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Gila River Indian Community v. United States Department of Veterans Affairs

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 15, 2018

Gila River Indian Community, a federally recognized Indian tribe; Gila River Health Care Corporation, a wholly owned and subordinate entity of the Gila River Indian Community, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs; Robert A. Mcdonald, Former Secretary, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted April 11, 2018 San Francisco, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona D.C. No. 2:16-cv-00772-ROS Roslyn O. Silver, Senior District Judge, Presiding

          Thomas L. Murphy (argued) and Linus Everling, Gila River Indian Community, Sacaton, Arizona; Robert R. Yoder, Yoder & Langford P.C., Scottsdale, Arizona; for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

          Laura Myron (argued) and Charles W. Scarborough, Appellate Staff; Elizabeth A. Strange, Acting United States Attorney; Chad A. Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General; Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.; for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Andrew J. Kleinfeld, William A. Fletcher, and Raymond C. Fisher, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY [*]

         Subject Matter Jurisdiction / Veterans / Tribal Matters

         The panel affirmed the district court's Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction of Gila River Indian Community and Gila River Health Care Corporation's lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs for failing to reimburse the Community for the care it provides to veterans at tribal facilities.

         The panel held that § 511(a) of the Veterans' Judicial Review Act, 38 U.S.C. § 511(a), barred the Community's lawsuit. The Community sought review of the VA's determination that two provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - 25 U.S.C. §§ 1623(b) and 1645(c) - did not require the VA to reimburse the Community absent a sharing agreement. The panel held that this determination fell under the jurisdictional bar of § 511(a) because it was plainly a question of law that affected the provision of benefits by the Secretary of the VA to veterans, and the relief requested could clearly affect the provision of benefits.

         The panel held that the presumption in Montana v. Blackfeet Tribe of Indians, 471 U.S. 759, 766 (1985) (holding that statutes are to be construed liberally in favor of the Indians), did not apply to § 511(a) because the Blackfeet Tribe presumption only applied to federal statutes that were passed for the benefit of Indian tribes. The panel also held the Community's argument that the district court had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1362 was waived because the Community did not make this argument in the district court.

          OPINION

          W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge

         The Gila River Indian Community and Gila River Health Care Corporation (collectively, "the Community") sued the Department of Veterans Affairs ("the VA") for failing to reimburse the Community for the care it provides to veterans at tribal facilities. The Community argues that two provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act require the VA to reimburse it even absent an agreement defining the terms of reimbursement. The district court dismissed the Community's lawsuit after determining that the Veterans' Judicial Review Act, 38 U.S.C. § 511(a), deprived it of jurisdiction over the Community's claims. We have appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We affirm.

         I. Background

         The Gila River Indian Community is a federally recognized American Indian tribe that occupies the Gila River ...


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