Mizzou Law Veterans Clinic Files Amicus Brief with United States Supreme Court

Attorneys in the Mizzou Law Veterans Clinic have filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in a crucial case awaiting consideration involving veterans seeking certiorari to challenge a decision made by the Federal Circuit.  

The veterans in the case argue that the Federal Circuit erred in its judgment, contending that the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) must consult the complete agency record in every case to determine the proper application of the benefit-of-the-doubt rule. This rule, rooted in a longstanding history and codified by Congress, is a vital safeguard for veterans seeking benefits. At the center is the interpretation of the benefit-of-the-doubt rule outlined in 38 U.S.C. § 5107(b). 

Brent Filbert, the director of the Mizzou Law Veterans Clinic, is the counsel of record on the amicus brief. Professor Filbert was assisted on the brief by third-year Mizzou Law students Robert Lass, Sara O’Connor and Austin Rucker.  

The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium (NLSVCC) filed the amicus brief, with Professor Filbert as counsel of record, in support of the veterans’ petition for cert. The Mizzou Law Veterans Clinic is a member of NLSVCC and worked with other member schools in drafting this petition for cert. Specifically, members of the Universities of Arkansas, Florida, Iowa and Montana assisted and contributed to this brief. The brief emphasizes the importance of the benefit-of-the-doubt doctrine, coupled with Congress’s explicit directive to the Veterans Court in 38 U.S.C. § 7261(b) to “take due account” of the VA’s application of this doctrine. 

In conjunction with the benefit-of-the-doubt rule, 38 U.S.C. § 7261(b)(2) also mandates that the CAVC “shall… take due account of the rule of prejudicial error.” The NLSVCC asserts that interpreting “take due account” in this context requires a comprehensive review of the entire agency record in each case to determine if a VA error is prejudicial. Applying the principles of statutory construction, the NLSVCC contends that the CAVC should analyze the rule of prejudicial error and the benefit-of-the-doubt rule in a parallel manner. Contrary to the Federal Circuit’s interpretation, due account must be taken of both rules. This perspective underscores the need for a rigorous and consistent approach to safeguarding veterans’ rights and ensuring fair consideration of their claims in a system that is at its heart designed to be pro-claimant and friendly to veterans. 

The Mizzou Law Veterans Clinic represents veterans and their families regarding VA disability claims and discharge upgrades. Since its inception in 2014, the Clinic has secured nearly $15 million in VA disability compensation for its clients. The Clinic also participates in high-level amicus and policy work to the benefit of veterans nationwide.