Cavaciuti v. McDonough, No. 22-1531 (Fed. Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Cavaciuti served in the Army, 1965-1967. In 2020, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals granted him entitlement to a total disability rating due to individual unemployability (TDIU) and directed the VA to assign him an effective date. The VA nonetheless denied Cavaciuti’s claim, finding that he was capable of gainful employment. Cavaciuti sought a writ of mandamus. After negotiations, the VA informed the Veterans Court that it had granted Cavaciuti entitlement to TDIU with a 2008 effective date. Cavaciuti argued that the case was not moot because the RO had not invalidated its erroneous rating decision and that the VA misused confidential settlement information to render the case moot.
The court dismissed Cavaciuti’s petition as moot because the VA had provided him with the relief that he sought. Cavaciuti sought attorney fees and expenses under the Equal Access to Justice Act. The Veterans Court denied the application, finding that Cavaciuti did not satisfy the criterion for prevailing party status because the dismissal order did not award benefits, change the parties’ legal relationship, or otherwise address the merits of Cavaciuti’s writ petition. The Federal Circuit affirmed. There was no judicial change in the parties' legal relationship. The VA implemented the Board’s decision, as Cavaciuti requested, following a settlement rather than based on any court order. The fact that the government’s representations would prevent future changes does not render the dismissal a judicial imprimatur sufficient to make Cavaciuti the prevailing party.