United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division
TIM M. HILL, II PLAINTIFF
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DEFENDANT
ORDER AND OPINION
BRAMLETTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are two motions: a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of
Subject-Matter Jurisdiction [Doc. 2] filed by the United
States of America, on behalf of the Department of Veterans
Affairs (the “VA”), and a Motion to Remand [Doc.
11] filed by Tim M. Hill, II.
motions before the Court ask whether VA benefits deposited
into a Trustmark National Bank account for the benefit of
veteran Daniel McDaniel should be managed by VA-appointed
fiduciary Matthew Alliston or McDaniel's
state-court-appointed conservator, Tim Hill. Because that is
a question this Court and the state court are without power
to decide, the Court will dismiss this action for lack of
is a veteran and receives $2, 973.86 per month in VA
benefits. He was declared incompetent in 2013 by order of the
Chancery Court of Franklin County, Mississippi, which by the
same order appointed Hill as McDaniel's conservator. See
Doc. 11-1. Hill also acted as McDaniel's VA-appointed
fiduciary for a time. But the VA terminated his appointment
for failure to submit proper accountings and in 2017
appointed Alliston in his place. See Doc. 2-2.
McDaniel's fiduciary, Alliston manages McDaniel's
monthly VA benefits. Those benefits are deposited into a
Trustmark National Bank (“Trustmark”) account
styled “Daniel McDaniel by Matthew Bartin Alliston VA
Custodian.” Because Alliston's is the only name
appearing on Trustmark's “signature card” for
the account, only Alliston can act on it.
dispute arose in December 2017 when Hill moved the Chancery
Court of Franklin County for an order directing Trustmark to
transfer McDaniel's VA benefits from the Alliston-managed
account to Hill as conservator for McDaniel.
Hill's Motion to Transfer, the VA removed the action to
this Court under the federal officer removal statute, 28
U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1). See Doc. 1. The VA construes
Hill's Motion to Transfer as a challenge to its power to
supervise and appoint fiduciaries -- here, to terminate Hill
and appoint Alliston -- and says that removal is the only way
to protect its interest in benefits-administration.
than one week after removing this case, the VA moved to
dismiss it for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. See Doc.
2. The Court is without jurisdiction, the VA contends,
because Hill's state-court motion to transfer raises
benefits-management questions -- questions that the
Veterans' Judicial Review Act, 38 U.S.C. § 511
(“VJRA”), precludes this Court and the Franklin
County Chancery Court from reviewing.
days after the VA moved to dismiss, Hill sought an extension
of time to respond. See Doc. 8. Hill stated he intended to
file a motion to remand, and asked permission to respond to
the VA's Motion to Dismiss within seven days of the
Court's ruling on his soon-to-be-filed Motion to Remand.
The Court granted Hill's Motion. See Doc. 9.
filed the promised Motion to Remand two weeks later. See Doc.
11. In it, he argues that the federal officer removal statute
does not apply and insists that the VA benefits held in the
Trustmark account belong to him, as McDaniel's
responded to Hill's Motion to Remand with the same
argument it raises in support of its Motion to Dismiss:
Hill's Motion to Transfer triggers the VJRA and therefore
deprives the Court of jurisdiction. See Doc. 14. The only
“real issue” in the case, the VA's declares,
is the VA Secretary's power to supervise and appoint
also responded. It says it is in a “difficult
position” because it must evaluate the relative merits
of Hill's and the VA's claims to McDaniel's VA
benefits. And it fears it could be sued by either claimant.
the close of briefing on Hill's Motion to Remand, the
Court determined that that Motion and the VA's Motion to
Dismiss raised a common dispositive issue. See Doc. 18. So
the Court ordered Hill to respond to the VA's ...