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Favreau v. United States

Petitioners were a class of veterans who were involuntarily separated from the armed services because they were not successful, despite good-faith efforts, in meeting applicable weight and fitness standards. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that petitioners must refund portions of their enlistment or reenlistment bonuses to the United States under statutes providing for recoupment of bonuses from service members who “voluntarily … d[o] not complete the term of enlistment for which a bonus was paid” (emphasis added).

Questions presented:

  1. Is a service member who is involuntarily discharged for not meeting weight and fitness standards obligated to refund an enlistment or reenlistment bonus on the ground that he or she has “voluntarily” failed to “complete the term of enlistment for which a bonus was paid” within the meaning of the governing statutes?
  2. May a court disregard an agency’s published regulations by (a) treating unpublished, internal agency memoranda as legally binding “regulations” whose terms prevail over the published regulations, and (b) granting Chevron/Mead deference to an agency’s statutory construction set forth in litigation affidavits that contradict the published regulations?

Brian Wolfman and Scott Nelson of Public Citizen were co-counsel for the petitioners at the cert stage, and the Supreme Court denied cert.