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Board of Veterans' Appeals: Rules of Practice-Effect of Procedural Defects in Motions for Revision of Decisions on the Grounds of Clear and Unmistakable Error

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

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AGENCY:

Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION:

Interim final rule with request for comments.

SUMMARY:

This document amends the Rules of Practice of the Board of Veterans' Appeals (Board) to provide that, when a motion to revise a Board decision on the grounds of clear and unmistakable error (CUE) fails to provide specific allegations of error, the Board will dismiss the motion without prejudice to refiling. This amendment is made necessary by a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

DATES:

Effective Date: This interim final rule is effective July 10, 2001. Comments must be received on or before September 10, 2001.

ADDRESSES:

Mail or hand-deliver written comments to: Director, Office of Regulations Management (02D), Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Ave., NW., Room 1154, Washington, DC 20420; or fax comments to (202) 273-9289; or e-mail comments to OGCRegulations@mail.va.gov. Comments should indicate that they are submitted in response to “RIN 2900-AK74.” All comments received will be available for public inspection at the above address in the Office of Regulations Management, Room 1158, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday (except holidays).

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Steven L. Keller, Acting Vice Chairman, Board of Veterans' Appeals (01C), Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20420 (202-565-5978).

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The Board is an administrative body that decides appeals from denials of claims for veterans' benefits. The Board's 57 Members decide about 35,000 to 40,000 cases per year.

In 1999, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published rules implementing the provisions of section 1(b) of Pub. L. No. 105-111 (Nov. 21, 1997), which permit challenges to Board decisions on the grounds of “clear and unmistakable error” (CUE). 64 FR 2134 (Jan. 13, 1999). Those regulations were challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. On December 8, 2000, that court upheld all of the challenged regulations with the exception of Rule 1404(b) (38 CFR 20.1404(b)). To the extent that Rule 1404(b) provided that a CUE motion which failed to specifically allege error would be denied, rather than dismissed without prejudice to refiling, the court stated:

We hold that CUE Rule 1404(b) (codified at 38 CFR 20.1404(b)) is invalid because, in conjunction with the CUE Rule 1409(c) (codified at 38 CFR 20.1409(c)), it operates to prevent Board review of any CUE claim that is the subject of a motion that is denied for failure to comply with the pleading requirements of Rule 1404(b). That is contrary to the requirement of 38 U.S.C. 7111(e) that a CUE claim “shall be decided by the Board on the merits.”

Disabled American Veterans v. Gober, 234 F.3d 682, 704 (Fed. Cir. 2000). See also id. at 698-99 (discussion of Rule 1404(b)).

Based on that holding, this document amends Rule 1404(b) to provide that the Board will dismiss such motions without prejudice to refiling. The document also makes conforming changes to Rule 1409(b) (38 CFR 1409(b)) to provide that the dismissal without prejudice of a CUE motion is not a final decision of the Board.

This interim final rule concerns rules of agency procedure and practice. Accordingly, under the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 553, we are dispensing with prior notice and comment and a delayed effective date.

Paperwork Reduction Act

This document contains no provisions constituting a collection of information under the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520).

Regulatory Flexibility Act

The Secretary hereby certifies that this interim final rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities as they are defined in the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601-612. This rule will affect VA beneficiaries and will not affect small businesses. Therefore, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 605(b), this interim final rule is exempt from Start Printed Page 35903the initial and final regulatory flexibility analyses requirement of sections 603 and 604.

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List of Subjects in 38 CFR Part 20

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Approved: June 29, 2001.

Anthony J. Principi,

Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

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For the reasons set out in the preamble,

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PART 20—BOARD OF VETERANS' APPEALS: RULES OF PRACTICE

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1. The authority citation for part 20 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501(a) and as noted in specific sections.

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2. In § 20.1404, paragraph (b) is revised amended to read as follows:

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Rule 1404. Filing and pleading requirements; withdrawals.
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(b) Specific allegations required. The motion must set forth clearly and specifically the alleged clear and unmistakable error, or errors, of fact or law in the Board decision, the legal or factual basis for such allegations, and why the result would have been manifestly different but for the alleged error. Non-specific allegations of failure to follow regulations or failure to give due process, or any other general, non-specific allegations of error, are insufficient to satisfy the requirement of the previous sentence. Motions which fail to comply with the requirements set forth in this paragraph shall be dismissed without prejudice to refiling under this subpart.

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3. In § 20.1409, paragraph (b) is revised amended to read as follows:

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Rule 1409. Finality and appeal.
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(b) For purposes of this section, a dismissal without prejudice under Rule 1404(a) (§ 20.1404(a) of this part), Rule 1404(b) (§ 20.1404(b)), or Rule 1404(f) (§ 20.1404(f)), or a referral under Rule 1405(e) is not a final decision of the Board.

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[FR Doc. 01-17137 Filed 7-9-01; 8:45 am]

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