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October 12, 2016
Covington, in partnership with the National Veterans Legal Services Program, is very active in representing veterans before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).
The firm recently secured a significant win for our pro-bono client, a retired Army National Guard Sergeant. During a 1997 training exercise, lightning struck a few feet away from our client, throwing him violently to the ground. The Veteran’s Administration granted him some benefits, but denied his lower-back and PTSD claims.
Covington appealed on the veteran’s behalf. A single judge ruled against our client on the critical issue of his entitlement to the statutory presumption of aggravation. Covington twice moved for reconsideration, but each time the judge issued a new opinion compounding the error.
The third motion—this time for rehearing before a three-judge panel—was the charm. Although the CAVC hears fewer than 30 oral arguments each year, it granted rehearing, ordered more briefing, and heard oral argument. Then, in a rare precedential decision, it unanimously ruled in our client’s favor on every issue, in an opinion authored by the very same judge who had written the prior adverse opinions.
Associate Kevin King briefed and argued the case, partner Ben Block supervised, and partner Mark Mosier and former associate Catherine Curlet handled the moot. Members of Covington’s Veterans Affinity Group provided counsel on briefing and argument.