Noteworthy Director Review Determinations

NAD Director Reviews

March 2017 (2013S000432-434) Prevailing Party for EAJA Appeals: The proper provision for determining whether an EAJA application was timely filed with NAD is 7 C.F.R. §1.147(g), which provides that a document is deemed filed when it reaches [NAD’s] office, i.e. deposited in that office’s post office box, not 7 C.F.R. §11.14(a). EAJA application deemed not timely because the application was not received by NAD within 30 days of the final disposition.
In order to meet the prevailing party standard for EAJA, there must be a material alteration in the legal relationship of the parties, marked by judicial imprimatur, which occurs (1) where the plaintiff has received a judgment on the merits or (2) where the plaintiff obtained a court-ordered consent decree.  CRST Van Expedited, Inc. v. E.E.O.C., 136 S. Ct. 1642 (2016), citing Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Va. Dep’t of Health & Human Res., 532 U.S. 598, 604-605 (2001). However, the Supreme Court went on to say in the CRST case, that a favorable ruling on the merits is not a necessary predicate to finding that the defendant prevailed. The Director determined that Appellant was not a prevailing party for purposes of EAJA because FSA rescinded the adverse decisions in the underlying NAD case before a NAD Administrative Judge had issued an appeal determination on the merits. Director Review 2013S000432

February 2016 (2015W000388) Program non-compliance for EAJA Appeals: A producer was eligible to be considered for equitable relief where FSA denied the producer’s request to take advantage of the emergency haying benefit under the CRP program.  FSA had based its determination on the fact that once Appellant had taken advantage of the emergency grazing provisions of the CRP program, he was no longer eligible to conduct emergency haying operations.   The Director found that although the producer technically had not violated any provision of the CRP program, FSA determined him ineligible to receive a benefit under the CRP program and therefore, the producer could request that NAD grant him that benefit or its equivalent in the form of equitable relief.
The key requirement for consideration for equitable relief is not whether the participant technically has been determined by the agency to be in non-compliance with a program requirement; rather, it is the fact that the agency has denied benefits to the participant in the first place, either because the participant failed to comply with a program requirement, failed to meet eligibility requirements, failed to submit a timely application, or for any other proper, program-based reason. Director Review 2015W000388

August 2015 (2015W000089) NAD Jurisdiction (adverse decision): RMA’s letter to approved insurance providers (AIP’s) constituted an adverse decision because it effectively denied appellants a program benefit, and a key consideration in determining whether an adverse decision is appealable, is whether the decision takes any action or makes a determination that specifically prevents an appellant from participating in a program, or from receiving a program benefit.  Director also rejected RMA’s argument that a policy decision made by the Secretary and implemented by RMA regarding a new APH yield exclusion was a “matter of general applicability” outside NAD’s jurisdiction.  NAD has jurisdiction to review an agency policy, guidance, or interpretation once the agency adversely applies such authority to a specific participant‘s request.  At that point, the matter becomes ripe for NAD review. Director Review 2015W000089