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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Consider Impact of Blown Deadline by Schizophrenic Veteran

Posted Dec 6, 2010 6:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Korean War veteran with paranoid schizophrenia died less than two months before oral arguments in his case before the U.S. Supreme Court, but today the justices will consider the legal issues anyway.

The court will consider whether a blown deadline bars the disability benefits appeal by veteran David Henderson, who died Oct. 24 at the age of 81. Henderson’s wife, Doretha, is being allowed to pursue the case since she may be entitled to accrued benefits, according to the blog Washington Briefs. USA Today has a preview of the case, Henderson v. Shineski.

Lawyers for the Department of Veterans Affairs say federal law sets a 120-day deadline for appeals of denied disability claims, and courts don’t have the authority to extend the time limit, according to the USA Today story. The government lawyers cite the 2007 Supreme Court ruling Bowles v. Russell, in which the Supreme Court barred an appeal by a convicted murderer who filed late—but met an erroneous deadline set by a federal judge.

Henderson had claimed he was didn’t file on time because of his mental health disability for which he was seeking in-home care, the story says. His lawyer, Lisa Blatt of Arnold & Porter, argues that the veterans’ disability scheme “is decisively pro-veteran” and the 2007 decision should not control.

Justice Elena Kagan is not participating in the case, raising the possibility of a 4-4 decision that will leave in place a decision against Henderson by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

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