In April 2015, Conley Monk, Jr., a Vietnam veteran and former Marine, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) on behalf of himself and thousands of similarly situated veterans, seeking to compel the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs promptly to decide initial disability compensation appeals that have been pending more than one year, when the case involves a veteran facing medical or financial hardship. Delays are endemic in the VA system, but according to VA’s statistics, the greatest delays of all involve initial administrative appeals, which can take years for VA to adjudicate. For hundreds of thousands of elderly veterans, or veterans struggling with serious medical or financial problems such as Mr. Monk, the years spent waiting for the VA to process their initial appeals impose enormous hardship.

In May 2015, the CAVC dismissed Mr. Monk’s petition, holding that it lacked the authority to consider class actions or similar types of aggregate resolution. Mr. Monk appealed, and on April 26, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the CAVC does have the authority to certify a class action or to maintain similar aggregate resolution procedures. The Federal Circuit remanded to the CAVC with instructions to determine whether a class action or other aggregated proceeding is appropriate here.  

View the mandamus petition here.
View the CAVC's decision here.
View the appeal to the Federal Circuit here.
View the amicus brief on behalf of veterans service organizations here.
View the amicus brief on behalf of former VA officials here.
View the amicus brief on behalf of administrative and complex litigation law professors here.
View the Federal Circuit’s decision reversing the CAVC here.

 

The Veterans Legal Services Clinic announces the Monk v. McDonald lawsuit on April 6, 2015. From left to right: Law Student Intern Julia Shu, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Law Student Intern William Hudson, and Plaintiff Conley Monk, Jr. (Peter Hvizdak - New Haven Register)

Media Coverage

Dave Philipps, Vietnam Veteran Files Class-Action Lawsuit Over Delayed Appeals on Disability Benefits, New York Times, April 6, 2015

Leo Shane, Lawsuit Would Force Quick Decisions on Vets’ Appeals, Military Times, April 6, 2015

Mary E. O’Leary, Federal Lawsuit Seeks to Speed Veterans’ Disability Compensation Appeals, Register Citizen, April 6, 2015

Lucy Nalpathanchil, Connecticut Veteran Sues VA Over Lengthy Appeals Process, WNPR, April 6, 2015