McKinney v. Wormuth, No. 20-5189 (D.C. Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Sergeant First Class McKinney served honorably in the Army for more than 20 years before retiring in 2007. Months later, he suffered a stroke at age 46. A VA doctor opined that of McKinney’s reported exposures during service, only an October 2005 blast from a roadside bomb in Iraq was consistent with causing a TBI. The VA affirmed that McKinney had a total disability that was service-connected and permanent, which entitled him to lifetime benefits. Several years after his retirement, he applied to the Army for a Purple Heart on the ground that he suffered a TBI in the 2005 explosion. McKinney was not hit with debris during the blast and did not receive medical treatment afterward. The Army denied him a Purple Heart because it found the evidence insufficient to establish that this particular attack caused McKinney to suffer injuries that would qualify for the award.
The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial while acknowledging McKinney’s years of service and the injuries he sustained during that service. With respect to the award of a Purple Heart, however, the Army’s decision is reviewed under a deferential standard. The Army did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when it denied McKinney the Purple Heart.