Seven-Month Moratorium on EAJA Fees: Veterans to suffer

Post date: Apr 7, 2011 1:49:25 AM

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Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget amendment that, if enacted into law, would essentially invoke a seven-month moratorium on payment of all legal fees by the government to those who successfully litigate a matter against it. Such payments are currently authorized under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).

In 1980, Congress established EAJA in response to its concern that people may be deterred from seeking review of, or defending against, unreasonable governmental action because of the expense involved in suing the government to vindicate their rights. Congress expressly made payment of legal fees under the EAJA available to veterans and their dependents who hire private attorneys to represent them at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and if they win the case against the government in that court.

If the budget amendment becomes law, EAJA fees would be temporarily suspended. Because there does not appear to be a distinction between those people who would be affected by the broad moratorium, veterans and their dependents would likely suffer because attorneys rely on reimbursement of reasonable attorney fees under EAJA in order to provide low or no cost services. If the attorneys are not awarded attorney fees in successful appeals, it is unlikely that they would agree to represent veterans and their dependents before the court. This will negatively affect those who have been unfairly denied benefits by VA and need the expertise of an attorney skilled in the area of veteran’s benefits law to litigate the matter at the Court.

To see the EAJA deliberations, check out