Originally U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals, 1988-1999
Congress established the United States Court of Veterans Appeals in 1988 to provide judicial review of Veterans Administration (“VA”) determinations of veterans’ disability claims (102 Stat. 4105). The VA had previously exercised exclusive control over the adjudication of such claims, with the only review available in the VA’s Board of Veterans Appeals (“BVA”). Pursuant to a Civil-War-era statute, veterans could not be represented by a lawyer who was paid more than $10 for his or her services in these administrative proceedings. In practice, this meant that most veterans were represented by veterans’ service organizations (“VSOs”) like the American Legion.
Throughout the 1980s, many VSOs argued this process allowed them to be a powerful voice for their members and that judicial review would hamper the administration of veterans’ claims. However, some VSOs representing Vietnam War veterans maintained that VA procedures unfairly denied meritorious claims brought by their members involving disabilities arising from the use of Agent Orange and other dangerous chemicals. These groups contended that judicial review was essential to preserve the fairness of the disabilities claims process.
In 1988, Congress responded to these concerns by creating the Court of Veterans Appeals as a court of record under Article I of the Constitution. The court has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from the BVA and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in turn, hears appeals from the court’s decisions. Veterans may be represented by either attorneys or qualified VSOs in veterans court proceedings. The court’s judges are appointed by the President of the United States by and with the advice and consent of the Senate to fifteen-year terms. No more than half of the judges, plus one, may be members of the same political party.
In 1998, Congress changed the court’s name to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (112 Stat. 3341).