Court allows class-action lawsuit against VA

For the first time, a federal court will allow a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs which legal experts say will open the door for a range of similar cases.

According to an article published by the, “The decision, which could affect thousands of veterans, came late last week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Last August, the same court for the first time ruled that class-action lawsuits would be allowed against VA in “appropriate cases,” but no such claims met court standards until now. This case — Godsey v. Wilkie — sought relief for veterans facing lengthy waits for the department to certify their disability benefits appeals claims. The case was originally filed in 2017 on behalf of four veterans facing lengthy delays, but lawyers argued it should be broadened to include an entire class of individuals waiting for their benefits.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs stated last year that more than 2,500 veterans had been waiting for certification for over two years. The court amended the class to include only veterans facing an excess wait time of more than 1.5 years for the advancement of their appeals.

Bart Stichman, the executive director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program said, “(The court’s) order certifying a class action for the first time in its 30-year history is a landmark moment, and will help ensure that our veterans and their families have more access to the justice they deserve…It has been a long time coming.”

Advocates have asked the courts to overturn a long-term ban on class-action lawsuits against the VA for years. This type of lawsuit allows plaintiffs to show illegal or harmful activity against a larger group.

This recent ruling requires the VA to perform a precertification review of all cases for all class members within 120 days for their initial filing. In addition, it also requires that the department provides a status update on that work back to the court before the end of the summer.

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Relevant pages: Veterans Disability