(Pictured: M-VETS Student Advisors Amanda Nhek and James Caruso)
The Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (M-VETS) appealed an incorrect Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) disability rating decision. They secured an increase in the overall DVA disability rating, as well as a disability payment of almost $13,000, for a U.S. Navy Veteran. M-VETS filed the appeal on behalf of the Veteran beginning in 2016 and argued before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) at a personal appearance hearing on 15 March 2023.
The Veteran served honorably in the active Navy from 1999 to 2013, nearly fourteen years with several deployments. The DVA initially denied the Veteran a compensable disability rating for migraines for lack of evidence of their severity. M-VETS argued that the Veteran’s migraine attacks were clearly prostrating and successfully persuaded the BVA to assign the condition a 30% rating, backdated to the original claim date in 2015. As a result, the Veteran’s overall disability rating increased to 90%, and the Veteran was awarded almost $13,000.00 in additional disability payments.
“I have been working with Tim MacArthur and the Antonin Scalia Law School students to rectify my disability through two board hearings and appeals. The dedication and thorough work finally prevailed, and I was awarded the claim for my migraines. The students who helped me have taken my case seriously and listened. They diligently reviewed my record and other cases like mine to help me get the rating I deserved. I am unsure if I would have gotten the rating independently and am truly thankful for their help,” stated the Veteran.
Due to the lengthy process involved with litigating this issue, many M-VETS Student-Advisors (SAs) worked diligently on this matter while in the clinic. When the case was scheduled for hearing, M-VETS SAs Amanda Nhek and James Caruso argued the motion before the BVA.
“Amanda and James did a great job arguing the motion and presenting evidence during the hearing,” M-VETS Director Timothy M. MacArthur commented. “Amanda and James each conducted a direct examination of our client, with James presenting the opening statement and Amanda providing the closing argument. Their performance greatly assisted the Judge in determining the favorable outcome for our client,” MacArthur continued. “The DVA benefits process is paternalistic, which is invaluable for allowing our students to gain practical experience in a non-adversarial setting.”
The Student Advisors expressed much gratitude for the opportunity to argue on behalf of the Veteran and are ecstatic to have played a part in achieving favorable outcomes for the Veteran. Amanda Nhek stated: “It was an honor and privilege to represent our client during the BVA hearing. Being able to advocate and present evidence on behalf of our client during the hearing was an invaluable experience. I am beyond grateful to have worked alongside my fellow M-VETS colleagues and thrilled that our client received a favorable outcome.” “Working on this case was a unique and demanding opportunity,” said Student Advisor James Caruso; “I feel honored to have played a part in this Veteran’s hard-earned win!”
“This was a long process, and I am pleased with the outcome. I want to thank all of our Student Advisors who worked on this matter as they did a wonderful job, and I want to thank our client for working with us for the last seven years,” MacArthur stated.
M-VETS assists veterans, Servicemembers, and their dependents in a variety of civil matters, including uncontested divorces, landlord/tenant matters, consumer protection, and contract disputes, as well as in military/VA administrative matters, including MEB/PEBs, Discharge Upgrades, Boards for Correction of Military Records, and VA disability compensation appeals. M-VETS provides free legal representation while allowing law students to receive supervised, practical legal experience by advocating for those who serve or have served in our Armed Forces.