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Jenner & Block recently filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in the case David L. Henderson v. Eric K. Shinseki, challenging the Federal Circuit’s decision that the 120-day deadline to file an appeal to the Veterans Court is jurisdictional and not subject to equitable tolling. Filed on behalf of The American Legion in support of the Petitioner, the brief states that the Federal Circuit’s decision will “bar all appeals in all cases brought outside of the 120-day window, no matter what the circumstances.” The brief addresses the impact of the ruling on veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, noting that mental illness such as PTSD will “interfere with [a veteran’s] ability to comply with time limits and deadlines” and that this decision will “predictably and inexorably result in the denial of benefits to our veterans who are most in need.”
The brief says that PTSD is a “debilitating illness that strikes military veterans at alarmingly high rates.” The brief also argues that the veterans affected by PTSD “suffer significant impairment in their functional ability to perform at their jobs and in social settings.” Further, veterans suffering from PTSD experience a “diminished responsiveness to the external world” and “try to avoid situations... that trigger memories of the traumatic event.” As a result, “the same disability for which a veteran seeks federal assistance might also prevent him or her from filing within 120 days of the benefit’s denial.” The brief urges the Court to overturn the Federal Circuit’s “unbending ruling” or else “veterans with the most debilitating service-related disabilities will be at greatest risk of losing judicial review of a denial of federal benefits.”
The Firm’s brief was authored by Partner Paul M. Smith and Associates Michelle A. Groman and Krishanti Vignarajah.