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Thousands of Veterans May See Disability Deadline Waived as Supreme Court Takes Up Case

Published by Patricia Kime

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted the case of a Navy veteran who believes his Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation should have been paid starting from the date he left the military rather than the day he submitted his paperwork, a decision that could mean some veterans who waited years to file claims would be eligible for substantial back pay.

The veteran, Adolfo Arellano, served from 1977 to 1981, during which he was assigned to an aircraft carrier that experienced a collision that "killed and injured several of his shipmates and nearly swept him overboard," according to court documents.

Arellano developed post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions; 30 years later, he applied for disability benefits, which were approved as service-connected by the VA and backdated to his 2011 filing date.

But Arellano appealed, saying he should have received payments retroactive to his discharge, since his service-connected mental health conditions prevented him from filing a claim sooner -- in particular, filing during the one-year grace period given to transitioning service members that expedites their cases.

Arellano said the statute of limitations should have been waived since he wasn't mentally able to file a claim before the time limit expired -- a legal concept known as "equitable tolling."

When the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims denied Arellano's claim, he appealed....

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