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Mayfield v. Nicholson

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

April 5, 2006, Decided

05-7157

Opinion

 [*1329]  BRYSON, Circuit Judge.

This case requires us to resolve an issue involving the notification provision of the Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000,  [**2]  Pub. L. No. 106-475, § 3(a), 114 Stat. 2096 ("VCAA"), codified at 38 U.S.C. § 5103(a). Based on various communications between the Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA") and the claimant-appellant, the Board of Veterans Appeals held that the VA had satisfied its obligations under the notification provision. The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ("the Veterans Court") affirmed the Board's decision, but it did so based on a communication other than the ones the Board relied on. Mayfield v. Nicholson, 19 Vet. App. 103 (2005). We hold that it was improper for the Veterans Court to affirm the Board based on the court's analysis of a communication not relied on by the Board. We therefore  [*1330]  reverse the court's order and remand for further proceedings.

Estey Mayfield, a veteran who served in the U.S. Army during the Second World War, was awarded service connection and a 50 percent disability rating in 1985 for a left-leg injury and varicosities of both legs. He died in 1999 of congestive heart failure due to coronary artery disease. Following Mr. Mayfield's death, his widow Lizzie K. Mayfield filed a claim for dependency and indemnity compensation [**3]  ("DIC"). In order for her to be eligible for DIC benefits, Mr. Mayfield's death had to be the result of a service-connected disability. See 38 U.S.C. § 1310(a). Mrs. Mayfield alleged that the required causation was established because Mr. Mayfield's veins were in such poor condition that he was unable to undergo a bypass operation to treat his coronary artery disease.

A VA regional office denied Mrs. Mayfield's DIC claim on the ground that the evidence failed to establish any causal relationship between Mr. Mayfield's military service and his death. Mrs. Mayfield filed a notice of disagreement with the regional office's decision, and in June 2000 the regional office issued a Statement of the Case ("SOC") in which the regional office noted that "no medical evidence has been presented which provides a link between the veteran's varicose vein condition and his death." Mrs. Mayfield then filed an appeal with the Board.

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444 F.3d 1328 *; 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 8145 **

LIZZIE K. MAYFIELD, Claimant-Appellant, v. R. JAMES NICHOLSON, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Respondent-Appellee.

Subsequent History: On remand at, Remanded by Mayfield v. Nicholson, 20 Vet. App. 98, 2006 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 428 (U.S. App. Vet. Cl., June 15, 2006)

Prior History:  [**1]  Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Judge Jonathan R. Steinberg.

Mayfield v. Nicholson, 19 Vet. App. 103, 2005 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 197 (U.S. App. Vet. Cl., 2005)

Disposition: REVERSED and REMANDED.

CORE TERMS

Veterans, notification, claimant, notice, regulation, statement of the case, regional office, court's decision, readjudication, obligations, communications, requirement of notice, supplemental, varicose, notice of decision, grounds, veins

Military & Veterans Law, Veterans, Claim Procedures, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Administrative Record, General Overview, Standards of Review