Veterans Fight for Power to Bring Class-Action Lawsuits Over Benefits

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The group filed a lawsuit this year in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims seeking prompt decisions by the Department of Veterans Affairs for thousands of veterans waiting for benefits, saying the delays are causing financial and medical hardship.

But the veterans’ appeals court, created by Congress in 1988 to hear challenges to initial government decisions on benefit claims, says it isn’t allowed to hear cases that aggregate complaints of many veterans.

The stance is counter to remedies available in most state and federal courts, which allow groups of similarly situated people, such as company employees or consumers of a product, to file a single suit aimed at resolving an alleged injustice. Veterans fighting disability decisions must wait for their cases to be taken up one by one.

Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is considering whether that should change to allow class actions in the veterans’ court.

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