Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 1 Filed: 08/12/2022
`United States Court of Appeals
`for the Federal Circuit
`Appeal from the United States Court of Federal Claims
`in No. 1:18-cv-01784-RAH, Judge Richard A. Hertling.
`Decided: August 12, 2022
`Services Clinic, Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organiza-
`tion, Yale Law School, New Haven, CT, argued for plaintiff-
`appellant Robert J. Labonte, Jr. Also represented by
` RICHARD PAUL SCHROEDER, Commercial Litigation
`Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Jus-
`tice, Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellee. Also
`represented by BRIAN M. BOYNTON, MARTIN F. HOCKEY, JR.,
` JULIE VEROFF, Cooley LLP, San Francisco, CA, for


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 2 Filed: 08/12/2022
`amici curiae John Brooker, Eleanor Morales, Brian D.
`Schenk, Eugene R. Fidell, Hugh McClean, Raymond Jewell
`Toney. Also represented by KATHLEEN R. HARTNETT.
` LIAM JAMES MONTGOMERY, Williams & Connolly LLP,
`Washington, DC, for amici curiae National Veterans Legal
`Services Program, Protect Our Defenders. Also repre-
` ______________________
`Before CHEN, SCHALL, and STOLL, Circuit Judges.
`SCHALL, Circuit Judge.
`Appellant, Robert J. LaBonte, Jr., is a veteran who
`served in the United States Army. In 2006, he went absent
`without leave (“AWOL”) for six months. After he voluntar-
`ily returned to his base, he pleaded guilty to a charge of
`desertion in a court-martial proceeding and was separated
`from the Army with a Bad Conduct Discharge.
`In 2015, Mr. LaBonte applied to the Army Board for
`Correction of Military Records (“ABCMR” or “Board”),
`seeking retroactive medical retirement. He alleged that,
`while in the Army, he had had a permanent disability re-
`sulting from post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), trau-
`matic brain injury (“TBI”), depression, and anxiety
`incurred during service. He also alleged that these disabil-
`ities had rendered him unfit for service prior to his absence
`without leave, his court-martial, and his discharge. In
`2018, the Board denied his claim.
`Mr. LaBonte then filed suit in the United States Court
`of Federal Claims challenging the ABCMR decision. On
`December 3, 2019, the court remanded the case to the
`Board for further proceedings. LaBonte v. United States,
`No. 18-1784C (Fed. Cl. Dec. 3, 2019), J.A. 2716. On April
`29, 2020, on remand, the Board again denied Mr. LaBonte’s
`claim for disability retirement. J.A. 2763–65. Subse-
`quently, with the case back before the Court of Federal


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 3 Filed: 08/12/2022
`Claims, Mr. LaBonte challenged the ABCMR’s April 2020
`decision and moved for judgment on the administrative rec-
`ord. The government renewed a previous motion to dismiss
`for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be
`granted and, in addition, cross-moved for judgment on the
`administrative record.
`On October 30, 2020, the Court of Federal Claims
`granted the government’s motion to dismiss. LaBonte v.
`United States, 150 Fed. Cl. 552, 564–65 (2020). The court
`determined that, in order for the ABCMR to grant Mr. La-
`Bonte disability retirement, the Board would have to cor-
`rect Mr. LaBonte’s DD-214 Form (“DD-214”) to show that
`he was separated due to physical disability rather than due
`to a court-martial conviction. Id. at 561–62.1 Concluding
`that a statute, 10 U.S.C. § 1552(f), prohibited the Board
`from correcting Mr. LaBonte’s DD-214 in this manner, the
`court held that the Board was without authority to grant
`Mr. LaBonte the relief he was seeking. Id. at 562–64. Pur-
`suant to RCFC 12(b)(6), it therefore dismissed Mr. La-
`Bonte’s claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief
`could be granted, without reaching the merits of his chal-
`lenge to the Board’s decision. Id. at 564–65.
`Mr. LaBonte now appeals the Court of Federal Claims’
`dismissal of his complaint. For the reasons set forth below,
`we hold that the Court of Federal Claims erred in holding
`that the ABCMR lacked authority to grant the relief
`1 The DD-214 is titled “Certificate of Release or Dis-
`charge from Active Duty.” J.A. 754. A DD-214 provides
`“an accurate and complete summation of active military
`personnel service” and serves as “an authoritative source
`of personnel information for administrative purposes, and
`for making enlistment or reenlistment eligibility determi-
`nations.” Department of Defense Instruction (“DoDI”)
`1336.01 ¶ 4(a) (Aug. 20, 2009); see LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at
`559 n.4.


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`Mr. LaBonte is seeking. The court therefore erred in dis-
`missing his complaint for failure to state a claim upon
`which relief could be granted. Accordingly, we reverse the
`court’s decision and remand the case to the court for con-
`sideration of the merits of Mr. LaBonte’s challenge to the
`April 2020 decision of the Board.
`The pertinent facts are set forth in the decision of the
`Court of Federal Claims.2
`Mr. LaBonte enlisted in the Army in 2002. LaBonte,
`150 Fed. Cl. at 555. In 2004, he was deployed in Iraq. Dur-
`ing that deployment, he sustained injuries when he fell
`from a 30-foot guard tower. After returning from Iraq,
`Mr. LaBonte sought help from his chain of command and
`from the Fort Hood Mental Health Clinic for symptoms of
`mental distress, anxiety, disrupted sleep, and panic at-
`tacks. An intake specialist at the Mental Health Clinic doc-
`umented his symptoms and diagnosed him with an
`adjustment disorder. Id.
`In 2004, shortly after his visit to the Mental Health
`Clinic, Mr. LaBonte learned that he was scheduled to
`In ruling on the government’s motion to dismiss,
`the Court of Federal Claims properly assumed the truth of
`the facts alleged in Mr. LaBonte’s complaint. LaBonte, 150
`Fed. Cl. at 555 n.1; see Call Henry, Inc. v. United States,
`855 F.3d 1348, 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (explaining that, when
`deciding whether a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
`claim should be granted, the court “must accept well-
`pleaded factual allegations as true and must draw all rea-
`sonable inferences in favor of the claimant” (citing
`Bell/Heery v. United States, 739 F.3d 1324, 1330 (Fed. Cir.


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 5 Filed: 08/12/2022
`deploy again to Iraq. Upon learning this, he informed his
`chain of command that he was not mentally prepared to
`return to Iraq, and eventually he went AWOL for six
`months. In 2006, Mr. LaBonte voluntarily returned to Fort
`Hood. Subsequently, he pleaded guilty to a charge of de-
`sertion in a court-martial proceeding and was separated
`from the Army with a Bad Conduct Discharge. Id.
`In 2012, Mr. LaBonte sought treatment from a clinical
`psychologist, who diagnosed him with PTSD stemming
`from his combat service in Iraq. In 2014, Mr. LaBonte was
`evaluated by a psychiatrist who also diagnosed him with
`service-connected PTSD. Id.
`In 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
`(“VA”) concluded that Mr. LaBonte was eligible for VA ben-
`efits for service-connected PTSD, TBI, depression, head-
`aches, back pain, tinnitus, a painful scar, and ulcers. Id.
`And subsequently, in 2016, Mr. LaBonte received a 100%
`service-connected disability rating from the VA. Id. at 556.
`Following his PTSD diagnosis, Mr. LaBonte sought for-
`mal review of his service history and post-discharge bene-
`fits.3 In 2014, the Army Discharge Review Board (“ADRB”)
`upgraded the characterization of Mr. LaBonte’s discharge.
`LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at 556. The ADRB stated:
`[I]n light of the clear evidence of PTSD, a [Bad Con-
`duct Discharge] in retrospect is too harsh. If the
`applicant had a firm diagnosis of PTSD and indica-
`tion of TBI, this would have been mitigating at his
`trial, [which] in turn would have led to a more leni-
`ent sentence.
`In our discussion of the procedural history of the
`case, we cite to relevant portions of the record in addition
`to the decision of the Court of Federal Claims.


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 6 Filed: 08/12/2022
`. . . This recommendation is made after full consid-
`eration of all of the applicant’s faithful and honor-
`able service, as well as the record of misconduct.
`The evidence in this case supports a conclusion
`that the applicant’s characterization of service may
`now be too harsh and as a result inequitable.
`J.A. 1839. The upgrade was reflected on Mr. LaBonte’s
`DD-214, where Block 24, Character of Service, was
`changed from “BAD CONDUCT” to “GENERAL, UNDER
`HONORABLE CONDITIONS.” J.A. 754. Relevant to this
`appeal, the ADRB declined to change the reason for Mr.
`LaBonte’s discharge, which was his 2006 court-martial.
`See J.A. 754, 1833, 1840.
`In 2015, having secured the upgrade of his discharge
`from the ADRB, Mr. LaBonte applied to the ABCMR for
`retroactive medical retirement. LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at
`556.4 Before the Board, Mr. LaBonte alleged that he had a
`permanent disability for PTSD, TBI, depression, and anxi-
`ety incurred during service. He argued to the Board that
`his disability caused him to be unfit for service prior to his
`absence without leave, his court-martial, and his dis-
`charge. Id.5 On October 19, 2017, the ABCMR denied Mr.
`4 A service member who is physically disabled dur-
`ing service is eligible to apply for military disability retire-
`ment under 10 U.S.C. § 1201. See Jones v. United States,
`30 F.4th 1094, 1097 (Fed. Cir. 2022). Where a service mem-
`ber has not been considered or has been rejected for disa-
`bility retirement prior to leaving active service, the service
`member can pursue disability retirement before a correc-
`tion board. Chambers v. United States, 417 F.3d 1218,
`1225 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (citing Friedman v. United States,
`310 F.2d 381, 392, 396 (Ct. Cl. 1962)).
`5 Mr. LaBonte’s application for correction sought re-
`tirement pay from no later than June 30, 2004, the date he
`sought help at the Fort Hood Mental Health Clinic, to


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 7 Filed: 08/12/2022
`LaBonte’s application for medical retirement. The Board
`[B]ased on the available post-service medical evi-
`dence, it could be argued the applicant met the cri-
`teria for referral to the [disability evaluation
`system for possible medical retirement] prior to go-
`ing AWOL.
` However,
`in accordance with
`[10 U.S.C. §] 1552, the ABCMR is not empowered
`to set aside a conviction. As such, and since his dis-
`charge resulted from his court-martial conviction,
`he is ineligible for processing through the [disabil-
`ity evaluation system] for possible medical retire-
`ABCMR, No. AR20160000403
`403.txt, J.A. 162; see also LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at 556. The
`Board concluded that there was “no basis to amend
`[Mr. LaBonte’s] DD Form 214 by changing the reason and
`authority for separation.” J.A. 162.6
`The ABCMR’s decision was reviewed by Deputy Assis-
`tant Secretary of the Army Francine Blackmon. Secretary
`Blackmon found that “there [wa]s sufficient evidence to
`grant additional relief.” LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at 556 (al-
`teration in original) (quoting J.A. 198). Accordingly, she
`directed the Office of the Surgeon General to determine if
`Mr. LaBonte “should have been retired or discharged by
`November 20, 2012, the date he submitted an informal
`claim for VA benefits. J.A. 294.
`6 Block 28 of Mr. LaBonte’s DD-214 reflects the
`“Narrative Reason for Separation” as “COURT-MARTIAL,
`OTHER.” J.A. 754. Block 26 provides the corresponding
`“Separation Code” of “JJD.” Id.; see Br. for Nat’l Veterans
`Legal Servs. Program 6.


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 8 Filed: 08/12/2022
`reason of physical disability through the [disability evalu-
`ation system].” Id. (quoting J.A. 198).
`In response to Secretary Blackmon’s directive, two
`Army physicians conducted an evaluation of Mr. LaBonte
`as part of a Medical Evaluation Board (“MEB”).7 LaBonte,
`150 Fed. Cl. at 556. The physicians sought to determine
`whether processing through the disability evaluation sys-
`tem was warranted at the time of Mr. LaBonte’s separa-
`tion. The physicians concluded that Mr. LaBonte failed to
`meet medical-retention standards in 2003 because of his
`PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive
`disorder, and in 2004 because of his TBI. They found it
`“unlikely that any further interventions for these condi-
`tions would have returned the service member to duties
`consistent with [his] rank and [Military Occupation Spe-
`cialty].” Id. at 556 (second alteration in original) (quoting
`J.A. 178).
`Following the review by the two MEB physicians,
`Dr. Eric Doane, a Senior MEB physician, issued a medical
`advisory opinion, reviewing Mr. LaBonte’s medical records
`for the ABCMR. Id. He found that, at the time of
`7 Mr. LaBonte asserts that he was evaluated by mil-
`itary physicians through the Army’s Legacy Disability
`Evaluation System, which is the proper disability evalua-
`tion system for Army Veterans referred by the ABCMR.
`Compl., LaBonte v. United States, No. 18-1784C (Fed. Cl.
`Nov. 20, 2018), ECF No. 1, at 14–15 n.2. Under that sys-
`tem, an MEB determines if a service member met medical
`retention requirements at the time of separation. If the
`MEB finds the service member did not meet the military’s
`standards for retention, the MEB will recommend referral
`of the service member to a Physical Evaluation Board
`(“PEB”). The PEB determines the service member’s past
`fitness for duty and eligibility for benefits. See generally
`Army Regulation (“AR”) 635-40.


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 9 Filed: 08/12/2022
`Mr. LaBonte’s separation in 2006, there were no indica-
`tions of disabling PTSD and no symptoms of TBI.
`Dr. Doane concluded that Mr. LaBonte was not in need of
`disability processing at the time of his separation from the
`Army. The Board, on June 21, 2018, adopted Dr. Doane’s
`opinion in full as the basis for its denial of Mr. LaBonte’s
`claim. Id.; see J.A. 188.
`On November 20, 2018, Mr. LaBonte filed suit in the
`Court of Federal Claims, alleging that the denial of his
`claim was arbitrary and capricious, in bad faith, unsup-
`ported by substantial evidence, and a violation of the due
`process clause of the Fifth Amendment. LaBonte, 150 Fed.
`Cl. at 556.
`After briefing and oral argument, the court held that it
`had jurisdiction under the Tucker Act over Mr. LaBonte’s
`claim for medical retirement. Id. at 556–57. It then va-
`cated the ABCMR’s decision to deny Mr. LaBonte’s claim
`as contrary to law because the Board had relied on a med-
`ical opinion—the Doane opinion—“that failed to consider
`medical evidence as required by 10 U.S.C. § 1552(h)(2)(B).”
`Id. at 557 (quoting J.A. 2716).8 As a result, the court re-
`manded the case to the Board to “obtain a further medical
`opinion that considers the medical evidence as required by
`8 Paragraph (h) of 10 U.S.C. § 1552 pertains to a
`claim by a former member of the armed forces for review,
`by a correction board, of a discharge, based on matters re-
`lating to PTSD or TBI. In such a case, the correction board
`reviews the claim “with liberal consideration to the claim-
`ant that post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain
`injury potentially contributed to the circumstances result-
`ing in the discharge or dismissal or to the original charac-
`terization of the claimant’s discharge or dismissal.”
`10 U.S.C. § 1552(h)(2)(B).


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 10 Filed: 08/12/2022
`law and thereafter resolve [the] plaintiff’s claim.” Id. (quot-
`ing J.A. 2716).
`On remand, on April 29, 2020, the ABCMR again de-
`nied Mr. LaBonte’s request for disability retirement. Id.
`Pursuant to the remand order, the Board obtained a medi-
`cal advisory opinion from the Office of the Surgeon Gen-
`eral. In her advisory opinion, Dr. Denise M. Richardson
`stated that there is “a dearth of medical records available
`during [Mr. LaBonte’s] time in service.” Id. (quoting J.A.
`2787). “Therefore,” she concluded, “there is no evidence to
`support the need for disability processing prior to his dis-
`charge.” J.A. 2787; see also LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at 557.
`In rejecting Mr. LaBonte’s claim for disability retirement,
`the Board stated in pertinent part as follows:
`The Board, while noting that the applicant was in-
`eligible for referral into the Disability Evaluation
`System . . . prior to service separation because . . .
`he was charged with an offense under the Uniform
`Code of Military Justice . . . that could, and did, re-
`sult in a punitive discharge, considered whether
`the applicant failed medical retention standards
`and was unfit prior to service separation in light of
`the previous upgrade of the discharge to general
`(under honorable conditions). . . . The Board deter-
`mined that a preponderance of the evidence does
`not support a finding that the applicant failed med-
`ical retention standards or had any unfitting con-
`ditions, to include PTSD and TBI, warranting a
`disability separation/retirement prior to service
`J.A. 2763; LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at 557.
`Following the ABCMR’s remand decision and the re-
`turn of the case to the Court of Federal Claims, the


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`government renewed its motion to dismiss for failure to
`state a claim upon which relief could be granted and, in the
`alternative, moved for judgment on the administrative rec-
`ord. LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at 557. Mr. LaBonte responded
`in opposition and also moved for judgment on the adminis-
`trative record. Id.
`As noted above, on October 30, 2020, the Court of Fed-
`eral Claims granted the government’s motion to dismiss.
`The court first affirmed that Mr. LaBonte’s disability re-
`tirement claims came within the court’s jurisdiction under
`the Tucker Act. Id. at 557–58. In that regard, the court
`determined that the statute governing military retirement
`for disability, 10 U.S.C. § 1201, is a money-mandating stat-
`ute because “when the requirements of the statute are
`met—i.e., when the Secretary determines that a service
`member is unfit for duty because of a physical disability,
`and that disability is permanent and stable and is not the
`result of the member’s intentional misconduct or willful ne-
`glect—the member is entitled to compensation.” Id. at 557
`(quoting Fisher v. United States, 402 F.3d 1167, 1175 (Fed.
`Cir. 2005)). Next, the court held that Mr. LaBonte’s suit
`was timely filed within six years of the ABCMR’s Octo-
`ber 20, 2017 decision, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2501. Id.
`at 559. On appeal, the government does not challenge ei-
`ther the court’s ruling with respect to the Tucker Act or the
`statute of limitations.
`The Court of Federal Claims turned next to the merits
`of the government’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a
`claim. In that regard, the government made two argu-
`ments. First, it contended that Mr. LaBonte was not eligi-
`ble for disability processing under AR 635-40.9 Second, it
`9 As the court noted, AR 635-40 has changed since
`the time relevant to this case, but the parties accept the


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 12 Filed: 08/12/2022
`argued that, in order to grant Mr. LaBonte the relief he
`was seeking, the ABCMR would have to correct his DD-
`214. The government argued, though, that the Board was
`without authority under 10 U.S.C. § 1552(f) to correct Mr.
`LaBonte’s DD-214. Although § 1552(a) authorizes correc-
`tion boards to grant disability retirement, the government
`urged that the statute could not be relied upon for that pur-
`pose in Mr. LaBonte’s case because § 1552(f) bars correc-
`tion boards from making such a correction to records that
`note court-martial proceedings. The government urged
`that Mr. LaBonte’s DD-214 was such a record.
`Turning to the government’s first argument, the court
`noted that, at the time relevant to Mr. LaBonte’s claim,
`¶ 4-1 of AR 635-40 limited eligibility for disability retire-
`ment in the case of a service member charged with an of-
`4-1. Soldiers charged with an offense
`a. Uniform Code of Military Justice action. The
`case of a Soldier charged with an offense under the
`Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) or who is
`under investigation for an offense chargeable un-
`der the UCMJ which could result in dismissal or
`punitive discharge, may not be referred for, or con-
`tinue, disability processing unless—
`(1) The investigation ends without charges.
`(2) The officer exercising proper court-mar-
`tial jurisdiction dismisses the charges.
`applicability of the version of the regulation in effect at the
`time of Mr. LaBonte’s court-martial in 2006. LaBonte, 150
`Fed. Cl. at 560 (citing AR 635-40 (Feb. 8, 2006)) & n.5.


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`(3) The officer exercising proper court-mar-
`tial jurisdiction refers the charge for trial
`to a court-martial that cannot adjudge such
`a sentence.
`AR 635-40 ¶ 4-1; LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at 560. Paragraph
`4-2 of AR 635-40 provided that a soldier “may not be re-
`ferred for, or continue, disability processing if under sen-
`tence of dismissal or punitive discharge.”
`The Court of Federal Claims rejected the government’s
`argument that Mr. LaBonte was not eligible for disability
`processing under AR 635-40. LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at 560–
`61. The court reasoned that, although Mr. LaBonte was
`separated by court-martial, his punitive discharge—Bad
`Conduct Discharge—was, in view of the 2014 action of the
`ADRB, no longer reflected on his DD-214. Id. at 561. “The
`punitive discharge limitation in paragraph 4-2,” the court
`stated, “therefore does not apply to the plaintiff because he
`is no longer ‘under’ a punitive discharge.” Id. Since
`Mr. LaBonte was not currently facing charges or undergo-
`ing a court-martial, and since he had received clemency
`from the ADRB, the court determined that he was no
`longer subject to a punitive discharge. Id. “Therefore,” the
`court concluded, “by its own terms, Army Regulation 635-
`40, in effect at the time of [Mr. LaBonte’s] discharge, does
`not preclude [him] from disability-retirement processing.”
`Id. On appeal, the government does not take issue with
`the court’s ruling regarding AR 635-40.
` Having disposed of the government’s first argument,
`the Court of Federal Claims proceeded to address the gov-
`ernment’s contention that the ABCMR was without au-
`thority to correct Mr. LaBonte’s records to grant him
`disability retirement.
`Pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 1552(a)(1), “[t]he Secretary of
`a military department may correct any military record of


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 14 Filed: 08/12/2022
`the Secretary’s department when the Secretary considers
`it necessary to correct an error or remove an injustice.”
`However, as the Court of Federal Claims noted, LaBonte,
`150 Fed. Cl. at 561 & n.6, under 10 U.S.C. § 1552(f), when
`the correction involves “records of courts-martial and re-
`lated administrative records pertaining to court-martial
`cases,” the authority to correct a record is limited to
`“(1) correction of a record to reflect actions taken by review-
`ing authorities” under the UCMJ, or “(2) action on the sen-
`tence of a court-martial for purposes of clemency.”10
`As noted above, the government took the position that,
`in order to grant Mr. LaBonte disability retirement, it
`would be necessary to change his military records to reflect
`that he was medically separated. Def.’s Renewed Mot. to
`Dismiss and, In the Alternative, Cross-Mot. for J. on the
`Admin. R., and Opp’n to Pl.’s Mot., LaBonte v. United
`States, No. 18-1784C (Fed. Cl. Aug. 19, 2020), ECF No. 74,
`at 27–29. One example of a military record that would
`need to be changed, the government argued, was
`10 Section 1552(f) provides in full:
`(f) With respect to records of courts-martial and re-
`lated administrative records pertaining to court-
`martial cases tried or reviewed under chapter 47 of
`this title (or under the Uniform Code of Military
`Justice (Public Law 506 of the 81st Congress)), ac-
`tion under subsection (a) may extend only to—
`(1) correction of a record to reflect actions
`taken by reviewing authorities under chap-
`ter 47 of this title (or under the Uniform
`Code of Military Justice (Public Law 506 of
`the 81st Congress)); or
`(2) action on the sentence of a court-martial
`for purposes of clemency.


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 15 Filed: 08/12/2022
`Mr. LaBonte’s DD-214. Specifically, the government con-
`tended that “[t]o place Mr. LaBonte in retirement pro-
`cessing, at the very least, the narrative reason for
`separation on his DD-214 Form would need to be changed
`from ‘court-martial’ to reflect medical retirement.” Id. at
`29. According to the government, however, this change
`could not be made because Mr. LaBonte’s DD-214 was a
`“related administrative record” under 10 U.S.C. § 1552(f).
`Id. Mr. LaBonte responded with two arguments: first, that
`no statute or regulation prevented his records from reflect-
`ing both a court-martial conviction and medical retirement
`status; and second, that to the extent retirement processing
`requires that his DD-214 be altered, § 1552(f) did not bar
`the correction. Pl.’s Reply in Supp. of his Mot. for J. on the
`Admin. R., Resp. in Opp. To Def.’s Cross-Mot., and Resp. to
`Def.’s Mot. to Dismiss, LaBonte v. United States, No. 18-
`1784C (Fed. Cl. Sept. 23, 2020), ECF No. 82, 7–11; La-
`Bonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at 561–62.
`The Court of Federal Claims began its analysis by de-
`termining that, in order to grant Mr. LaBonte disability re-
`tirement, it would be necessary for the Board to correct his
`DD-214. The court arrived at this conclusion based upon
`the following reasoning:
`Although Secretary Blackmon subsequently deter-
`mined that the evidence supported the plaintiff’s
`request for relief, the Board’s original decision in
`2017 informs this discussion. The Board found
`that the plaintiff had requested “in effect” a correc-
`tion of his DD-214 to show that “he was retired due
`to physical disability.” The Board concluded that
`because the plaintiff’s court-martial made him in-
`eligible for disability processing, there was “no ba-
`sis to amend [his] DD Form 214 by changing the
`reason and authority for separation.” The Board
`itself therefore has answered the question; it would
`need to correct the plaintiff’s DD-214 in order to
`grant the relief the plaintiff seeks.


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 16 Filed: 08/12/2022
`LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at 562 (alteration in original) (first
`quoting Admin. R. 86, then quoting Admin. R. 115 (J.A.
`Having determined that granting Mr. LaBonte the re-
`lief he sought required changing his DD-214, the court
`turned to the government’s argument that 10 U.S.C.
`§ 1552(f) barred correction of Mr. LaBonte’s DD-214 be-
`cause the form is an “administrative record” that is “re-
`lated” to his court-martial. Id. Addressing that argument,
`the court first considered 10 U.S.C. § 801(14), which de-
`fines the term “record,” when used in connection with the
`proceedings of a court-martial. It states:
`(14) The term “record”, when used in connection
`with the proceedings of a court-martial, means—
`(A) an official written transcript, written
`summary, or other writing relating to the
`proceedings; or
`(B) an official audiotape, videotape, or sim-
`ilar material from which sound, or sound
`and visual images, depicting the proceed-
`ings may be reproduced.
`The court concluded that, although Mr. LaBonte’s DD-214
`noted his court-martial, it was not covered by any of the
`terms mentioned in § 801(14). LaBonte, 150 Fed. Cl. at
`562. Hence, the court determined, it was not a record of a
`court-martial under § 1552(f). Id. Next, the court consid-
`ered dictionary definitions for the word “related.”11 The
`11 The court relied on definitions from two dictionar-
`ies. Related, Oxford English Dictionary (3d ed. 2009)
`(“Connected or having relation to something else.”); Re-
`lated, Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019) (“Connected
`in some way; having relationship to or with something


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 17 Filed: 08/12/2022
`court reasoned that, because § 1552(f)’s “records of courts-
`martial” already encompasses the broad category of “other
`writing[s] relating to the proceedings” in § 801(14), for the
`phrase “‘related administrative record[s]’ [in § 1552(f)] to
`have any meaning, it must incorporate a broad definition
`of ‘related’ to include any administrative document that is
`connected or has a relationship with a court-martial but is
`not part of, or contained within, the official records of the
`court-martial itself.” Id. at 563. The court thus concluded:
`Ҥ 1552(f) captures any administrative record that reflects
`the decision of the court martial.” Id. Thus, because
`Mr. LaBonte’s DD-214 notes his court-martial as the rea-
`son for his separation (in Block 28), the court determined
`that it is an administrative record “related” to the court-
`martial under § 1552(f). Id. The court therefore concluded
`that the ABCMR “is without authority to change the reason
`for separation due to the court-martial. Because such a
`change would be necessary for the Board to grant disability
`retirement in place of separation due to court-martial, the
`Board is without the authority to grant the plaintiff the re-
`lief he seeks.” Id. at 564. Accordingly, the court ruled that
`it could not grant Mr. LaBonte the relief he sought. It
`therefore dismissed his complaint for failure to state a
`claim upon which relief could be granted. Having dis-
`missed the complaint, the Court of Federal Claims did not
`reach the merits of Mr. LaBonte’s challenge to the decision
`of the Board. Neither did the court reach Mr. LaBonte’s
`claim that, in rejecting his claim, the Board had violated
`his Fifth Amendment right to due process.
`Mr. LaBonte has timely appealed the Court’s decision.
`We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(3).
`We review a dismissal for failure to state a claim upon
`which relief can be granted by the Court of Federal Claims
`de novo. Steffen v. United States, 995 F.3d 1377, 1379 (Fed.


`Case: 21-1432 Document: 75 Page: 18 Filed: 08/12/2022
`Cir. 2021). We also review statutory interpretation by the
`Court of Federal Claims de novo. FastShip, LLC v. United
`States, 968 F.3d 1335, 1337 (Fed. Cir. 2020).
`On appeal, Mr. LaBonte argues that the Court of Fed-
`eral Claims erred in granting the government’s motion to
`dismiss. First, he contends that the court erred in holding
`that 10 U.S.C. § 1552(f) creates a bar to what he says is the
`Board’s “otherwise broad authority” to act in his case, by
`preventing the Board from amending his DD-214 to remove
`the reference to his court-martial. Appellant’s Br. 21. Sec-
`ond, he argues that even if we were to hold that § 1552(f)
`prohibits correcting his DD-214 because it currently states
`that he was court-martialed, nothing prevents the Board
`from granting Mr. LaBonte disability retirement without
`removing the court-martial reference on his DD-214.
`As explained below, we agree with Mr. LaBonte that
`the ABCMR was not required to change his DD-214 in or-
`der to grant him disability retirement.
`In arguing that it is not necessary for the ABCMR to
`correct his DD-214 in order to grant him the relief he seeks,
`Mr. LaBonte states at the outset that he “does n

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