Unique to legal literature, this article outlines the most basic and unsexy nature of fact finding at the lowest tribunal – what is decided by a lower tribunal after weighing the different stories and conflicting evidence, and after deciding which story to believe or which evidence has more value. While legal holdings and precedents are much more engaging to the legal mind, such legal “holdings” are heavily dependent upon the basic facts found for support. A legal rule without supporting facts is mere dicta, while a legal rule squarely derived from the facts forms a legal precedent.

This article identifies several logical errors and predispositions that appellate courts may be prone to that alter the deference owed to the lower court’s most basic fact finding. The article focuses specifically in administrative law, and more specifically Department of Veterans Affairs decisions, providing illustrations of US Court of Veterans Appeals (Veterans Court) fact deference errors.

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