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Veterans' Review Board (VRB) Hearings
Representation at VRB hearings
The VRB holds a hearing to review every case. The applicant may choose to be represented at the hearing, at their own expense, by anyone other than a legal practitioner or a person legally qualified. A legal practitioner may help the applicant prepare their case prior to the hearing. As a matter of policy the Commission does not appear at the VRB[glossary:.:]
Obtaining and examining evidence for a review
When an application for review is made, the Secretary will prepare a report of evidence that was considered by the delegate when the claim was determined. In doing so, the Commission may decide to conduct its own review of the decision under section 31. The report will be sent to the applicant unless it contains information that is confidential or damaging to the mental health or well being of the applicant. The applicant has 28 days to comment on the report of evidence. Any comments made will be added to the report before it is sent to the VRB. The VRB examines this evidence, and any other evidence that was not before the Commission when they made their original decision, but is relevant to the review.
VRB not bound by rules of evidence
The VEA requires the VRB to take into account any difficulties that lie in the way of ascertaining the existence of any fact, matter, cause or circumstance. These difficulties may be the effects of the passage of time, including the effect of the passage of time on available witnesses and the fact that not all events were reported to appropriate authorities. Although the rules of evidence do not bind the decision maker, every attempt must be made to administer “substantial justice”. Substantial justice implies that the decision maker must accord the claimant procedural fairness (or natural justice) in the manner in which the decision-making process is conducted.
Power of VRB to obtain information
During the course of a review hearing, the VRB may:
- take evidence on an oath or affirmation, and administer that oath or affirmation,
- summon a person to appear at a hearing and give evidence or produce documents,
- request that the Secretary provide or obtain documents relating to the review, and
- request that the Secretary arrange any investigation or medical examination that is necessary.
Period of operation of decisions
A VRB decision on rates of pension, refusal to grant pension on the grounds of insufficient incapacity, cancellations, suspension or dates of recommencement of pension, is binding on the applicant and Commission for a period of 6 months from the date of decision, unless that decision is reviewed by the AAT. If during this 6 month period, the applicant believes their incapacity has increased, they are still able to make an application for pension or increased pension within that period.
Cost of hearing
The applicant must pay for any costs of representation incurred at the hearing. DVA may reimburse the costs of obtaining medical evidence including associated travel costs, in support of an application.
Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986.
The Department of Veterans' Affairs.