Argument Preview / Panel Activity

We are previewing oral arguments scheduled for this month at the Federal Circuit in two cases that attracted amicus briefs. Today we highlight Doyon v. United States, a case in which Doyon appeals a judgment by the Court of Federal Claims upholding a decision by the Board for the Correction of Naval Records to deny an application to correct discharge records. Three amicus briefs were filed by veterans organizations in support of Doyon. This is our argument preview.

In his opening brief, Doyon argues that the lower court’s decision should be reversed on two bases. First, he claims the Board refused to give his application “liberal consideration.” He asserts that 10 U.S.C. § 1552(h), the Board’s enabling statute, “requires it to give liberal consideration to applications like Doyon’s that seek discharge relief related to service-connected” post traumatic stress disorder. Doyon argues his application falls within the plain meaning of the statute. Additionally, Doyon contends, his application “aligns with the structure, purpose, and legislative history of the statute.” Doyon also cites “mandatory agency guidance” to maintain that a “PTSD diagnosis from the VA must be considered ‘persuasive evidence’ that PTSD existed during military service.”

Second, Doyon asserts that the Board’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence. Doyon argues there is no evidence supporting the Navy’s decision to discharge him “based on a ‘personality disorder’ that developed in his ‘formative years’ before enlisting.” He says his youth was “happy, healthy, and well-adjusted in every sense of the term.” He asserts that, without a personality disorder, the only explanation for his “nervous collapse” during his third deployment is PTSD acquired during the Vietnam War.

In its response brief, the United States argues there was substantial evidence that Doyon was discharged for a personality disorder that did not warrant disability benefits. Additionally, the government asserts, the lower court “did not err in failing to apply the ‘liberal consideration’ standard.” It argues that, during proceedings before the Board, Doyon did not raise the question of whether § 1552(h) obligated the Board to apply the liberal consideration standard and thus cannot raise the argument on appeal. Also, the government contends, the agency guidance and statute were “concerned with countering the negative effects of ‘bad paper’ discharges, i.e., other-than-honorable discharges.”

In his reply brief, Doyon reasserts his argument that § 1552(h) requires “liberal consideration” of applications like Doyon’s. He dismisses the government’s attempts to reference a different statute and maintains the government waived its preservation argument by not raising the issue in the lower court. Finally, he repeats his argument that the Board’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence.

As mentioned, three amicus briefs were filed in this case, all in support of Doyon.

  • In the first amicus brief, the Vietnam Veterans of America argue that the growing recognition of PTSD in the military “supports the conclusion that a veteran whose discharge was due to a misdiagnosed mental condition should be able to correct their military records to seek medical retirement.” The organization also asserts that Doyon’s psychological systems are a manifestation of PTSD from in-service stressors. Finally, it claims that Congress’s intent in drafting Title 38 was to create a pro-veteran system.
  • In the second amicus brief, the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center emphasizes that, historically, PTSD has been misdiagnosed as a personality disorder. It also asserts that the purpose of the “liberal consideration” standard is “to remedy the errors stemming from unfair discharges of service members with PTSD.”
  • In the third amicus brief, Protect Our Defenders asserts that the CFC’s interpretation of the “liberal consideration” policy is wrong. It goes on to say that, “left uncorrected, the Claims Court’s decision will prejudice thousands of military sexual assault survivors.”

This case will be argued Tuesday morning. We will report on any developments.