Did the new Veterans Class Action Case Help VA Appeals?

Veterans Class Action
Veterans Class Action

Did you hear about the recent Veterans Class Action lawsuit?  In case you didn’t, then I encourage you to find the link below.  Otherwise, I believe this new VA issue offers  two quick and easy punchlines:

  • Great news for specific groups of Veterans, but
  • I would rather pursue my appeal as one.

Please stick with me.  I know this veteran’s issue is complicated.

Veterans Class Action Cases gets Messy

Every veteran pursuing an appeal to the Veteran’s Court of Appeals has first-hand experience with messiness and time.  In other words, these types of cases get messy due to the legal jargon and the fact a VA case can go on and on for many years.

Yes, I am all on board for pursuing such cases.  The time required doesn’t scare me  and I thrive on seeing Veterans succeed with claims.  But, engaging a class action lawsuit is not my first strategy.  Here is why:

Very few veterans file an initial claim with a group or class in mind.  A group of people wishing to sue with one purpose is called  a “class”.  Compare this to a civil case that is unrelated to a VA appeal.  Civil cases can start as a class action lawsuit from the very beginning and often do.  In fact, here is a short list of famous class action lawsuits that you might have heard about.

Now, being part of a class requires a specific legal analysis.  In terms of federal cases, we can look at Rule 23.  But, claims through the Veterans Court of Appeals do not offer an easy rule for us to follow.  Instead, veterans and their attorneys use guidelines called Rules of Practice and Procedure.

VA procedure for a Veterans Class Action is crazy complicated because the rules come from different sources of truth.   As a result, let me pause for a second and allow you time to catch your breath.

In fact, it might help if veterans reviewed the recent Veterans Class Action case I am relying on.  Thus, please check out Veterans Claims No. 15-1280, which is also called Monk v. Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

BVA Appeals
BVA Appeals

Veterans Class Action:  Types of Classes

Okay, I hope you took a moment to catch our breath.  Again, my point above is simply put:  nobody starts their claim for veterans benefits by engaging a group of veterans.

In fact, it is almost taboo because all of us experience different injuries and medical issues.  Certainly a VA judge or hearing officer is more likely to see an individual medical report a whole lot easier than a dozen or thousands of reports stapled together, right?

In all honesty, I think Veteran Monk’s intentions were great.  But, I think the class they tried to define will cause future veterans more agony than support.

Even more significant, I believe the rules might jeopardize one of the biggest procedural issues military families have at their disposal:  the substitution of claimant rule.  But, that is another issue for another blog post.

Even more importantly, I think Veterans with medical issues who appeal  their VA claim for specific reasons need to start saying

me [the injured Veteran] first”.  

Unless we as Veterans find a common problem (like a manufacturer concealing the harms of Agent Orange), in all likelihood a VA class action is not always the best legal strategy for success.

On the other hand, here are a few types of classes or groups of veterans that might second guess my experience:

  • Veterans involved in the exact same event or conflict,
  • Families impacted by a specific and predefined problem (like Camp Lejeune),
  • Veterans using The All Writs Act to resolve the same factual or legal issue, and
  • A host of other examples that are far to exhausting to list.

Veterans Class Action Cases:  What Should Veterans Do?

I believe every veteran should be seeking and filing a claim.  Usually, this requires help from a VSO or attorney.

No, I do not not think questions about a Veterans Class Action case is where I would start when engaging a claim.  Instead, I think discussing and preparing an individual claim is more important.

Finally, if by chance the evidentiary process establishes a link with fellow veterans, then perhaps a VA Class action begins to make sense.  But, it isn’t my starting point.