Class Action Against the VA Approved by Appeals Court
It is no secret that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has faced troubles for a very long time due to deficiencies in which veterans are receiving -- and often not receiving -- the medical care and treatment to which they are entitled. These issues have generally been played out in the political area, but a recent court decision could now subject the VA to class-based litigation.
The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in the case of Godsey v. Wilkie marks the first time that the court has found a case appropriate for class certification. The plaintiffs had asked for judicial relief for veterans facing long wait times on their disability appeal determinations. They argued that "taking nearly three years to complete these tasks is unreasonable and deprives them of their constitutional right to due process."
In a 2 to 1 decision, the appellate court affirmed, but modified, the decision of the court below. In so doing, the appeals court noted that veterans facing a wait of time more than 18 months for the VA to advance their appeals are “deprive[d] of their constitutional right to due process." In so doing, the court stated that the time had come for "judicial intervention" due to the longstanding failure of the VA to address these issues.
A Military Times article notes that, thus far, class action suits for actual payouts of benefits have not been allowed. Legal observers have said, though, that this decision could mark a new day in allowing class actions related to VA benefits.