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Veteran wins seven-year case where VA claimed $13,000 debt

After a 7½ year battle, the Board of Veterans Appeals ruled in favor of veteran, Mr. Gregory Goskey. The August 2021 decision held the Seattle, Washington, Regional Office (RO), and a previous Board decision from January 2019, were wrong to find Mr. Goskey owed the VA more than $13,000.

In February 2014, the VA sent Mr. Goskey a letter requesting he update the status of his dependents. On March 24, 2014, he returned the form noting a mistake. VA had his ex-wife on record. The updated form showed the veteran divorced K.G. in February 2005 and married V.G. in March 2005. The RO found he should’ve made that update in 2005. So he owed the VA $13,189.88. Thus, even though he had been lawfully married to V.G. for over nine years, the VA claimed a $13,000 overpayment to the veteran because they had the wrong dependent’s name on record.

In his first appeal to the Board, Mr. Goskey explained that during the month of May 2005, he sent marriage and divorce documents to the VA at Tacoma, Washington, for the purpose of updating his dependent. He did not send the documents via certified mail and in hindsight realized he should have because Tacoma VA claims the documents were never received, leaving him with no proof he sent the documents but his word. In January 2019, the Board affirmed the ROs action, finding the preponderance of evidence showed Mr. Goskey first informed VA of his new marital status in the March 24, 2014, correspondence.

Grubaugh Law entered the case at this point, representing the veteran in his appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). Pursuant to Rule 33, we filed a memorandum with CAVC and the Secretary of the VA, arguing the Board did not follow precedent. In a situation such as Mr. Goskey’s, the Board must explicitly engage in a credibility determination before finding the balance of evidence supports the VA position.

The Secretary, through counsel, agreed with our filing and joined us in a motion to remand the case back to the Board of Veterans Appeals, which the CAVC granted. On remand, we wrote another brief arguing why the Board should believe Mr. Goskey, and assisted him in presenting testimony. After the hearing, the Board found in his favor, saying the balance of evidence suggests he did attempt to file an updated record of dependents in March 2005.

So just an incredible result for the veteran. We at Grubaugh Law were happy we could help.

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