On February 18, 2011, Ranking Democratic Member Bob Filner (D-CA) introduced the Fair Access to Veterans Benefits Act of 2011, H.R. 810. This groundbreaking legislation would require the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) to hear appeals of the Board of Veterans' Appeals' (BVA) decisions denying veterans disability compensation benefits, when circumstances beyond their control cause them to be unable to meet the 120-day statutory deadline for filing an appeal. The BVA is a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). On March 1, 2011, the Supreme Court, in Henderson v. Shinseki, decided similarly, finding that veterans who miss the 120-day deadline are not automatically disqualified from filing an appeal with the CAVC. Despite being notoriously complex, under the current VA disability system many veterans remain without legal representation even during an appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA).
Ranking Democratic Member Filner, commenting on the Supreme Court's decision remarked, "Congress created this Article I court so that VA would not be the final arbiter of both veterans' claims and appeals-- so that veterans would get a fairer bite at the appeals apple. Today's Supreme Court decision will go a long way in helping to restore the equity Congress envisioned by removing an unnecessary bureaucratic roadblock and allowing equitable tolling relief where warranted for our nation's disabled veterans. I am pleased that this case was decided the right way--in a manner that upholds equitable treatment of our nation's veterans. This is a great win for our veterans and their families."