SCOTUS Makes Major Ruling On Disabled veterans

OPINION:  This article contains commentary which may reflect the author’s opinion

A case in the Supreme Court regarding the timeline for injured military personnel has now been decided.

“The case — Arellano v. McDonough — had been closely watched by veterans groups because of its potential to award tens of thousands of dollars to some veterans who failed to submit paperwork for military injuries within a year of separation from the service. The case, which has been debated in the federal court system for years, centered on Navy veteran Adolfo Arellano, who was seriously injured in an accident aboard an aircraft carrier in 1980. He was medically retired a year later,” Air Force Times reported.

“Arellano suffered from bipolar schizoaffective disorder as a result, and spent years either living on the street or under the care of family members. When his father died in 2011, he applied for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs and was granted a monthly support stipend because of his service-connected injuries. However, because Arellano had not applied for benefits within a year of leaving the service he was not eligible to receive retroactive benefits dating back to the end of his time in the military. Current law states that veterans must file paperwork in that one-year window to backdate payouts to that military separation date,” the outlet added. “Those 30 years of back pay would have totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars for him. In October 2022, lawyers for Arellano argued that the one-year deadline was unfair, given that Arellano’s injuries made it impossible for him to apply for benefits on his own.

Not agreeing to the issue of fairness in the timeline, The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday to reject arguments by a disabled veteran that he and others who missed filing deadlines for disability benefits should be able to receive retroactive payouts if they had legitimate reasons for filing late. The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously rejected that assertion. Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the court’s decision wrote that federal rules are clear on the one-year time frame,” the outlet continued. “The statute sets out detailed instructions that explain when various types of benefits qualify for an effective date earlier than the default. Congress did not throw the door wide open in these circumstances or any other,” Barrett wrote.

The SCOTUS ruling defining the time frame will certainly ignite discussion of those who served in the military but are not able to care for themselves in regard to following up on bureaucratic matters.

The Supreme Court made headlines last week after it released its report on who might have leaked the draft opinion, which overturned the Court’s controversial precedent in Roe v. Wade on a “constitutional right” to abortion and returned the issue to the state

The investigation concluded without identifying the source of the leak to Politico last year:

The investigation by the marshal of the Supreme Court included a forensic investigation of laptops and phones but found “no relevant information from these devices.” The marshal’s office determined that 82 employees had access to the opinion and interviewed 97 employees, all of whom denied leaking the opinion.

In addition, the marshal investigated connections between employees and contacts in the media, with a particular focus on Politico. They also followed up on social media claims of who might have leaked the decision, but “investigators found nothing to substantiate any of the social media allegations.”
“Some individuals admitted to investigators that they told their spouse or partner about the draft Dobbs opinion and the vote count, in violation of the Court’s confidentiality rules,” the investigation reads.

The admission that spouses were told widens the scope of the investigation to others not working in the SCOTUS and changes both the tone of the investigation and possibly the protocols involved for the judges in regard to secrecy due to the unprecedented leak.

The report states that the court conducted interviews with nearly 100 employees, but does not discuss any interviews of the justices themselves, Conservative Brief reports. Several have pointed out that it seems odd that none of the justices appear to have been interviewed in the investigation:

It is no exaggeration to say that the integrity of judicial proceedings depends on the inviolability of internal deliberations.

For these reasons and others, the Court immediately and unanimously agreed that the extraordinary betrayal of trust that took place last May warranted a thorough investigation. The Chief Justice assigned the task to the Marshal of the Supreme Court and her staff. After months of diligent analysis of forensic evidence and interviews of almost 100 employees, the Marshal’s team determined that no further investigation was warranted with respect to many of the “82 employees [who] had access to electronic or hard copies of the draft opinion.” Marshal’s Report of Findings & Recommendations 11 (Jan. 19, 2023). In following up on all available leads, however, the Marshal’s team performed additional forensic analysis and conducted multiple follow-up interviews of certain employees. But the team has to date been unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence. Id., at 17.

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