"(CN) - The Federal Circuit gave the Department of Veteran Affairs 60 days to show why it should not be sanctioned for denying veteran benefits.
"Federal law requires the benefits system for veterans to be pro-claimant, laying out procedural and appellate rights for veterans seeking adjudication. VA officials tasked with approving or denying benefits must actively look for ways to improve the cases of veterans both at the regional level and in the appellate process.
"In 2011, however, the VA issued an 'immediately-effective' rule that applied the pro-claimant procedures only to regional VA office dealings, stripping veterans of assistance within Board of Veterans' Appeals hearings. The National Organization of Veterans Advocates (NOVA) petitioned the Federal Circuit to review the rule, arguing that the VA implemented it without a mandatory notice-and-comment period required by the Administrative Procedures Act.
"The VA twice asked the Federal Circuit for more time to file its explanation, claiming the second time that it planned to repeal the rule. In fact, the department promised both NOVA and the appeals court that it would not apply the provisions of the new rule at all prior to publishing the repeal in the Federal Register. After claiming that it wanted the published appeal to become effective before responding, the VA won a third extension. NOVA then submitted evidence that the VA had been ignoring its promises to not enforce the rule, at least 60 cases in a single month alone.