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Delaware Law Veterans Clinic Staff Attorney argues case before U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC

10/8/2019
Sue Saidel

Delaware Law School Veterans Clinic Staff Attorney Susan W. Saidel argued a case in front of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington, DC, in July 2019.  Clinic students, Rachael Boseman and TJ McCarthy assisted in drafting briefs during the summer and fall semesters of 2018, and Yvette Donaldson assisted in preparation for the oral argument and attended the proceeding in Washington.  Students and staff attorneys waded through more than 8,000 pages in the Tedesco file in preparation for the oral argument. 

Following the oral argument, the court issued a precedential decision in the matter, Tedesco v. Wilkie, holding that the Department of Veterans Affairs applied an incorrect standard when determining compensation to a veteran for a knee injury. 

Mr. Tedesco appealed a March 2018 Board of Veterans Appeals decision that denied a disability rating greater than 30% for his left knee disability.  The court examined whether the only factor to consider was limited range of motion, or whether severity of pain should also be considered in determining the amount of disability the United States Marine Corps veteran should receive.

At issue in the case was the meaning of “severe painful motion” and “limitation of motion”, as well as whether someone could have an almost normal range of motion but still suffer constant, extreme pain.

“This case is important,” Saidel said, “because the Court found that the VA was applying the incorrect standard and the VA’s own regulations require multiple factors to be considered when evaluating a veteran for compensation of a knee injury.” 

A 1995 graduate of Widener Law Delaware, attorney Susan Saidel has worked as a staff attorney in the school’s Veterans Law Clinic since 2007.  She was interim director of the Veterans Law Clinic from 2013-2015.  Saidel also teaches Legal Methods to first year law students at Delaware Law School.

The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is a national court of record, established under Article I of the Constitution of the United States.  The Court has exclusive jurisdiction to provide judicial review of final decisions by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, an entity within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Court provides veterans an impartial judicial forum for review of adverse administrative decisions issued by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. The court issues decisions on nearly 5000 cases a year based on the record before the agency and briefs submitted by the parties. Oral argument is generally only held in cases presenting new legal issues.

The Veterans Law Clinic in Wilmington, Delaware, is a Delaware Law pro bono clinical program providing law students an opportunity for the hands-on practice of law.

Clinic faculty, students, staff attorneys, and legal fellows represent low-income and disabled veterans and their families who reside in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas.  The Clinic offers free legal representation to veterans with meritorious claims that have been denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The Clinic also engages in community outreach, providing wills and other estate documents to veterans, sharing best practices with law clinics around the country, and recruiting and training local attorneys to take on pro bono veterans’ cases.

The clinic started as the Veterans Assistance Program in 1997.  It was the first of its kind in the country and it grew into the clinic of today, which has recovered more than $12 million in benefits owed to veterans.  The Clinic has been honored with the Delaware Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award for Community Service.