twenty-five years ago, veterans and their survivors had no recourse if they believed the Department of Veterans Affairs had unjustly denied their claims for disability benefits. That changed with the founding of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Since that day in November 1988, about 60,000 appeals have been heard in an effort to “promote greater accountability and uniformity in the VA’s claims processing,” according to the court.

The court is marking its 25th anniversary at a time when the backlog of veterans’ disability benefits claims has been at the forefront of the news. While the court does not directly address the backlog, it does give veterans whose claims are turned down the opportunity to be heard outside the VA. In fiscal 2012, the court — made up of nine judges — heard about 4,000 appeals.

“That we have a specialized veterans’ court is a credit to our national commitment to do justice by ‘him who shall have borne the battle,’ in President Lincoln’s timeless words,” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in April.

A national court of record, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has exclusive jurisdiction to provide judicial review of final decisions by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, an entity within the VA. While the court’s principal office is in Washington, it is authorized to sit anywhere in the U.S. and does so a limited number of times each year. 

The court also has been taking oral arguments to the nation’s law schools, in order to inspire students and young lawyers to work with veterans. Last month, the court held an oral argument at Harvard Law School.  

The court will mark its anniversary with a private ceremonial session in its courtroom on Nov. 20.

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