Victory for Veterans: Federal Circuit Upholds Right to Appeal Family Caregiver Program Decisions

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has unanimously upheld a lower court decision granting veterans and their family caregivers the right to appeal decisions related to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Caregiver Program. This decision ensures that over 400,000 veterans and their caregivers maintain access to a fair appeals process for a program plagued by erroneous and inconsistent decisions that have caused financial, medical, and mental strain.

Congress established the Caregiver Program in 2010 to offer benefits to caregivers of seriously injured combat veterans. However, since its inception, the program has faced significant challenges, including inconsistent rules and standards applied across the country. Adding to these issues, there was no avenue for appealing the denial, reduction, or termination of caregiver benefits, apart from the Veterans’ Health Administration administrative appeals process. No independent judicial review was available, leaving many without a fair recourse.

In July 2020, a veteran and his caregiver, represented by Public Counsel, Paul Hastings LLP, and the National Veterans Legal Services Program, filed a class action lawsuit through a petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. In 2021, the court ruled that Family Caregiver decisions are appealable and ordered the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to provide notice to over 400,000 veterans and caregivers that they now had the right to appeal their decisions to the Board.

By February 2024, almost 14,000 veterans and their caregivers had either appealed a Caregiver program decision or submitted a supplemental claim or request for higher-level review. This recent decision by the Federal Circuit ensures that these appellate rights are upheld.
Read more about the Beaudette v. McDonough lawsuit on our website here.

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