Summary: S.330 — 96th Congress (1979-1980)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed Senate amended (09/17/1979)

(Measure passed Senate, amended)

Veterans Administration Adjudication Procedure and Judicial Review Act - =Title I: Adjudication Procedures= - Codifies, for Veterans Administration (VA) adjudication purposes, the burden of proof and reasonable doubt standard currently provided for by VA regulation. States that a claimant has the burden of submitting sufficient evidence to justify his or her claim, and that if after reviewing all the evidence a reasonable doubt remains regarding the merits of a claim, the VA is to resolve such doubt in favor of the claimant.

Stipulates that VA subpoenas may be served either by personal delivery or by registered or certified mail.

Increases the size of the Board of Veterans' Appeals from 50 to 65 members. Requires the Chairman of such Board to submit an annual report to the appropriate congressional committees concerning the Board's current handling of cases and projections for the subsequent fiscal year.

Requires the Board: (1) to provide notice to a claimant and an opportunity for a hearing before a decision may be based on "additional official information" received after a Board decision has previously been made; (2) provide the claimant with an opportunity for a hearing; and (3) make its decision exclusively on evidence and material of record in the proceeding.

Removes the requirement that new material sufficient to allow the Board to reopen a previously disallowed claim be in the form of official reports.

Provides that the Board's discretionary authority to reopen a claim will not be diminished by a decision of an appeals court which upholds a disallowance of a claim.

Requires the Board to mail to the claimant notice of its decision and the reasons for such decision.

Provides that, upon the request of a claimant, the Board shall provide an independent advisory medical opinion when there exists substantial medical disagreements with respect to a material issue in a veterans' appeal.

Sets forth new procedural rules for adjudication hearings regarding: (1) oaths, affirmations, and witness examination; (2) admissibility of evidence; (3) procedural rights of claimants; (4) disqualification of a hearing officer; (5) the record of the proceedings and the claimant's right to examine and obtain a copy of such record; and (6) the exclusivity of veterans' adjudication procedures and rights prescribed by the Administrator.

Requires the Administrator to provide at each stage of the appeal proceedings written notice to a claimant of procedural rights and procedures.

Requires the Administrator to conduct a study, in at least six regional offices of the VA, of alternative methods of providing prompt and efficient claims resolutions at a location as convenient as possible for each claimant. Requires the establishment, in at least three such geographic areas, of intermediate review panels made up of regional office personnel from the VA which shall conduct de novo review of each claim. Stipulates that in at least three other regional offices the Administrator shall provide for an enhanced schedule of visits by traveling panels of the Board of Veterans' Appeals on at least a quarterly basis each year. Directs the Administrator to report to the Congress on the results of the study, including an evaluation of the cost factors associated with each alternative on an annual basis.

=Title II: Veterans' Administration Rule Making= - Includes the VA's rulemaking procedures under the relevant provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act.

=Title III: Judicial Review= - Provides for judicial review of VA decisions in the Federal court system.

States, with regard to jurisdiction: (1) that judicial review of a final decision in a claim for benefits may be obtained in a civil action brought within 180 days of the Board's mailing of notice of its decision, and that such action shall be brought in Federal district court, either in the district court for the judicial district in which the plaintiff resides (or the plaintiff's principal place of business ) or in the district court for the judicial district where the principal offices of Board of Veterans' Appeals are located; (2) that in cases not directly involving a claim for benefits a civil action otherwise authorized by law shall not be precluded; (3) the definition of final decision; (4) that the judicial review procedures established under this Act shall not apply to insurance and home loans; (5) that the VA shall file the various materials constituting the record in a case together with its answer to the claimant's complaint; (6) that the court render a decision on the pleadings; and (7) that judicial review is not required for cases which are not filed with the VA before the end of the fifth fiscal year after enactment of this Act.

Permits a reviewing court, upon the determination that the Administrator's findings are arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion, to remand a case at any time after the Administrator files an answer.

States, with regard to the reviewing court's scope of review, that such court: (1) decide questions of law and interpret constitutional, statutory, and regulatory provisions, but that questions of fact (unless unsupported by substantial evidence) will not be subject to a trial de novo; and (2) in reviewing a final decision of the VA which is adverse to a party solely because such party failed to comply with VA procedures, such court may only review questions concerning such procedures.

Sets out provisions regarding remand, survival of actions, and appellate review.

=Title IV: Attorneys' Fees= - Authorizes the Administrator to allow attorneys' fees above the present $10 maximum if the appealing party's claim is allowed by the VA after an initial denial. States that such fee shall be the lesser of: (1) the fee agreed upon by the party and attorney; (2) $500, unless the Administrator approves a greater amount; or (3) if the party and attorney have entered into a contingent-fee agreement, not more than 25 percent of the total of any past-due benefits' awarded on the basis of such party's claim.

Provides for the approval of attorneys' fees, in successful veterans' claims brought before court, as provided for under this Act. Stipulates that such fees shall be determined by such court, and in contingent-fee agreements such fees shall not exceed 25 percent of the total of any past-due benefits awarded on the basis of such claim. Stipulates that the court's authority to approve a fee for appealed cases which are resolved in a manner unfavorable to the claimant shall be limited to a maximum dollar amount of $750.

Prohibits the VA from authorizing payment to a claimant's attorney based on past-due benefits unless such benefits are owed as of the date of the VA's or a court's award.

Establishes procedures for the review of the VA's or a court's approval of attorneys' fees. States that in the case of a benefits claim resolved before the VA, either the claimant or the attorney may challenge the award in the Federal district court in which the claimant resides or has his principal place of business within 30 days after notice of the attorneys' award. States that in the case of such a claim resolved in court, either the claimant or the attorney may challenge the award in such court within 30 days after such award. Provides that all parties be given notice.

Stipulates that such provisions regarding attorneys' fees shall only apply to claims for benefits under the laws administered by the VA and shall not apply in cases in which the VA is the plaintiff or in which other attorneys' fees statutes are otherwise controlling.

=Title V: Effective Dates= - States that this Act shall become effective 180 days after enactment. Permits review of Board of Veterans' Appeals decisions rendered on or after January 1, 1977, and prior to the effective date of this Act provided such actions are instituted not later than 180 days after the date of enactment or after the mailing of notice by the Administrator.