3L Nikki Lazzara & Jillian Berner (’14) Argue before U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

Oral Argument Screencap

On December 6, 2021, 3L Nikki Lazzara and Jillian E. Berner (JD 2014), Senior Staff Attorney at the Veterans Legal Clinic, argued on behalf the appellant in Hayes v. McDonough before Judges Greenberg, Toth, and Laurer of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The court hears roughly 40 of the 7,000 cases filed each year.

Hayes v. McDonough involved a low-income widow of a veteran who was overpaid by the VA in the amount of $36,000 creating a debt to the federal government. When the widow requested the VA waive the debt, the VA refused stating she had misrepresented her income and committed bad faith. Through several agency appeals and at the court, the VA has defined “misrepresentation” in several different ways. The question before the court was which definition the VA should use to determine misrepresentation and if the VA is entitled to any deference for their definitions. 

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