(CN) – The Federal Circuit struck down a new procedure allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to reduce lump-sum benefits of $250,000 or more without the veteran’s knowledge and participation. The judges voted 2-1 to reject the VA’s claim that the procedure was simply a matter of “internal housekeeping.”
The VA sent its regional offices a letter outlining the process for handling “extraordinary awards,” or lump-sum benefits of $250,000 or more.
Regional offices were instructed not to disclose decisions granting large awards, and not to tell veterans or their representatives if the Compensation and Pension Service reduced those awards.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart of the USA and the National Veterans Legal Services Program sued, claiming this new procedure violated administrative procedures and stripped veterans of due process.
The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., agreed.
“It is apparent that the procedure … does not comport with the government regulations … and was not implemented in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act,” Judge Newman wrote.
In a partial dissent, Judge Schall argued that the new procedure doesn’t violate the law, and that the VA “satisfies its responsibility to assist the claimant.”