Summary: S.636 — 98th Congress (1983-1984)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Indefinitely postponed in Senate (06/15/1983)

(Measure indefinitely postponed in Senate, H.R. 2936 passed in lieu)

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 standards 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 an approximate balance of positive and negative evidence exists regarding the merits of a claim, the VA is to resolve such doubt in favor of the claimant.

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

Increases the maximum size of the Board of Veterans' Appeals from 50 to 65 members. Permits the Chairman to designate a temporary member from the professional staff. Limits such designees to one per section of the Board. Requires the Chairman 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 to: (1) 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; and (2) 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 judicial decision following an appeal as provided for by this Act.

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 disagreement with respect to a material issue in a veteran's 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 claimants' right to examine and obtain a copy of such record; and (6) the exclusiveness 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.

Directs the Administrator to conduct a study of two alternative claims resolution methods, one a new intermediate-level adjudication process, the other an enhanced schedule of formal Appeals Board hearings. Directs the Administrator to report to Congress on such studies.

Makes the effective date for benefits awarded after a disallowed claim is reopended retroactive to the date they would have been awarded had the claim not been disallowed.

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) the definition of final decision; (2) 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; (3) that the VA shall file the various materials constituting the record in a case not later than 30 days after filing its answer to the claimant's complaint; (4) that the court may render a decision on the pleadings; and (5) that the judicial review procedures established under this Act shall not apply to insurance and home loans.

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 a court, as provided for under this Act. States 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. Authorizes attorneys' fees of up to $750 in certain unsuccessful veterans' claims.

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.

States 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 - Sets forth the effective dates for this Act.