Sullivan v. McDonald, No. 15-7076 (Fed. Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Maurice Sullivan appealed a Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims' judgment which affirmed a decision of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals conclusion that the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) had satisfied its duty to assist Sullivan with a request to reopen his claim. Sullivan filed a claim for service-connected benefits for back and neck injuries. He sought treatment in 1984 for back and neck pain at a VA medical facility in Asheville, North Carolina, but that the doctors found nothing wrong with his back and neck. The VA denied Sullivan’s claim, finding that the medical evidence of record did not establish service-connection for his injuries. Ten years later, Sullivan submitted new evidence and sought to reopen his claim. The Board denied the request to reopen, finding the newly submitted evidence was not material. The Board also determined that the VA had satisfied its duty to assist Sullivan in obtaining identified and available evidence. After review, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Veterans Court relied on the wrong legal standard in affirming the Board’s determination that the duty to assist was satisfied. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.