MELVIN A. CREDIFORD, Claimant-Appellant
DAVID J. SHULKIN, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, Respondent-Appellee
from the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
in No. 14-2018, Chief Judge Robert N. Davis.
Kenneth M. Carpenter, Law Offices of Carpenter Chartered,
Topeka, KS, for claimant-appellant.
William James Grimaldi, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil
Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington,
DC, for respondent-appellee. Also represented by Benjamin C.
Mizer, Robert E. Kirschman, Jr., Allison Kidd-Miller; Brian
D. Griffin, Bryan Thompson, Office of General Counsel, United
States Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC.
Newman, O'Malley, and Wallach, Circuit Judges.
NEWMAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Melvin A. Crediford appeals the decision of the Court of
Appeals for Veterans Claims ("Veterans Court"),
upholding the Board of Veterans' Appeals
("Board") denial of service connection for his
cervical spine condition. Two issues are presented: first, the
scope of Federal Circuit appellate jurisdiction as to the
disputed issues of law and fact; and second, whether the
Veterans Court applied the correct legal standards in
reviewing the factual findings affecting Mr. Crediford. We
vacate the Veterans Court's judgment and remand for
Crediford served with the United States Coast Guard from
August 1983 to August 1985, and again from January 1990 to
March 1991. On January 20, 1985, Mr. Crediford worked from
6:30AM to 6:30PM in the galley at the Grays Harbor Station of
the Westport, Washington, Coast Guard base. He then visited
the Veterans of Foreign Wars Club in Westport, where he drank
alcoholic beverages. After leaving the Club he was in an
automobile accident, when his car did not negotiate a sharp
turn, and rolled over. No other person or vehicle was
Crediford was first taken to a hospital. He was then taken to
a police station, where a breath test registered a blood
alcohol level of 0.12 percent, three and a half hours after
he last drank alcohol. Vet. Ct. Op. at *1. The police entered
a charge of driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Crediford reported the accident to the Coast Guard, and the
local commanding officer at the Grays Harbor Station issued a
Report dated April 19, 1985. The Report stated that fatigue
and alcohol were responsible for the accident, and concluded
that Mr. Crediford's "injuries were not a result of
his own misconduct and were incurred in the line of
duty." J.A. 75-80 (Report of Chief Warrant Officer 3
Bruce J. Spano, Investigation of Injuries Sustained by SA
Melvin A. Crediford USCG, in Westport, WA on 20 Jan 85 (Apr.
19, 1985)). The Report included findings and conclusions,
stating that SA Crediford did not commit willful misconduct
and the injury was incurred in the line of duty. The Report
1. That no disciplinary action be taken against SA Crediford.
2. That all members of Station Grays Harbor undergo the Coast
Guard's Driver Perception Course as soon as possible.
3. That the Coast Guard's policy on seatbelts and
drinking and driving again be disseminated to the Station
Grays Harbor crew and that it be incorporated into the
quarterly training schedule.
April 19, 1985 Report, including the "findings of fact,
opinions, and recommendations of the investigating officer,
" was approved in an "ACTION OF THE CONVENING
AUTHORITY" on May 7, 1985. The Convening Authority
stated in the Action, "I have reviewed the general
circumstances surrounding this incident with the crew of
Station Grays Harbor. All personnel were made aware of the
potential for serious injury or death as a result of driving
while fatigued and/or intoxicated." J.A. 81. The
Convening Authority further stated that "reviewed in
detail were the serious consequences for service members
involved in findings of misconduct and not in the line of
duty, " that "the entire crew [of Station Grays
Harbor] has completed the Coast Guard Driver Perception