C17/1998 FRAMEWORK FOR PROCESSING OF VETERANS' REVIEW BOARD APPLICATIONS | Compensation and Support Reference Library, Departmental Instructions, 1998

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C17/1998 FRAMEWORK FOR PROCESSING OF VETERANS' REVIEW BOARD APPLICATIONS

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DATE OF ISSUE:  4 MARCH 1998

FRAMEWORK FOR PROCESSING OF VETERANS' REVIEW BOARD APPLICATIONS

Background:

During 1996/97 a joint Department of Veterans' Affairs and Veterans' Review Board Working Party met several times to examine communication issues and the processing steps for Veterans' Review Board (VRB) applications. The Working Party was set up as a result of concerns expressed at the March 1996 Ex-Service Organisation Workshop. Confusion was being created in the minds of VRB applicants by the various letters sent by the Department and the VRB. The exercise was timely given the increased use of Section 31 review powers by the Repatriation Commission.

Framework:

2.The Working Party agreed to a framework for the processing of VRB applications. This framework is represented in the attached flowchart (Attachment A). This framework is to be adopted nationally.

Standard Letters:

3.The Working Party also agreed on several standard letters to be sent to applicants by the Department at certain critical points in the processing of a VRB application (see Attachment B). Changes may be made to these letters for local circumstances, but there should be discussion and agreement with the local VRB Registrar, unless the changes are minor. Variations may be made for particular cases with unusual features.

“Screening” of VRB Applications:

4.The new procedures recognise the Repatriation Commission policy that all applications for review by the Veterans' Review Board are to be examined for possible Section 31 review upon receipt of the application and before commencement of a Section 137 report. For ease of description, this administration action is called “screening”. Commission's policy in regard to “screening” was advised to Deputy Commissioners in August/September 1996 and should be implemented, if it has not already.

5.The “screening” would generally involve an examination of the papers, that is, the original decision, the evidence on file and any evidence or argument submitted with the VRB application. A detailed investigation is not required, unless the primary decision appears to be inadequately based and more investigation should have been undertaken. Where the primary decision is clearly incorrect or inadequate, a section 31 review should be undertaken and immediate feedback should be provided to the original decision maker. Contact with the claimant or their representative is not essential in all cases. However, in some circumstances it may be appropriate for the Review Officer to contact the claimant or representative for clarification or to obtain a particular piece of evidence which may allow Section 31 intervention.

6.For “screening”, a case is not to be registered on Claims Management System (CMS) as a Section 31 review, unless intervention occurs. No reasons for decision are to be provided to the claimant for non-interventions. However, if the claimant has not submitted an application in the appropriate format, a letter advising that the Section 31 review has been declined will need to be sent. Where an intervention occurs, the case should be recorded on CMS and brief reasons for decision produced.

Request for Section 31 Review after Section 137 Report Prepared:

7.After a case is “screened” for possible Section 31 review and there is no intervention, a veteran or widow or their representative may request a Section 31 review. For specific requests for review, the request should be registered on CMS as a Section 31 review and reasons for decision produced, whether the outcome is favourable or unfavourable. Reasons for non-intervention should address the evidence or points raised by the veteran, widow or representative.

Changes to Current Procedures:

8.There are several important changes to current procedures that need to be highlighted.

  1. Applications for review to the VRB or requests for Section 31 review must be acknowledged on receipt (see standard letters 1a, b, c and d).

  1. DVA is to encourage VRB applicants to be represented by an ex-service organisation (covered in letters 1a to 1d). This is in the best interests of the veteran or widow, but applicants should not be forced to have representation if they do not wish to do so.

  1. Where a letter asks only for a Section 31 review (ie the writer does not specifically ask for a VRB review of the primary decision), DVA should advise the veteran or widow to lodge an application to the VRB within the appeal period. This is to ensure that the VRB will be able to accept the application as a VRB application in the event of a refusal by a Commission delegate to review under Section 31. Note that an application does not necessarily have to be on the VRB Application for Review Form. So long as the intent to have the matter reviewed by the VRB is expressed, a letter can be accepted as a VRB application. It is also permissible for a veteran or widow to seek a Section 31 review and ask for the matter to be determined by the VRB in the event of an unfavourable outcome of the review under Section 31. A form for these situations is attached (Attachment C). This may be modified for local use.

  1. In some States applications to the VRB are given a VRB registration number and sent to the VRB immediately upon receipt by the Department. The Working Party agreed that VRB applications should not be sent to the VRB with a registration number until the “screening” has been completed. VRB applications should continue to be registered as VRB Applications on CMS upon receipt, but not sent to the VRB until a Section 31 review has been declined. If a Section 31 review is declined, then the application shall be forwarded to the VRB with a VRB registration number. A Section 31 action is not registered on CMS unless specifically requested or unless intervention occurs. If a Section 31 review is favourable to the applicant and the applicant still wishes the application to proceed to the VRB, then the application should be forwarded to the VRB with a registration number. The purpose of this change is to provide a clear line between when the application is the Department's responsibility and when it is the VRB's responsibility. It will also reduce activity in the VRB in registering and withdrawing applications where a Section 31 review upon “screening” is favourable to the applicant.

  1. DVA may also request the applicant to withdraw the VRB application following a Section 31 review. A form for this is at Attachment D. The VRB should not be notified of a withdrawal by the applicant unless the application had previously been forwarded to the VRB. The same form is to used to ascertain if the veteran or widow wishes the VRB application to proceed to the VRB.

  1. Once the Section 137 report has been sent to the VRB, any intervention under Section 31 should be notified to the VRB by sending a copy of the Section 31 decision to the VRB. The VRB will then send a letter to the applicant seeking the applicant's wishes in relation to the VRB application being withdrawn. DVA should not send a withdrawal form to the applicant once the VRB has received the Section 137 report.

Implementation:

9.These arrangements are to start as soon as possible.

10.The minutes of the Working Party meetings will be forwarded separately to each State Office to give a context to the changes.

(W R MAXWELL)

BRANCH HEAD (DISABILITY COMPENSATION)


ATTACHMENT A

Application for Review by the VRB
Screening of VRB Application

This page gives the procedures from receipt of the VRB application through screening for S.31 Review, to withdrawal or despatch of S.137 report.


ATTACHMENT B

Standard Letters

On receipt of request for Section 31 review and/or VRB application

  •    No VRB application in appropriate format

  •                             Unrepresented- use letter 1a
  •                             Represented- use letter 1b

  •    VRB application in appropriate format

  •                             Unrepresented- use letter 1c
  •                             Represented- use letter 1d

Intervention - Section 31 review favourable

  •                             Unrepresented- use letter 1e
  •                             Represented- use letter 1f

No Intervention, No VRB application in appropriate format

  •                             Unrepresented or Represented- use letter 1g

After Specific Request for Section 31 Review (Post Screening)

  •    Section 31 Review is declined

  •                             Unrepresented- use letter 2a
  •                             Represented- use letter 2b

  •    Section 31 Review is favourable

  •                             Unrepresented- use letter 3a
  •                             Represented- use letter 3b


BEFORE SCREENING

LETTER 1a - TO BE SENT UPON RECEIPT OF AN APPLICATION

UNREPRESENTED AND APPLICATION NOT IN APPROPRIATE FORMAT

THIS LETTER IS ABOUT YOUR APPLICATION FOR REVIEW

Thank you for your letter dated # seeking a section 31 review of the decision of a Delegate of the Repatriation Commission on # about #.

As you do not already have someone assisting you with your case, you may wish to contact a representative from one of the organisations which provide advocacy services or represent veterans, members of the defence forces or their dependants. A list of the major organisations providing this assistance is attached. Please tell us in writing if you select a representative.

Your case will be examined by a Departmental Review Officer (DRO) who will see if it is possible to resolve the matter to your satisfaction. That officer can change the original decision and may contact you or your representative, if you obtain one, to discuss your case.

If the DRO makes a new decision, a letter will be mailed to you (and your representative). If you are not happy with what the DRO has done and you have a valid application to the VRB, the Department will prepare a report of the evidence for the VRB. A copy of this report will be sent to you and your representative. If you have not submitted a valid VRB application, no further action will be taken.

Your request is currently in a form that may not be accepted by the Veterans' Review Board (VRB) as a valid VRB application. To protect your right to apply to the VRB, you should therefore complete and return the attached Veterans' Review Board ‘Application for Review' form within the time limit stated in the original Commission decision. This will also ensure maximum arrears should a favourable VRB decision be made. If you are happy with the subsequent decision by the DRO you may withdraw the VRB application. This will finalise the matter for you.

If I can be of any help, please contact me on # or 1800 # extension # for country callers.

Yours sincerely

for Deputy Commissioner


BEFORE SCREENING

LETTER 1b - TO BE SENT UPON RECEIPT OF AN APPLICATION

REPRESENTED AND APPLICATION NOT IN APPROPRIATE FORMAT

THIS LETTER IS ABOUT YOUR APPLICATION FOR REVIEW

Thank you for your letter dated # seeking a section 31 review of the decision of a Delegate of the Repatriation Commission on # about #.

Your case will be examined by a Departmental Review Officer (DRO) who will see if it is possible to resolve the matter to your satisfaction. That officer can change the original decision and may contact you or your representative to discuss your case.

If the DRO makes a new decision, a letter will be mailed to you (and your representative). If you are not happy with what the DRO has done and you have a valid application to the VRB, the Department will prepare a report of the evidence for the VRB. A copy of this report will be sent to you and your representative. If you have not submitted a valid VRB application, no further action will be taken.

Your request is currently in a form that may not be accepted by the Veterans' Review Board (VRB) as a valid VRB application. To protect your right to apply to the VRB, you should therefore complete and return the attached Veterans' Review Board ‘Application for Review' form within the time limit stated in the original Commission decision. This will also ensure maximum arrears should a favourable VRB decision be made. If you are happy with the subsequent decision by the DRO you may withdraw the VRB application. This will finalise the matter for you.

I have forwarded a copy of this letter to your representative.

If I can be of any help, please contact me on # or 1800 # extension # for country callers.

Yours sincerely

for Deputy Commissioner


BEFORE SCREENING

LETTER 1c - TO BE SENT UPON RECEIPT OF AN APPLICATION

UNREPRESENTED AND APPLICATION IN APPROPRIATE FORMAT

THIS LETTER IS ABOUT YOUR APPLICATION FOR REVIEW

Thank you for your application dated # seeking a review of the determination of a Delegate of the Repatriation Commission on # about #.

As you do not already have someone assisting you with your case, you may wish to contact a representative from one of the organisations which provide advocacy services or represent veterans, members of the defence forces or their dependants. A list of the major organisations providing this assistance is attached. Please tell us in writing if you select a representative.

Your case will be examined by a Departmental Review Officer (DRO) who will see if it is possible to resolve the matter to your satisfaction. That officer can change the original decision and may contact you or your representative, if you obtain one, to discuss your case. If the DRO decides not to intervene the Department will prepare a report of the evidence for the VRB. A copy of this report will be sent to you and, if you obtain one, your representative.

If the DRO makes a new decision, a letter will be mailed to you (and your representative). If you are happy with the decision by the DRO you may withdraw the VRB application. This will finalise the matter for you If you are not happy with what the DRO has done the Department will prepare a report of the evidence for the VRB. A copy of this report will be sent to you and your representative.

If I can be of any help, please contact me on # or 1800 # extension # for country callers.

Yours sincerely

for Deputy Commissioner


BEFORE SCREENING

LETTER 1d - TO BE SENT UPON RECEIPT OF AN APPLICATION

REPRESENTED AND APPLICATION IN APPROPRIATE FORMAT

THIS LETTER IS ABOUT YOUR APPLICATION FOR REVIEW

Thank you for your application dated # seeking a review of the determination of a Delegate of the Repatriation Commission on # about #.

Your case will be examined by a Departmental Review Officer (DRO) who will see if it is possible to resolve the matter to your satisfaction. That officer can change the original decision and may contact you or your representative to discuss your case. If the DRO decides not to intervene the Department will prepare a report of the evidence for the VRB. A copy of this report will be sent to you and your representative.

If the DRO makes a new decision, a letter will be mailed to you (and your representative). If you are happy with the decision by the DRO you may withdraw the VRB application. This will finalise the matter for you. If you are not happy with what the DRO has done the Department will prepare a report of the evidence for the VRB. A copy of this report will be sent to you and your representative.

I have forwarded a copy of this letter to your representative.

If I can be of any help, please contact me on # or 1800 # extension # for country callers.

Yours sincerely,

for Deputy Commissioner


UPON SCREENING

LETTER 1e - SENT WHEN REVIEW IS FAVOURABLE, UNREPRESENTED

THIS LETTER IS ABOUT YOUR APPLICATION FOR REVIEW

Please find attached my decision and letter of advice on your request for a review of your case.

If you are not satisfied with any part of my decision, and have not already done so, you can ask the Veterans' Review Board (VRB) to review the case. You have to do this in writing. The time limit for lodging an application to the VRB is 12 months for entitlement matters and 3 months for assessment matters from when you are deemed to have received advice of my decision. To gain the maximum benefit of backdating any pension as a result of the review, you should lodge your application for review within 3 months from when you are deemed to have received advice of my decision.

OPTION IF VRB APPLICATION LODGED

If you are happy with this result and do not wish the Veterans' Review Board (VRB) to review the decision you will need to withdraw your application to the VRB. To assist you withdraw your application from the VRB, I have attached a form for you to sign and return in the reply paid envelope. Otherwise the Department will prepare a report of the evidence for the VRB. A copy of this report will be sent to you.

If I can be of any help, please contact me on # or 1800 # extension # for country callers.

Yours sincerely,

#

Departmental Review Officer

Delegate of the Repatriation Commission


UPON SCREENING

LETTER 1f - SENT WHEN REVIEW IS FAVOURABLE, REPRESENTED

THIS LETTER IS ABOUT YOUR APPLICATION FOR REVIEW

Please find attached my decision and letter of advice on your request for a review of your case.

If you are not satisfied with any part of my decision, and have not already done so, you can ask the Veterans' Review Board (VRB) to review the case. You have to do this in writing. The time limit for lodging an application to the VRB is 12 months for entitlement matters and 3 months for assessment matters from when you are deemed to have received advice of my decision. To gain the maximum benefit of backdating any pension as a result of the review, you should lodge your application for review within 3 months from when you are deemed to have received advice of my decision.

OPTION IF VRB APPLICATION LODGED

If you are happy with this result and do not wish the Veterans' Review Board (VRB) to review the decision you will need to withdraw your application to the VRB. To assist you withdraw your application from the VRB, I have attached a form for you to sign and return in the reply paid envelope. Otherwise the Department will prepare a report of the evidence for the VRB. A copy of this report will be sent to you and your representative.

I have forwarded a copy of this letter to your representative.

If I can be of any help, please contact me on # or 1800 # extension # for country callers.

Yours sincerely

#

Departmental Review Officer

Delegate of the Repatriation Commission


UPON SCREENING

LETTER 1g - NO APPLICATION IN APPROPRIATE FORMAT AND SECTION 31 REVIEW DECLINED

THIS LETTER IS ABOUT MY DECISION TO NOT CONDUCT A REVIEW OF YOUR CASE.

I refer to your letter dated # seeking a section 31 review of the determination of a Delegate of the Repatriation Commission on #.

The matter for me to decide is #.

I have noted your Departmental files, including the evidence available to the original decision maker and any additional evidence submitted. Having considered all the issues in your case, I have decided that I will not intervene and conduct a review under section 31 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986.

My reason for not intervening in this case is #.

Please note that the law provides no right of review against my refusal to vary the original decision. However, you still may have time to apply to the Veterans' Review Board (VRB) for review of the original decision. You have to do this in writing. The time limit for lodging an application to the VRB is 12 months for entitlement matters and 3 months for assessment matters from when you are deemed to have received advice of the ORIGINAL decision. To gain the maximum benefit of backdating any pension as a result of the review, you should lodge your application for review within 3 months from when you are deemed to have received advice of the ORIGINAL decision.

If I can be of any help, please contact me on # or 1800 # extension # for country callers.

Yours sincerely,

#

Departmental Review Officer

Delegate of the Repatriation Commission


LETTER 2a - AFTER SPECIFIC REQUEST FOR SECTION 31 REVIEW (POST SCREENING - SECTION 31 REVIEW IS DECLINED, UNREPRESENTED

THIS LETTER IS ABOUT MY DECISION TO NOT CONDUCT A REVIEW OF YOUR CASE.

I refer to your letter dated # seeking a section 31 review of the determination of a Delegate of the Repatriation Commission on #.

The matter for me to decide is #.

I have noted your Departmental files, including the evidence available to the original decision maker and any additional evidence submitted. Having considered all the issues in your case, I have decided that I will not intervene and conduct a review under section 31 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986.

My reason for not intervening in this case is #.

Please note that the law provides no right of review against my refusal to vary the original decision. However, if you have an application with the Veterans' Review Board they will review the original decision.

If I can be of any help, please contact me on # or 1800 # extension # for country callers.

Yours sincerely,

#

Departmental Review Officer

Delegate of the Repatriation Commission


LETTER 2b - AFTER SPECIFIC REQUEST FOR SECTION 31 REVIEW (POST SCREENING) - SECTION 31 REVIEW IS DECLINED, REPRESENTED

THIS LETTER IS ABOUT MY DECISION TO NOT CONDUCT A REVIEW OF YOUR CASE

I refer to your letter dated # seeking a section 31 review of the determination of a Delegate of the Repatriation Commission on #.

The matter for me to decide is #.

I have noted your Departmental files including the evidence available to the original decision maker and any additional evidence submitted. Having considered all the issues in your case, I have decided that I will not intervene and conduct a review under section 31 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986.

My reason for not intervening in this case is #.

Please note that the law provides no right of review against my refusal to vary the original decision. However, if you have an application with the Veterans' Review Board they will review the original decision.

A copy of this letter has been sent to your nominated representative.

If I can be of any help, please contact me on # or 1800 # extension # for country callers.

Yours sincerely,

#

Departmental Review Officer

Delegate of the Repatriation Commission


LETTER 3a - AFTER SPECIFIC REQUEST FOR SECTION 31 REVIEW (POST SCREENING) - SECTION 31 REVIEW IS FAVOURABLE, UNREPRESENTED

THIS LETTER IS ABOUT YOUR APPLICATION FOR REVIEW BY THE

VETERAN'S REVIEW BOARD

Please find attached my decision and letter of advice on your request for a review of your case.

I have sent a copy of my decision to the VRB, who will contact you about your application for review.

If I can be of any help, please contact me on # or 1800 # extension # for country callers.

Yours sincerely,

#

Departmental Review Officer

Delegate of the Repatriation Commission


LETTER 3b - AFTER SPECIFIC REQUEST FOR SECTION 31 REVIEW (POST SCREENING) - SECTION 31 REVIEW IS FAVOURABLE, UNREPRESENTED

THIS LETTER IS ABOUT YOUR APPLICATION FOR REVIEW BY THE

VETERAN'S REVIEW BOARD

Please find attached my decision and letter of advice on your request for a review of your case.

I have sent a copy of my decision to the VRB, who will contact you about your application for review.

I have sent a copy of this letter to your representative.

If I can be of any help, please contact me on # or 1800 # extension # for country callers.

Yours sincerely,

#

Departmental Review Officer

Delegate of the Repatriation Commission


ATTACHMENT C

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS

CLAIMANT'S REPRESENTATIVE:

Address:

The Secretary

Dept of Veterans' Affairs

Dear Sir/Madam,

REF:

File No.:

  1. I request a review under S.31 of the VEA, of the decision of the Repatriation Commission, dated the

refusing my claim for

  1. Failing favourable consideration for a review under S.31, I request a review under S.135 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act. This form is to act as an application as per S.136 VEA for a review by the Veterans' Review Board.
  2. My grounds for appeal are as follow:

Signed:

Date:

Organisation's File No:

Organisation's Branch address:

The information provided on this form is required for either a review under section 31, and/or a review under section 135 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986. In the event of an appeal to the Veterans' Review Board this information will be disclosed to that body.


ATTACHMENT D

APPLICATION FOR REVIEW

BY THE VETERANS' REVIEW BOARD

To the Department of Veterans' Affairs

NAME:

ADDRESS:

DVA FILE NUMBER

Please tick only one box

Option To Withdraw

  •                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Following the decision of # I do not wish to proceed with my application for review, by the Veterans' Review Board, of the decision of a Delegate of the Repatriation Commission dated # in relation to #

Option to Proceed

  •                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Following the decision of # I wish to proceed with my application for review by the Veterans' Review Board, of the decision of a Delegate of the Repatriation Commission dated # in relation to #. The part(s) of the decision which I wish to have reviewed by the VRB is/are: .........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

SIGNATUREDATE

The information provided on this form is required for either a review under section 31, and/or a review under section 135 of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986. In the event of an appeal to the Veterans' Review Board this information will be disclosed to that body.