VICTORY FOR VETERANS As Court Brings Back Judges

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Pending veterans’ appeals backlog will be reduced

Chief Judge William Greene, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, has called up two retired federal judges to help the court deal with an unprecedented number of pending appeals. The decision has earned the praise of the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“I’m hopeful this will help cut down on the record number of cases before the court and help the court keep up with the record level of incoming cases,” said Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho). “I commend Judge Greene for his leadership in making this call. His decision is a victory for veterans who would otherwise wait too long for a decision to be reached. Veterans shouldn’t have to wait and wait and wait to receive a final determination.”

Just two years ago there were about 2,700 cases pending and the court was taking in less than 200 new cases per month. But the court is now taking in over 300 new cases per month and the number of pending cases has grown to over 5,800. The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is in the judicial branch of government and reviews decisions rendered by VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals, which is in the executive branch of the federal government. Most of the court’s decisions deal with disability compensation…

     

“At a hearing this July, I cautioned that if trends continue without action, such as bringing in more judges, the number of pending cases could reach 10,000 in the next five years. Hopefully, by bringing in the retired judges, they can cut the backlog down and give all veterans a timely decision. That’s what veterans deserve,” Craig said.

Other federal courts regularly recall judges, including the U.S. Tax Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, but this is the first time the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has taken such action since it was created in 1988.

In July of this year the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs conducted a hearing on the backlog issue, and Craig and other senators pushed the court to recall its retired judges. Under current federal guidelines, the retired judges receive the same pay as active judges currently $165,200 a year and can be called back to work if needed.

The judges being called in are John J. Farley, III, and Donald Ivers. They will serve a minimum of 90 days reviewing cases and rendering decisions. In addition to the two judges who have been called back into action, there are presently seven full time judges on the court.

“At the end of the 90 days, if the number of pending cases hasn’t been reduced significantly, I hope the Chief Judge will recall other retired judges to help keep the backlog down to size,” Craig said.


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