Finkelstein & Partners Announces Major Win for Nation’s Veterans. In Landmark Order, U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims finds VA in Civil Contempt

Newburgh, NY – Men and women of our nation’s armed forces have made great sacrifices in their service to our country. Now, thanks to a landmark case argued by Finkelstein & Partners’ Veterans Services Group, they’ll no longer sacrifice their health, well-being, or quality of life waiting for the benefits to which they’re entitled.

For the first time in the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims found the VA in civil contempt for failure to expeditiously handle a veteran’s claim after the Court had issued a previous decision on the case.

Renowned veterans law attorney Katrina J. Eagle, Director of Finkelstein & Partners’ Veterans Services Group, represented the petitioner, Mr. Cleveland Harvey, in this landmark case. Mr. Harvey is a Vietnam-era veteran who served our nation honorably in the U.S. Army.

In September 2008, Mr. Harvey successfully obtained a remand order from the Veterans Court. At that time, the Court ordered the VA to assign an earlier effective date for the payment of compensation benefits instead of military retirement pay for Mr. Harvey. With the assignment of the earlier date, the VA’s only task was to simply calculate how much, if any, additional compensation was owed to Mr. Harvey. However, for 18 months, the VA took no action on the claim. Frustrated, Mr. Harvey returned to Court in March 2010.

Mr. Harvey requested that the Court order the VA to make the final calculations and to sanction VA employees for the significant and repeated delays in processing his claim. The allegations were based on two well-established laws, 38 U.S.C. §§ 5109B and 7112, which require all veterans’ claims that have been remanded by the Veterans Court or the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to be given “expeditious treatment.”

The Court agreed that Mr. Harvey’s case had not been properly handled after the Court’s 2008 order. “[T]he evidence in this case illustrates that, rather than being reasonably diligent and energetic in attempting to comply with the Court’s remand order expeditiously, the Secretary was grossly negligent and lacking in diligence while processing the petitioner’s remand . . . Therefore, . . . the Court finds the Secretary in contempt,” cited Court documents. The Court then sanctioned the VA approximately
$20,000.

“This is a significant decision for the rights of veteran claimants,” announced Ms. Eagle. “Instead of receiving the benefits he was due for his sacrifice and service to our nation, Mr. Harvey dealt with a nightmare of unnecessary delays and distractions. With this decision, it is our hope that other veteran claimants will not have to suffer the same poor treatment,” continued Ms. Eagle.

“I’m exceptionally proud of what Ms. Eagle, and our Veterans Services Group, has accomplished on behalf of our nation’s veterans,” said Andrew G. Finkelstein, Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, headquartered in Newburgh, NY. “The Court has sent a clear message that it expects the VA to handle claims according to the laws regarding expeditious treatment. Mr. Harvey’s efforts will benefit thousands of his fellow veterans,” added Finkelstein.

Dear Friends and Clients,

In furtherance of our firm’s culture of commitment to always act with compassion, concern and commitment to our clients, community and colleagues, we have been taking precautions to ensure that we are still fulfilling our ethical and moral obligations while prioritizing health, wellness and safety of all we can.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced changes to many lives and businesses in our communities, and around the world. We, much like our neighbors and friends, have been taking precautions to ensure that we are still fulfilling our ethical and moral obligation to our clients, while also prioritizing the health, wellness and safety of our employees.

Until further notice, our offices will be closed to the public to encourage social distancing and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our team is still hard at work, many from home, and you may still call, email, live chat or video conference us if you or a loved one is seeking legal assistance. As the first law firm to offer our clients secure online access to their case file more than a decade ago, we have always been believers in using technology to make life easier and information more accessible. In these present times it has been a smooth transition for us to continue to offer our clients the same seamless and thorough service that you deserve and are accustomed to.

This pandemic is unlike anything any of us have faced in our lifetimes, and while we can continue to emotionally support one another through it all, staying home and keeping your distance is vital to the health and wellness of our communities. It does not feel good to break routines, cancel events and retreat from our normal, day-to-day socializing, but let us remember that, in times of strife, prior generations were asked to go to war and we are simply being asked to stay home. Your isolation equals more lives saved, and more time for medical providers to prepare for the treatment of patients battling COVID-19.

When the dust settles, we will join together with a greater appreciation for our lives, local businesses, loved ones and health. Until then, we will continue to offer guidance from a safe distance.

Very truly yours,

Andrew G. Finkelstein and the staff of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP