O'Brien v. Wilkie, 013120 FEDFED, 2019-1072

Docket Nº:2019-1072
Opinion Judge:HUGHES, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Party Name:DENNIS M. O'BRIEN, Claimant-Appellant v. ROBERT WILKIE, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, Respondent-Appellee
Attorney:Chris Attig, Attig Steel, PLLC, Little Rock, AR, argued for claimant-appellant. Rebecca Sarah Kruser, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, argued for respondent-appellee. Also represented by Joseph H. Hunt, Claudia Burke, Robert Edward...
Judge Panel:Before Wallach, Clevenger, and Hughes, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:January 31, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
 
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DENNIS M. O'BRIEN, Claimant-Appellant

v.

ROBERT WILKIE, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, Respondent-Appellee

No. 2019-1072

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

January 31, 2020

Appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in No. 16-2651, Judge Coral Wong Pietsch, Judge William S. Greenberg, Judge Amanda L. Meredith.

Chris Attig, Attig Steel, PLLC, Little Rock, AR, argued for claimant-appellant.

Rebecca Sarah Kruser, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, argued for respondent-appellee. Also represented by Joseph H. Hunt, Claudia Burke, Robert Edward Kirschman, Jr.; Christopher O. Adeloye, Brian D. Griffin, Office of General Counsel, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC.

Before Wallach, Clevenger, and Hughes, Circuit Judges.

HUGHES, CIRCUIT JUDGE

This is a veterans' benefits case. Mr. Dennis O'Brien appeals a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims finding him ineligible to receive additional disability compensation as the legal guardian of his grandson, D.B. Because D.B. does not qualify as Mr. O'Brien's dependent under the benefits-granting statute, we affirm.

I

Mr. O'Brien is a Vietnam War veteran whose service-connected disabilities make him eligible to receive compensation both for himself and for certain "dependents." See 38 U.S.C. § 1115 (2012) (providing "additional compensation for dependents"). Section 1115 does not define the term "dependents," but it lists specific monthly allotments for veterans with (A) "a spouse but no child," (B) "a spouse and one or more children," (C) "no spouse but one or more children," and (D) "a parent dependent upon such veteran for support." Id. § 1115(1)(A)-(D). The definitions section of the Veterans' Benefits code (title 38) also does not include a definition of "dependents," but it does define the term "child." See 38 U.S.C. § 101(4)(A). For purposes of title 38 (with some exceptions not relevant here), a "child" is an unmarried person who meets certain age restrictions "and who is a legitimate child, a legally adopted child, a stepchild...

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