Federal law has long deprived American veterans of certain fundamental legal rights enjoyed by non-veterans and attributable to veteran sacrifice. Federal case law, for example, denies veterans the right to bring an action in tort against the federal government to vindicate in-service injuries. And the United States Code deprives veterans of their right to robust judicial oversight of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) service-connected benefit decisions. This pair of due process deprivations is compounded by the federal statute that prohibits veterans from exercising the fundamental right to counsel during the initial stage of the VA claims process. This Article examines the federal statutory scheme and pertinent case law that has long denied veterans the right to counsel throughout the VA veteran claims adjudication process, debunks the rationales underlying that law, and concludes by recommending that the federal government extend to veterans the right to counsel throughout the VA’s benefits adjudication proceedings.
Jennifer D. Oliva,
SMU L. Rev. F.