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
“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.