Veteranclaims’s Blog

March 12, 2009

Significant Amendments—Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2008

Filed under: Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2008; SOAR; VBIA 2008; — veteranclaims @ 8:53 pm

The professional staff of the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s (PVA) represents claimants before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, the Veterans Court, and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and tracks legal issues that matter to veterans.

One of their publications is called “SOAR”, the Service Officers Appeals Report. It “is a quarterly newsletter providing information on cases at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, Veterans Court, and Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; opinions and rulemaking of the Department of Veterans Affairs; judicial review; and other issues of concern to Paralyzed Veterans service officers.”

PVA website with link to SOAR
SOAR—Volume 13 / Number 1

Significant Amendments—Veterans Benefits Improvement Act
of 2008

Section 101 — 38 U.S.C.A. § 5103
Section 101 of the new law amends 38 U.S.C.A. § 5103 (West 2002). It directs the Secretary to issue regulations addressing the contents of the notices to be provided to claimants by VA regarding substantiation of their claims. Section 5103 is amended, in relevant part, by adding the following to the end of the statutory section:
(2)(A) The Secretary shall prescribe in regulations requirements relating to the contents of notice to be provided under this subsection.
(B) The regulations required by this paragraph—
(i) shall specify different contents for notice based on whether the claim concerned is an original claim, a claim for reopening a prior decision on a claim, or a claim for an increase in benefits;
(ii) shall provide that the contents for such notice be appropriate to the type of benefits or services sought under the claim;
(iii) shall specify for each type of claim for benefits the general information and evidence required to substantiate the basic elements of such type of claim; and
(iv) shall specify the time period limitations required pursuant to subsection (b).
The new law also directs: “The regulations required by paragraph (2) of section 5103(a) of title 38, United States Code (as amended by subsection (a) of this section), shall apply with respect to notices provided to claimants on or after the effective date of such regulations.” We can expect VA to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to comply with the requirements of the new law in the near future. We can also expect preparing and filing comments with VA regarding its proposed regulations.
Section 102 — Rating Schedule
Section 102 of the new law amends the law to authorize the Veterans Court and the Federal Circuit to consider and decide challenges to the VA’s Schedule for Rating Disabilities. Congress amended 38 U.S.C.A. § 502 by striking out “(other than an action relating to the adoption or revision of the schedule of ratings for disabilities adopted under section 1155 of this title [38]).”
Section 104 — Report to Congress
Section 104 of the new law, directs VA to provide Congress with a report addressing causes for variances in compensation payments for veterans for service-connected disabilities. The law requires the Secretary to file the report with Congress within one year of the date of the enactment of the act.
Section 106 — Osteoporosis
Section 106 of the new law adds osteoporosis to the list of disabilities that are presumed to be service-connected in former prisoners of war with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Section 211 — Extension of Authority
Section 211 of the new law gives VA statutory authority to assign veterans temporary disability ratings.
Section 213 — 38 U.S.C.A. § 5121
Section 213 of the new law amends 38 U.S.C.A. § 5121 to permit substitution of a new party upon the death of a claimant.
Section 601 — Judges
Section 601 of the new law authorizes a temporary increase in the number of judges of the Veterans Court by the number of two.

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