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Williams v. Wilkie

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 13, 2018

MICHAEL E. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT WILKIE, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMY BERMAN JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Michael E. Williams is a disabled army veteran who, proceeding pro se, brought this lawsuit against President Donald J. Trump; Robert Wilkie, [1] the Secretary of Veterans Affairs; and other individuals allegedly employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA").[2] See Compl. [Dkt. #1]; Am. Compl. [Dkt. # 6] (incorporating the statement of facts in the original complaint). At bottom, plaintiff appears to be dissatisfied with the amount of disability benefits he is receiving from the VA, and the length of time it takes for disputes to be resolved. See Compl.; Am. Compl. at 4. He maintains that he is entitled to an eighty percent disability rating, instead of the ten percent rating he has received, or $150, 000.00. Am. Compl. at 5; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 27] ("Pl.'s Opp.") at 4.[3]

         Pending before the Court is defendant Wilkie's motion to dismiss. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 25] ("Def.'s Mot"); Def.'s Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. # 25] ("Def.'s Mem."). While the Court can certainly understand why plaintiff is frustrated with the status of his case, it will grant the motion to dismiss because it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear plaintiffs claims.

         BACKGROUND

         The record[4] reveals that plaintiff served in the U.S. Army from August 12, 1963, through July 29, 1966. Ex. A to Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. #25-1] ("Ex. A") at 2. In January 2008, the VA awarded plaintiff monthly benefits for a medical condition found to be related to his military service. Id. at 1. The VA rated this injury as ten percent disabling. Id.

         Plaintiff appealed that decision on January 27, 2011, seeking additional benefits. See Ex. A at 2. The VA apparently did not decide the appeal until June 12, 2017. See Id. While the VA found that other injuries plaintiff cited were service-connected, it rated them as zero percent disabling and therefore denied additional compensation. Id. at 1-3, 5. On June 14, 2017, the VA sent plaintiff a letter explaining that he would not receive any additional benefits since "[t]he law says VA can't pay for disabilities that are less than 10% disabling." Id. at 5. But it confirmed that plaintiff would continue to receive compensation at the ten percent disability rating, per the 2008 determination. Id.

         Plaintiff appealed the decision, and on June 24, 2017, the VA sent plaintiff another letter indicating that the appeal had been certified to the Board of Veterans' Appeals. Ex. A at 6. Plaintiffs case remains open. Id. at 6; Def.'s Mem. at 2; see Pl.'s Opp. at 4-5.

         Plaintiff initiated this action on June 19, 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. See Compl. That court observed that plaintiffs complaint lacked "information necessary for the Court's review of [p]laintiff s claims," so it ordered plaintiff to submit an amended complaint using the "General Complaint" form found on the court's website. Order [Dkt. #3]. Although plaintiff filed an amended complaint, it merely incorporated the statement of facts from the original complaint. See Am. Compl. at 4. On June 30, 2017, the Eastern District of Texas transferred the case to this Court based on the location of the defendants and the alleged misconduct. See Order to Transfer [Dkt. # 8].

         While plaintiff filed a lawsuit against six people, the complaint only makes allegations against three of them. The complaint alleges that the Secretary of the VA and the President of the United States have "conspired to cut or eliminate veteran disability payments." Compl.; Am. Compl. at 4. Plaintiff also claims that "Bryan Ross reported [him] as deceased to stop disability payments." Compl.; Am. Compl. at 4.[5] Plaintiff complains of "age discrimination, fraud in filing false documents . . ., conspiracy to deny medical attention, arbitrary and capricious claim, [and] intentional delay to cause [his] death . . . prior to [the] resolution" of his unanswered requests. Compl.; Am. Compl. at 4.

         On February 14, 2018, defendant Wilkie filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Def.'s Mot. Plaintiff responded on March 5, 2018, Pl.'s Opp., but defendant did not file a reply brief.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In evaluating a motion to dismiss under either Rule 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6), the Court must "treat the complaint's factual allegations as true and must grant plaintiff 'the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'" Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal citation omitted), quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979); see also Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011), quoting Thomas v. Principi, 394 F.3d 970, 972 (D.C. Cir. 2005). Nevertheless, the Court need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the Court accept plaintiffs legal conclusions. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002).

         I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. See Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); Shekoyan v. Sibley Int'l Corp., 217 F.Supp.2d 59, 63 (D.D.C. 2002). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and the law presumes that "a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); see also Gen. Motors Corp. v. EPA, 363 F.3d 442, 448 (D.C. Cir. 2004) ("As a court of limited jurisdiction, we begin, and end, with an examination of our jurisdiction."). "[B]ecause subject-matter jurisdiction is 'an Art[icle] III as well as a statutory requirement... no action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal court.'" Akinseye v. District of Columbia, 339 F.3d 970, 971 (D.C. Cir. 2003), quoting Ins. Corp. of lr., Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982).

         When considering a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, unlike when deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court "is not limited to the allegations of the complaint." Hohri, 782 F.2d at 241. Rather, "a court may consider such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to resolve the question [of] whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case." Scolaro, 104 F.Supp.2d at 22, citing Herbert, ...


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