The Supreme Court issued Monday its first opinion of the current term, ruling unanimously against a Navy veteran who was seeking roughly three decades of retroactive disability benefits.
The case was brought by Adolfo Arellano, who had served from 1977 to 1981 and was honorably discharged.
Mr. Arellano suffered from psychiatric disorders due to trauma he experienced while on an aircraft carrier that collided with a ship, according to court records.
A Department of Veterans Affairs regional office concluded the illness was connected to the accident and granted him benefits effective on the day the VA received his claim.
But Mr. Arellano challenged the finding, arguing the effective day for his benefits should have been the day after his honorable discharge.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the 14-page opinion for a unanimous court that affirmed lower court rulings against Mr. Arellano.
The court reasoned that the VA applied the default rule, which awards benefits on the day the VA receives the request.
There are exceptions to the default rule, however, and Mr. Arellano had hoped the justices would apply one — arguing for equitable tolling, which would extend his ability to receive benefits for a date earlier than when the VA received his application.
The high court rejected his argument.
“It would be inconsistent with this comprehensive scheme for an adjudicator to extend effective dates still further through the doctrine of equitable tolling,” wrote Justice Barrett.
The case is Arellano v. McDonough.