UCI Law, Gibson Dunn Score Appellate Victory for U.S. Marine Corps Veteran


The UCI Law VA Benefits Project and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP successfully persuaded a federal appellate court to vacate and remand a Board of Veterans’ Appeals decision that denied service-connected benefits to a U.S. Marine Corps veteran suffering from combat related post-traumatic stress disorder.

The case marks the third successful appeal by the VA Benefits Project and Gibson Dunn partnership on behalf of veterans that have been denied benefits and compensation relating to military service.

“I am delighted that we achieved another victory for a deserving client through the UCI project,” said Sean S. Twomey, attorney at Gibson Dunn and supervisor of the VA Benefits Project. “The Board’s decision wrongly downplayed and ignored evidence of the severity of our client’s PTSD symptoms.  The Court’s action not only nullifies the Board’s decision, but also specifically mandates that the VA readjudicate the claim giving due consideration to that evidence.”

Briefs in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims identified multiple errors in the Board’s decision, including the Board’s failure to account for substantial evidence of the severity and extent of the former marine’s PTSD symptoms, which entitles him to a higher rating for his condition. After reviewing the briefs, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of General Counsel conceded that the Board had erred in its decision, and the parties filed a joint petition to vacate the Board’s decision.

“The students’ work was particularly commendable in this appeal,” Twomey said. “The team sifted through over a thousand pages in the record to meticulously catalogue all of the key evidence that the Board overlooked, and then organized that material in a succinct and persuasive manner to present to the VA and the Court during the briefing process.  Their dedication in that effort was pivotal to the successful outcome here.”

“This project gives students a unique opportunity to work on an appeal from start to finish,” said Drew Morrill ’17, student leader of the VA Benefits Project during the appeal. “We start with the case record, create a strategy and outline for the appeal, then draft the brief. Sean is very involved throughout the entire process, but students have the opportunity to be creative and decide for ourselves how best to argue the case on appeal.”

In September 2016 the VA Benefits Project successfully appealed a decision that denied service-connected benefits to another U.S. Marine Corps veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of his military service in Iraq in 2006. The partnership achieved the same result in July 2015 when assisting a U.S. Army Veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the Vietnam War.

The VA Benefits Project, established in spring 2015 with support from Gibson Dunn and the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, handles cases for pro se veterans seeking relief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington, D.C.

“The most rewarding aspect of this project is simply being able to help veterans in need,” Morrill said. “While working on these cases you see the sacrifices these veterans have made, and continue to make, for their country. It’s nice to know there are people like Sean who are using their law degrees to show these veterans they have not been forgotten.”

For inquiries about representation or other information regarding the VA Benefits Project, please contact Sean S. Twomey at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, 213-229-7284, or at stwomey@gibsondunn.com

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