In a decision that impacts thousands of veterans, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has ruled that Lieutenant Colonel Wilson J. Ausmer, Jr., a highly decorated veteran, should be able to file an appeal of his disability claim even though he had missed the 120-day deadline to do so.
The case was argued in October 2013 at Harvard Law School before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims as part of the Veterans Clinic of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. A three-judge panel traveled from Washington, D.C., to Ames Courtroom to hear oral arguments in the case as part of its annual educational and outreach campaign.
HLS students Christopher Melendez ‘15, Bradley Hinshelwood ‘14 and Juan Arguello ‘15 represented Ausmer, who was recalled to active duty in 2011 after he had filed a claim for disability compensation. The Veterans Board of Appeals decision was delivered to Ausmer’s home while he was stationed in Afghanistan. At issue in the case is whether he missed the deadline by filing the appeal after he returned home.
The precedent-setting decision paid particular note to the difficulties faced by those who serve multiple deployments. Ausmer was serving in Afghanistan on his second combat deployment in the Middle East when his disability claim was denied. The Court ruled the deadline should have been extended.
The Court’s ruling effectively allows recently discharged veterans whose ability to file an appeal is “materially affected” by their service a full 210 days from the date of discharge to appeal adverse BVA decisions. The decision is being hailed as a huge win for veterans’ rights, as the court’s holding could extend to appeals filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as well. In fiscal year 2013, over 100,000 appeals were filed with the VA.