The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shinseki v. Sanders: Supreme Court rules in favor of VA

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that the burden of proof for harm in the VA claims process should fall upon the veteran, rather than the VA. This decision could present further hurdles for veterans who seek compensation for service-connected health care conditions down the road.

The particular cases for which the Supreme Court granted certiorari involved claims appeals from WWII veteran Woodrow F. Sanders and Cold War-era veteran Patricia Simmons, asking "Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that when the [VA] fails to provide statutorily required notice to benefits claimants, the VA should bear the burden of showing that such an error was not prejudicial."

Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the Supreme Court's opinion, noted that the Federal Circuit court's criteria for a harmless VA error placed "unreasonable evidentiary burdens on the VA." Breyer went on to note that the decision does not simply shift the burden of proof to the detriment of the veteran, but rather may put the veteran in an advantageous position in the appeals process by presenting the opportunity to demonstrate actual harm, rather than relying on the VA's assessment.

However, Justice David Souter's dissenting opinion refuted Breyer's claims that the burden was unreasonable, contesting that the VA has a unique statutory obligation to assist the veteran throughout the claims process. Souter suggested that three criteria could easily be adopted by the VA to help demonstrate harmless errors.

The full opinion from DocStoc has been embedded below:

Shinseki v. Sanders, 07-1209 - Get more Legal Forms


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