SCOTUS Rules on Burn Pit Veteran’s Case

| July 4, 2022

Good news for Army Reserve Capt. Le Roy Torres, and all under the protections of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). In Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety, SCOTUS held 5-4 that Congress’s war powers allow it to subject non-consenting states to money damages lawsuits under the USERRA.

While deployed in Iraq, Le Roy Torres was exposed to toxic burn pits which caused him to have health problems and no longer be able to work in his old job as a state trooper. He asked his former employer, Texas Department of Public Safety, to employ him in a different role. This request was refused.

Supreme Court Sides with Army Reservist Who Lost State Job over Burn Pit-Related Illness | By Patricia Kime

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Wednesday in favor of a former Texas trooper and Army Reserve captain who lost his job over a military-related illness and sued the state for violating the law that protects the jobs of part-time service members.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, said that states do not have immunity from private lawsuits by veterans under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA.

As part of the case, Texas had argued that states, just like the federal government, are protected by “sovereign immunity” and can’t be privately sued without their consent.

But Breyer said that allowing states to have such immunity would permit them “to thwart national military readiness.”

“Upon entering the Union, the States implicitly agreed that their sovereignty would yield to federal policy to build and keep a national military,” Breyer wrote. “States thus gave up their immunity from congressionally authorized suits pursuant to the ‘plan of the Convention,’ as part of ‘the structure of the original Constitution itself.'”

Interesting breakdown among the judges, but the right decision was made.

Category: SCOTUS, The Constitution, Veteran Health Care

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Score one for the Good Guys. Now if we can just get DoD and the VA to take full responsibility for their part in the whole Burn Pit Fiasco. I won’t hold my breath.


Government never wants to abide by the same laws it imposes on the private sector.

Like Nancy P and insider trading.


Now how about a nationwide injunction on the military before they boot 65,000+ over the untested experimental gene altering death clot shot.


While this is good news for the individual, this SCOTUS ruling essentially ends state’s rights.

Mark my words, we will regret this ruling in years to come.


Spot on, SarMaj, you’re right. And then, again, that whole “States Rights” thing got settled about 1865. “…aggressive abroad and despotic at home.”

Old tanker

I understand what you are saying, however allowing states to pick and choose what laws they will obey has even more negative consequences. In this case the SCOTUS told the state to hold to the federal law and protect it’s citizen, you know the job that governments were formed to do, instead of refusing to serve said citizen.