The Supreme Court of the United States just ruled against disabled veterans in the case Arellano v. McDonough, in which a disabled veteran was arguing that he and other veterans who missed filing deadlines for what would otherwise be their disability benefits should be able to receive retroactive payouts for those benefits if they had a legitimate reason or reasons for filing late.
The Air Force Times, reporting on the importance of the case to disabled veterans, notes that “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.”
According to the same Air Force Times report, the plaintiff in the case, Adolfo Arellano, was seriously injured in an aircraft carrier accident in 1980 and medically retired the next year. Arellano then suffered from bipolar schizoaffective disorder and spent numerous years after the accident living on the street and with family members.
He then filed for disability benefits in 2011 and was granted a support stipend because of the aircraft carrier accident and injury.
“However,” the Air Force Times reports, “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 back date payouts to that military separation date.”
Amy Coney Barrett wasn’t convinced. She, writing in the opinion, said “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.”
The decision comes on the heels of SCOTUS announcing that it could not find the source of the leak to Politico of the Dobbs decision, The court announced that in a statement, saying:
In May 2022, this Court suffered one of the worst breaches of trust in its history: the leak of a draft opinion.
The leak was no mere misguided attempt at protest. It was a grave assault on the judicial process. To meet our obligations as judges, we accept submissions from parties and amici, we engage advocates at oral argument, and we publish explanations of our final decisions. All of this we do in the open. Along the way, though, it is essential that we deliberate with one another candidly and in confidence. That phase of the judicial process affords us an opportunity to hone initial thoughts, reconsider views, persuade one another, and work collaboratively to strengthen our collective judgment. 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. A public version of the Marshal’s report is attached.
Recently, this Court consulted Michael Chertoff. Mr. Chertoff is a former Secretary of Homeland Security,
Judge of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the U. S. Department of Justice, and U. S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. We invited Mr. Chertoff to assess the Marshal’s investigation. He has advised that the Marshal “undertook a thorough investigation” and, “[a]t this time, I cannot identify any additional useful investigative measures” not already undertaken or underway. Statement from Michael Chertoff 1 (2023). A copy of Mr. Chertoff’s statement is attached.
The Marshal reports that “[i]nvestigators continue to review and process some electronic data that has been collected and a few other inquiries remain pending.” Marshal’s Report 2. “To the extent that additional investigation yields new evidence or leads, the investigators will pursue them.” Ibid. The Marshal and her team will continue to have our full support.
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