On March 16, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims held a session at Cornell Law School. Judges Michael P. Allen and Grant C. Jaquith presided over oral argument in the consolidated case of Wiker v. McDonough (No. 21-5454) in the Law School’s MacDonald Moot Court Room.
The oral argument session was cosponsored by the Office of Career Development and Cornell Law Veterans Association, which also hosted a fireside chat with the judges earlier in the day. That discussion was moderated by Professor Maggie Gardner and graduate researcher Konner Robison and co-sponsored by the Henry Korn Lecture Series.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims periodically holds oral arguments at law schools around the country in an effort to engage local bar associations, community groups, medical and military communities, and veterans service organizations in the region. The oral arguments held at Cornell were also broadcasted live on the Court’s own YouTube channel, in an effort to provide a new level of transparency in how the court operates.
“I want to thank Cornell Law School for the tremendous welcome that we’ve had and the great discussions I’ve had with so many of the veteran students and veteran-supporter students here,” said Judge Allen at the beginning of proceedings.
VA pays monthly compensation to veterans who have a current disability resulting from their military service. In many cases, VA can take years to decide a case but will calculate a lump-sum payment based on the original date of claim. The Wiker case centers on a veteran who claims that VA failed to provide him proper notice of his rights and timeline for appeal when it denied his service-connection claim for cataracts in 1965, effectively leaving the case pending for almost six decades.
“Until Congress established the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in 1988, veterans had no court of law where they might appeal government agencies’ decisions on benefits,” said Jens Ohlin, Allan R. Tessler Dean and professor of law, in his remarks at the hearing. “The establishment of this court, under Article I of the Constitution, created a forum for justice where none existed. We are proud to host this court here today.”
He also noted, “Holding oral arguments enriches the intellectual life of the law school and connects us to real cases that impact our community. Our students benefit greatly by observing advocacy and judicial questioning in cases with real stakes and a real impact.”