Veteranclaims’s Blog

March 15, 2009

VBIA 2008 and Secretary’s power to grant temporary disability ratings

Filed under: temporary disability ratings, VBIA 2008. — veteranclaims @ 2:27 am

One of the provision of VBIA 2008 that seems to be of import is the ability of the Secretary to grant temporary disability ratings.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
ASSIGNMENT OF TEMPORARY RATINGS
.-(1) For the purpose of providing disability compensation under this chapter to veterans, the Secretary shall assign a temporary disability rating to a veteran as follows:
‘‘(A) To a veteran who-
‘‘(i) was discharged or released from active duty not
more than 365 days before the date such veteran submits
a claim for disability compensation under this chapter;
‘‘(ii) has one or more disabilities for which a rating
of total is not immediately assignable-
Page 6
S.3023-6
‘‘(I) under the regular provisions of the schedule
of ratings; or
‘‘(II) on the basis of individual unemployability;
and
‘‘(iii) has one or more-
‘‘(I) severe disabilities that result in substantially
gainful employment not being feasible or advisable;
or
‘‘(II) healed, unhealed, or incompletely healed wounds or injuries that make material impairment of employability likely.
‘‘(B) To a veteran who, as a result of a highly stressful
in-service event, has a mental disorder that is severe enough
to bring about the veteran’s discharge or release from active
duty.
‘‘(C) To a veteran who has a service-connected disability
that requires hospital treatment or observation in a Department
of Veterans Affairs or approved hospital for a period in excess
of 21 days.
‘‘(D) To a veteran who has a service-connected disability
that has required convalescent care or treatment at hospital
discharge (regular discharge or release to non-bed care) or
outpatient release that meets the requirements of regulations
prescribed by the Secretary.
‘‘(2) With respect to a veteran described in paragraph (1)(A),
the Secretary may assign a temporary disability rating to such
veteran regardless of whether such veteran has obtained a medical
examination or a medical opinion concerning such veteran’s dis-
ability.
‘‘(3) With respect to a veteran described in paragraph (1)(B),
the Secretary shall schedule a medical examination for such veteran
not later than six months after the separation or discharge of
such veteran from active duty.
‘‘(b) TERMINATION OF TEMPORARY DISABILITY RATINGS
.-(1)
Except as provided in paragraph (2), a temporary disability rating
assigned to a veteran under this section shall remain in effect
as follows:
‘‘(A) For a veteran who is assigned a temporary disability
rating under subsection (a)(1)(A), until the later of the date
that is-
‘‘(i) 12 months after the date of discharge or release
from active duty; or
‘‘(ii) provided in regulations prescribed by the Sec-
retary.
‘‘(B) For a veteran who is assigned a temporary disability
rating under subsection (a)(1)(B), until the date on which a
rating decision is issued to such veteran following the medical
examination scheduled under subsection (a)(3).
‘‘(C) For a veteran who is assigned a temporary disability
rating under subsection (a)(1)(C), until the later of the date
that is-
‘‘(i) the last day of the month in which the veteran
is discharged from the hospital as described in such sub-
section (a)(1)(C); or
‘‘(ii) provided in regulations prescribed by the Sec-
retary.
Page 7
S.3023-7
‘‘(D) For a veteran who is assigned a temporary disability
rating under subsection (a)(1)(D), until the date that is provided
in regulations prescribed by the Secretary.
‘‘(2) The Secretary may extend a temporary disability rating
assigned to a veteran under subsection (a) beyond the applicable
termination date under paragraph (1) if the Secretary determines
that such an extension is appropriate.
‘‘(c) REGULATIONS
.-The Secretary shall prescribe regulations
to carry out the provisions of this section.
‘‘(d) CONSTRUCTION
.-Nothing in this section shall be construed
to preclude the Secretary from providing a temporary disability
rating under an authority other than this section.’’.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
This is the html version of the file http://www.joshuakors.com/S.3023–VeteransBenefitsImprovementAct.pdf.
Google automatically generates html versions of documents as we crawl the web.
Page 1
S.3023
One Hundred Tenth Congress
of the
United States of America
AT THE SECOND SESSION
Begun and held at the City of Washington on Thursday,
the third day of January, two thousand and eight
An Act To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve and enhance compensation and pension, housing, labor and education, and insurance benefits for veterans, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of
the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.
(a) SHORT TITLE
.—This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2008’’.
(b) TABLE OF CONTENTS
.—The table of contents for this Act
is as follows:
Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.
Sec. 2. Reference to title 38, United States Code.
TITLE I—COMPENSATION AND PENSION MATTERS
Sec. 101. Regulations on contents of notice to be provided claimants by the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding the substantiation of claims.
Sec. 102. Judicial review of adoption and revision by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs of the schedule of ratings for disabilities of veterans.
Sec. 103. Conforming amendment relating to non-deductibility from veterans’ disability compensation of disability severance pay for disabilities incurred by members of the Armed Forces in combat zones.
Sec. 104. Report on progress of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in addressing causes for variances in compensation payments for veterans for service-connected disabilities.
Sec. 105. Extension of temporary authority for the performance of medical disability examinations by contract physicians.
Sec. 106. Addition of osteoporosis to disabilities presumed to be service-connected in former prisoners of war with post-traumatic stress disorder.

TITLE II—MODERNIZATION OF DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS DISABILITY COMPENSATION SYSTEM
Subtitle A—Benefits Matters
Sec. 211. Authority for temporary disability ratings.
Sec. 212. Substitution upon death of claimant.
Sec. 213. Report on compensation of veterans for loss of earning capacity and quality of life and on long-term transition payments to veterans undergoing rehabilitation for service-connected disabilities.
Sec. 214. Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation.
Subtitle B—Assistance and Processing Matters
Sec. 221. Pilot programs on expedited treatment of fully developed claims and provision of checklists to individuals submitting claims.
Sec. 222. Office of Survivors Assistance.
Sec. 223. Comptroller General report on adequacy of dependency and indemnity compensation to maintain survivors of veterans who die from service-connected disabilities.
Sec. 224. Independent assessment of quality assurance program.
Sec. 225. Certification and training of employees of the Veterans Benefits Administration responsible for processing claims.

Page 2
S.3023—2

Sec. 226. Study of performance measures for claims adjudications of the Veterans Benefits Administration.
Sec. 227. Review and enhancement of use of information technology in Veterans Benefits Administration.
Sec. 228. Study and report on improving access to medical advice.
TITLE III—LABOR AND EDUCATION MATTERS
Subtitle A—Labor and Employment Matters
Sec. 311. Reform of USERRA complaint process.
Sec. 312. Modification and expansion of reporting requirements with respect to enforcement of USERRA.
Sec. 313. Training for executive branch human resources personnel on employment and reemployment rights of members of the uniformed services.
Sec. 314. Report on the employment needs of Native American veterans living on tribal lands.
Sec. 315. Equity powers.
Sec. 316. Waiver of residency requirement for Directors for Veterans’ Employment
and Training.
Sec. 317. Modification of special unemployment study to cover veterans of Post 9/
11 Global Operations.
Subtitle B—Education Matters
Sec. 321. Modification of period of eligibility for Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance of certain spouses of individuals with service-connected disabilities total and permanent in nature.
Sec. 322. Repeal of requirement for report to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on prior training.
Sec. 323. Modification of waiting period before affirmation of enrollment in a correspondence course.
Sec. 324. Change of programs of education at the same educational institution.
Sec. 325. Repeal of certification requirement with respect to applications for approval of self-employment on-job training.
Sec. 326. Coordination of approval activities in the administration of education benefits.

Subtitle C—Vocational Rehabilitation Matters
Sec. 331. Waiver of 24-month limitation on program of independent living services and assistance for veterans with a severe disability incurred in the Post-9/11 Global Operations period.
Sec. 332. Increase in cap of number of veterans participating in independent living program.
Sec. 333. Report on measures to assist and encourage veterans in completing vocational rehabilitation.
Sec. 334. Longitudinal study of Department of Veterans Affairs vocational rehabilitation programs.

TITLE IV—INSURANCE MATTERS
Sec. 401. Report on inclusion of severe and acute post-traumatic stress disorder among conditions covered by traumatic injury protection coverage under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance.
Sec. 402. Treatment of stillborn children as insurable dependents under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance.
Sec. 403. Other enhancements of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage.
Sec. 404. Administrative costs of service disabled veterans’ insurance.

TITLE V—HOUSING MATTERS
Sec. 501. Temporary increase in maximum loan guaranty amount for certain housing loans guaranteed by Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Sec. 502. Report on impact of mortgage foreclosures on veterans.
Sec. 503. Requirement for regular updates to handbook for design furnished to veterans eligible for specially adapted housing assistance by Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Sec. 504. Enhancement of refinancing of home loans by veterans.
Sec. 505. Extension of certain veterans home loan guaranty programs.

TITLE VI—COURT MATTERS
Sec. 601. Temporary increase in number of authorized judges of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
Sec. 602. Protection of privacy and security concerns in court records.

Page 3
S.3023—3

Sec. 603. Recall of retired judges of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
Sec. 604. Annual reports on workload of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
Sec. 605. Additional discretion in imposition of practice and registration fees.

TITLE VII—ASSISTANCE TO UNITED STATES PARALYMPIC INTEGRATED
ADAPTIVE SPORTS PROGRAM
Sec. 701. Findings and purpose.
Sec. 702. Department of Veterans Affairs provision of assistance to United States Paralympics, Inc.
Sec. 703. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events.
Sec. 704. Comptroller General report.

TITLE VIII—OTHER MATTERS
Sec. 801. Authority for suspension or termination of claims of the United States against individuals who died while serving on active duty in the Armed Forces.
Sec. 802. Three-year extension of authority to carry out income verification.
Sec. 803. Maintenance, management, and availability for research of assets of Air Force Health Study.
Sec. 804. National Academies study on risk of developing multiple sclerosis as a result of certain service in the Persian Gulf War and Post 9/11 Global Operations theaters.
Sec. 805. Termination or suspension of contracts for cellular telephone service for certain servicemembers.
Sec. 806. Contracting goals and preferences for veteran-owned small business concerns.
Sec. 807. Penalties for violation of interest rate limitation under Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
Sec. 808. Five-year extension of sunset provision for Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans.
Sec. 809. Authority of Secretary of Veterans Affairs to advertise to promote awareness of benefits under laws administered by the Secretary.
Sec. 810. Memorial headstones and markers for deceased remarried surviving spouses of veterans.

SEC. 2. REFERENCE TO TITLE 38, UNITED STATES CODE.
Except as otherwise expressly provided, whenever in this Act
an amendment or repeal is expressed in terms of an amendment
to, or repeal of, a section or other provision, the reference shall
be considered to be made to a section or other provision of title
38, United States Code.

TITLE I—COMPENSATION AND PENSION
MATTERS
SEC. 101. REGULATIONS ON CONTENTS OF NOTICE TO BE PROVIDED CLAIMANTS BY THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS REGARDING THE SUBSTANTIATION OF CLAIMS.
(a) IN GENERAL
.—Section 5103(a) is amended—
(1) by inserting ‘‘(1)’’ before ‘‘Upon receipt’’; and
(2) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
‘‘(2)(A) The Secretary shall prescribe in regulations require-
ments 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;

Page 4
S.3023—4

‘‘(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).’’.
(b) APPLICABILITY
.—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 regula-
tions.

SEC. 102. JUDICIAL REVIEW OF ADOPTION AND REVISION BY THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS OF THE SCHEDULE
OF RATINGS FOR DISABILITIES OF VETERANS.
Section 502 is amended by striking ‘‘(other than an action
relating to the adoption or revision of the schedule of ratings for
disabilities adopted under section 1155 of this title)’’.
SEC. 103. CONFORMING AMENDMENT RELATING TO NON-DEDUCTIBILITY FROM VETERANS’ DISABILITY COMPENSATION OF DISABILITY SEVERANCE PAY FOR DISABILITIES INCURRED
BY MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES IN COMBAT ZONES.
(a) CONFORMING AMENDMENT
.—Section 1646 of the Wounded
Warrior Act (title XVI of Public Law 110–181; 122 Stat. 472) is
amended—
(1) by redesignating subsection (c) as subsection (d); and
(2) by inserting after subsection (b) the following new sub-
section (c):
‘‘(c) CONFORMING AMENDMENT
.—Section 1161 of title 38, United
States Code, is amended by striking ‘as required by section 1212(c)
of title 10’ and inserting ‘to the extent required by section 1212(d)
of title 10’.’’.
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE
.—The amendments made by subsection
(a) shall take effect on January 28, 2008 (the date of the enactment
of the Wounded Warrior Act), as if included in that Act, to which
they relate.

SEC. 104. REPORT ON PROGRESS OF THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS IN ADDRESSING CAUSES FOR VARIANCES IN COMPENSATION PAYMENTS FOR VETERANS FOR SERVICE-CONNECTED DISABILITIES.
(a) REPORT REQUIRED
.—Not later than one year after the date
of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
shall submit to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate
and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House of Representa-
tives a report describing the progress of the Secretary in addressing
the causes of unacceptable variances in compensation payments
for veterans for service-connected disabilities.
(b) ELEMENTS
.—The report required under subsection (a) shall
include the following:
(1) A description of the efforts of the Veterans Benefits
Administration to coordinate with the Veterans Health
Administration to improve the quality of examinations of vet-
erans with service-connected disabilities that are performed
by the Veterans Health Administration and contract clinicians,

Page 5
S.3023—5

including efforts relating to the use of approved templates
for such examinations and of reports on such examinations
that are based on such templates prepared in an easily-readable
format.
(2) An assessment of the current personnel requirements
of the Veterans Benefits Administration, including an assess-
ment of the adequacy of the number of personnel assigned
to each regional office of the Administration for each type
of claim adjudication position.
(3) A description of the differences, if any, in current pat-
terns of claims submitted to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
regarding ratings for service-connected disabilities among var-
ious populations of veterans, including veterans living in rural
and highly rural areas, minority veterans, veterans who served
in the National Guard or Reserve, and veterans who are retired
from the Armed Forces, and a description and assessment
of efforts undertaken to reduce such differences.

SEC. 105. EXTENSION OF TEMPORARY AUTHORITY FOR THE PERFORMANCE OF MEDICAL DISABILITY EXAMINATIONS BY CONTRACT PHYSICIANS.
Section 704(c) of the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 (Public
Law 108–183; 117 Stat. 2651; 38 U.S.C. 5101 note) is amended
by striking ‘‘December 31, 2009’’ and inserting ‘‘December 31, 2010’’.

SEC. 106. ADDITION OF OSTEOPOROSIS TO DISABILITIES PRESUMED TO BE SERVICE-CONNECTED IN FORMER PRISONERS OF WAR WITH POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER.
Section 1112(b)(2) is amended by adding at the end the fol-
lowing new subparagraph:
‘‘(F) Osteoporosis, if the Secretary determines that the vet-
eran has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).’’.

TITLE II—MODERNIZATION OF DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS DISABILITY COMPENSATION SYSTEM
Subtitle A—Benefits Matters

SEC. 211. AUTHORITY FOR TEMPORARY DISABILITY RATINGS.
(a) IN GENERAL
.—Chapter 11 is amended by inserting after
section 1155 the following new section:
‘‘§1156. Temporary disability ratings
‘‘(a) ASSIGNMENT OF TEMPORARY RATINGS
.—(1) For the purpose of providing disability compensation under this chapter to veterans, the Secretary shall assign a temporary disability rating to a veteran as follows:
‘‘(A) To a veteran who—
‘‘(i) was discharged or released from active duty not
more than 365 days before the date such veteran submits
a claim for disability compensation under this chapter;
‘‘(ii) has one or more disabilities for which a rating
of total is not immediately assignable—

Page 6
S.3023—6

‘‘(I) under the regular provisions of the schedule
of ratings; or
‘‘(II) on the basis of individual unemployability;
and
‘‘(iii) has one or more—
‘‘(I) severe disabilities that result in substantially
gainful employment not being feasible or advisable;
or
‘‘(II) healed, unhealed, or incompletely healed
wounds or injuries that make material impairment
of employability likely.
‘‘(B) To a veteran who, as a result of a highly stressful
in-service event, has a mental disorder that is severe enough
to bring about the veteran’s discharge or release from active
duty.
‘‘(C) To a veteran who has a service-connected disability
that requires hospital treatment or observation in a Department
of Veterans Affairs or approved hospital for a period in excess
of 21 days.
‘‘(D) To a veteran who has a service-connected disability
that has required convalescent care or treatment at hospital
discharge (regular discharge or release to non-bed care) or
outpatient release that meets the requirements of regulations
prescribed by the Secretary.
‘‘(2) With respect to a veteran described in paragraph (1)(A),
the Secretary may assign a temporary disability rating to such
veteran regardless of whether such veteran has obtained a medical
examination or a medical opinion concerning such veteran’s dis-
ability.
‘‘(3) With respect to a veteran described in paragraph (1)(B),
the Secretary shall schedule a medical examination for such veteran
not later than six months after the separation or discharge of
such veteran from active duty.
‘‘(b) TERMINATION OF TEMPORARY DISABILITY RATINGS
.—(1)
Except as provided in paragraph (2), a temporary disability rating
assigned to a veteran under this section shall remain in effect
as follows:
‘‘(A) For a veteran who is assigned a temporary disability
rating under subsection (a)(1)(A), until the later of the date
that is—
‘‘(i) 12 months after the date of discharge or release
from active duty; or
‘‘(ii) provided in regulations prescribed by the Sec-
retary.
‘‘(B) For a veteran who is assigned a temporary disability
rating under subsection (a)(1)(B), until the date on which a
rating decision is issued to such veteran following the medical
examination scheduled under subsection (a)(3).
‘‘(C) For a veteran who is assigned a temporary disability
rating under subsection (a)(1)(C), until the later of the date
that is—
‘‘(i) the last day of the month in which the veteran
is discharged from the hospital as described in such sub-
section (a)(1)(C); or
‘‘(ii) provided in regulations prescribed by the Secretary.

Page 7
S.3023—7

‘‘(D) For a veteran who is assigned a temporary disability
rating under subsection (a)(1)(D), until the date that is provided
in regulations prescribed by the Secretary.
‘‘(2) The Secretary may extend a temporary disability rating
assigned to a veteran under subsection (a) beyond the applicable
termination date under paragraph (1) if the Secretary determines
that such an extension is appropriate.
‘‘(c) REGULATIONS
.—The Secretary shall prescribe regulations
to carry out the provisions of this section.
‘‘(d) CONSTRUCTION
.—Nothing in this section shall be construed
to preclude the Secretary from providing a temporary disability
rating under an authority other than this section.’’.
(b) APPLICATION
.—Section 1156(a)(1) of title 38, United States
Code, as added by subsection (a), shall apply with respect to a
veteran who is discharged or released from active duty (as defined
in section 101 of title 38, United States Code) on or after the
date of the enactment of this Act.
(c) CLERICAL AMENDMENT
.—The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 11 is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 1155 the following new item:
‘‘1156. Temporary disability ratings.’’.

SEC. 212. SUBSTITUTION UPON DEATH OF CLAIMANT.
(a) IN GENERAL
.—Chapter 51 is amended by inserting after
section 5121 the following new section:
‘‘§5121A. Substitution in case of death of claimant
‘‘(a) SUBSTITUTION
.—(1) If a claimant dies while a claim for
any benefit under a law administered by the Secretary, or an
appeal of a decision with respect to such a claim, is pending,
a living person who would be eligible to receive accrued benefits
due to the claimant under section 5121(a) of this title may, not
later than one year after the date of the death of such claimant,
file a request to be substituted as the claimant for the purposes
of processing the claim to completion.
‘‘(2) Any person seeking to be substituted for the claimant
shall present evidence of the right to claim such status within
such time as prescribed by the Secretary in regulations.
‘‘(3) Substitution under this subsection shall be in accordance
with such regulations as the Secretary may prescribe.
‘‘(b) LIMITATION
.—Those who are eligible to make a claim under
this section shall be determined in accordance with section 5121
of this title.’’.
(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT
.—The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 51 is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 5121 the following new item:
‘‘5121A. Substitution in case of death of claimant.’’.
(c) EFFECTIVE DATE
.—Section 5121A of title 38, United States
Code, as added by subsection (a), shall apply with respect to the
claim of any claimant who dies on or after the date of the enactment
of this Act.

Page 8
S.3023—8

SEC. 213. REPORT ON COMPENSATION OF VETERANS FOR LOSS OF EARNING CAPACITY AND QUALITY OF LIFE AND ON LONG-TERM TRANSITION PAYMENTS TO VETERANS UNDER-
GOING REHABILITATION FOR SERVICE-CONNECTED DISABILITIES.
(a) REPORT REQUIRED
.—Not later than 210 days after the date
of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
shall submit to Congress a report on the findings of the Secretary
as a result of the following studies:
(1) The most recent study of the Secretary on the appro-
priate levels of disability compensation to be paid to veterans
to compensate for loss of earning capacity and quality of life
as a result of service-related disabilities.
(2) The most recent study of the Secretary on the feasability
and appropriate level of long-term transition payments to vet-
erans who are separated from the Armed Forces due to dis-
ability while such veterans are undergoing rehabilitation for
such disability.
(b) ELEMENTS
.—The report required by subsection (a) shall
include the following:
(1) A comprehensive description of the findings and rec-
ommendations of the Secretary as a result of the studies
described in subsection (a).
(2) A description of the actions proposed to be taken by
the Secretary in light of such findings and recommendations,
including a description of any modification of the schedule
for rating disabilities of veterans under section 1155 of title
38, United States Code, proposed to be undertaken by the
Secretary and of any other modification of policy or regulations
proposed to be undertaken by the Secretary.
(3) For each action proposed to be taken as described
in paragraph (2), a proposed schedule for the taking of such
action, including a schedule for the commencement and comple-
tion of such action.
(4) A description of any legislative action required in order
to authorize, facilitate, or enhance the taking of any action
proposed to be taken as described in paragraph (2).
SEC. 214. ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON DISABILITY COMPENSATION.
(a) IN GENERAL
.—Subchapter III of chapter 5 is amended by
adding at the end the following new section:
‘‘§546. Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation
‘‘(a) ESTABLISHMENT
.—(1) There is in the Department the
Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation (in this section
referred to as the ‘Committee’).
‘‘(2) The Committee shall consist of not more than 18 members
appointed by the Secretary from among individuals who—
‘‘(A) have experience with the provision of disability com-
pensation by the Department; or
‘‘(B) are leading medical or scientific experts in relevant
fields.
‘‘(3)(A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B), the Secretary
shall determine the terms of service and pay and allowances of
the members of the Committee.

Page 9
S.3023—9

‘‘(B) A term of service may not exceed four years and shall
be staggered to ensure that the dates for the termination of the
members’ terms are not all the same.
‘‘(C) The Secretary may reappoint any member for one or more
additional terms of service.
‘‘(4) The Secretary shall select a Chair from among the members
of the Committee.
‘‘(b) RESPONSIBILITIES OF COMMITTEE
.—(1) The Secretary shall,
on a regular basis, consult with and seek the advice of the Com-
mittee with respect to the maintenance and periodic readjustment
of the schedule for rating disabilities under section 1155 of this
title.
‘‘(2)(A) In providing advice to the Secretary under this sub-
section, the Committee shall—
‘‘(i) assemble and review relevant information relating to
the needs of veterans with disabilities;
‘‘(ii) provide information relating to the nature and char-
acter of disabilities arising from service in the Armed Forces;
‘‘(iii) provide an on-going assessment of the effectiveness
of the schedule for rating disabilities; and
‘‘(iv) provide on-going advice on the most appropriate means
of responding to the needs of veterans relating to disability
compensation in the future.
‘‘(B) In carrying out its duties under subparagraph (A), the
Committee shall take into special account the needs of veterans
who have served in a theater of combat operations.
‘‘(c) RESOURCES
.—The Secretary shall ensure that appropriate
personnel, funding, and other resources are provided to the Com-
mittee to carry out its responsibilities.
‘‘(d) BIENNIAL REPORTS TO THE SECRETARY
.—(1) Not later than
October 31, 2010, and not less frequently than every two years
thereafter, the Committee shall submit to the Secretary a report
on the programs and activities of the Department that relate to
the payment of disability compensation. Each such report shall
include—
‘‘(A) an assessment of the needs of veterans with respect
to disability compensation; and
‘‘(B) such recommendations (including recommendations for
administrative or legislative action) as the Committee considers
appropriate.
‘‘(2) The Committee may submit to the Secretary such other
reports and recommendations as the Committee considers appro-
priate.
‘‘(e) BIENNIAL REPORTS TO CONGRESS
.—(1) Not later than 90
days after the receipt of a report required under subsection (d)(1),
the Secretary shall transmit to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
of the Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House
of Representatives a copy of such report, together with such com-
ments and recommendations concerning such report as the Sec-
retary considers appropriate.
‘‘(2) The Secretary shall submit with each report required under
paragraph (1) a summary of all reports and recommendations of
the Committee submitted to the Secretary under subsection (d)(2)
since the previous report transmitted by the Secretary under para-
graph (1) of this subsection.
‘‘(f) APPLICABILITY OF FEDERAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
ACT
.—
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the provisions of the
(2)
Page 10
S.3023—10

Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) shall apply to
the activities of the Committee under this section.
‘‘(2) Section 14 of such Act shall not apply to the Committee.’’.
(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT
.—The table of sections at the begin-
ning of such chapter is amended by adding at the end of the
items relating to subchapter III the following new item:
‘‘546. Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation.’’.
Subtitle B—Assistance and Processing
Matters

SEC. 221. PILOT PROGRAMS ON EXPEDITED TREATMENT OF FULLY DEVELOPED CLAIMS AND PROVISION OF CHECKLISTS TO INDIVIDUALS SUBMITTING CLAIMS.
(a) PILOT PROGRAM ON EXPEDITED TREATMENT OF
FULLY DEVELOPED CLAIMS
.—
(1) I
N GENERAL
.—The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall
carry out a pilot program to assess the feasibility and advis-
ability of providing expeditious treatment of fully developed
compensation or pension claims to ensure that such claims
are adjudicated not later than 90 days after the date on which
such claim is submitted as fully developed.
(2) DURATION OF PILOT PROGRAM
.—The pilot program under
this subsection shall be carried out during the one-year period
beginning on the date that is 60 days after the date of the
enactment of this Act.
(3) PROGRAM LOCATIONS
.—The pilot program under this
subsection shall be carried out at 10 regional offices of the
Department of Veterans Affairs selected by the Secretary for
purposes of such pilot program.
(4) FULLY DEVELOPED CLAIM DEFINED
.—For purposes of
this subsection, the term ‘‘fully developed claim’’ means a claim
for a benefit under a law administered by the Secretary—
(A) for which the claimant—
(i) received assistance from a veterans service
officer, a State or country veterans service officer, an
agent, or an attorney; or
(ii) submits along with the claim an appropriate
indication that the claimant does not intend to submit
any additional information or evidence in support of
the claim and does not require additional assistance
with respect to the claim; and
(B) for which the claimant—
(i) submits a certification in writing that is signed
and dated by the claimant stating that, as of such
date, no additional information or evidence is available
or needs to be submitted in order for the claim to
be adjudicated; and
(ii) for which the claimant’s representative, if any,
submits a certification in writing that is signed and
dated by the representative stating that, as of such
date, no additional information or evidence is available
or needs to be submitted in order for the claim to
be adjudicated.

Page 11
S.3023—11

(b) PILOT PROGRAM ON PROVISION OF CHECKLISTS TO INDIVIDUALS SUBMITTING CLAIMS
.—
(1) IN GENERAL
.—The Secretary shall carry out a pilot
program to assess the feasibility and advisability of providing
to a claimant for whom the Secretary is required under section
5103(a) of title 38, United States Code, to provide notice of
required information and evidence to such claimant and such
claimant’s representative, if any, a checklist that includes
information or evidence required to be submitted by the claim-
ant to substantiate the claim.
(2) DURATION OF PILOT PROGRAM
.—The pilot program under
this subsection shall be carried out—
(A) for original claims filed after the date of the enact-
ment of this Act, during the one-year period beginning
on the date that is 60 days after the date of the enactment
of this Act; and
(B) for claims to reopen and for claims for increased
ratings that were filed after the date of the enactment
of this Act, during the three-year period beginning on the
date that is 60 days after the date of the enactment of
this Act.
(3) PROGRAM LOCATIONS
.—The pilot program under this
subsection shall be carried out at four regional offices of the
Department selected by the Secretary for purposes of such
pilot program.
(4) CONSTRUCTION
.—A checklist provided under the pilot
program under this subsection—
(A) shall be construed to be an addendum to a notice
provided under section 5103(a) of title 38, United Sates
Code; and
(B) shall not be considered as part of such notice for
purposes of reversal or remand of a decision of the Sec-
retary.
(c) REPORTS
.—
(1) FIRST INITIAL REPORT
.—Not later than 335 days after
the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall
submit to Congress a report on the pilot program under sub-
section (a) and the pilot program under subsection (b) with
respect to claims described in subsection (b)(2)(A).
(2) SECOND INTERIM REPORT
.—Not later than 1,065 days
after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary
shall submit to Congress a report on the pilot program under
subsection (b) with respect to claims described in subsection
(b)(2)(B).
(3) ELEMENTS OF INTERIM REPORTS
.—The reports required
by paragraphs (1) and (2) shall include the following:
(A) Data concerning the number and type of claims
covered by the respective pilot program.
(B) The findings of the Secretary with respect to the
respective pilot program.
(C) The recommendations of the Secretary on the feasi-
bility and advisability of continuing or expanding the
respective pilot program and any necessary modifications
to such pilot program for continuation or expansion.
(D) Such other information as the Secretary considers
appropriate.

Page 12
S.3023—12

(4) FINAL REPORT
.—Not later than 180 days after the
completion of each pilot program carried out under this section,
the Secretary shall submit to Congress a final report on the
feasibility and advisability of continuing or expanding the
respective pilot program.
SEC. 222. OFFICE OF SURVIVORS ASSISTANCE.
(a) IN GENERAL
.—Chapter 3 is amended by adding at the
end the following new section:
‘‘§321. Office of Survivors Assistance
‘‘(a) ESTABLISHMENT
.—The Secretary shall establish in the
Department an Office of Survivors Assistance (in this section
referred to as the ‘Office’) to serve as a resource regarding all
benefits and services furnished by the Department—
‘‘(1) to survivors and dependents of deceased veterans; and
‘‘(2) to survivors and dependents of deceased members of
the Armed Forces.
‘‘(b) ADVISORY DUTIES
.—The Office shall serve as a primary
advisor to the Secretary on all matters related to the policies,
programs, legislative issues, and other initiatives affecting the sur-
vivors and dependents described in subsection (a).
‘‘(c) GUIDANCE FROM STAKEHOLDERS
.—In establishing the
Office, the Secretary shall seek guidance from interested stake-
holders.
‘‘(d) RESOURCES
.—The Secretary shall ensure that appropriate
personnel, funding, and other resources are provided to the Office
to carry out its responsibilities.
‘‘(e) INCLUSION OF INFORMATION ON OFFICE IN ANNUAL REPORT ON DEPARTMENT ACTIVITIES
.—The Secretary shall include in each
annual Performance and Accountability report submitted by the
Secretary to Congress a description of the activities of the Office
during the fiscal year covered by such report.’’.
(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT
.—The table of sections at the begin-
ning of such chapter is amended by adding at the end the following
new item:
‘‘321. Office of Survivors Assistance.’’.

SEC. 223. COMPTROLLER GENERAL REPORT ON ADEQUACY OF DEPENDENCY AND INDEMNITY COMPENSATION TO MAIN-
TAIN SURVIVORS OF VETERANS WHO DIE FROM SERVICE-
CONNECTED DISABILITIES.
(a) REPORT REQUIRED
.—Not later than 10 months after the
date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of
the United States shall submit to the Committees on Veterans’
Affairs and Appropriations of the Senate and the Committees on
Veterans’ Affairs and Appropriations of the House of Representa-
tives a report on the adequacy of dependency and indemnity com-
pensation payable under chapter 13 of title 38, United States Code,
to surviving spouses and dependents of veterans who die as a
result of a service-connected disability in replacing the deceased
veteran’s income.
(b) ELEMENTS
.—The report required by subsection (a) shall
include—
(1) a description of the current system for the payment
of dependency and indemnity compensation to surviving

Page 13
S.3023—13

spouses and dependents described in subsection (a), including
a statement of the rates of such compensation so payable;
(2) an assessment of the adequacy of such payments in
replacing the deceased veteran’s income; and
(3) such recommendations as the Comptroller General con-
siders appropriate in order to improve or enhance the effects
of such payments in replacing the deceased veteran’s income.

SEC. 224. INDEPENDENT ASSESSMENT OF QUALITY ASSURANCE PROGRAM.
(a) IN GENERAL
.—Section 7731 is amended by adding at the
end the following new subsection:
‘‘(c)(1) The Secretary shall enter into a contract with an inde-
pendent third-party entity to conduct, during the three-year period
beginning on the date of the enactment of the Veterans’ Benefits
Improvement Act of 2008, an assessment of the quality assurance
program carried out under subsection (a).
‘‘(2) The assessment conducted under paragraph (1) shall
evaluate the following:
‘‘(A) The quality and accuracy of the work of employees
of the Veterans Benefits Administration, using a statistically
valid sample of such employees and a statistically valid sample
of such work.
‘‘(B) The performance of each regional office of the Veterans
Benefits Administration.
‘‘(C) The accuracy of the disability ratings assigned under
the schedule for rating disabilities under section 1155 of this
title.
‘‘(D) The consistency of disability ratings among regional
offices of the Veterans Benefits Administration, based on a
sample of specific disabilities.
‘‘(E) The performance of employees and managers of the
Veterans Benefits Administration.
‘‘(3) The Secretary shall develop a mechanism for the automated
gathering and producing of data that can be used to monitor and
assess trends relating to the items described in paragraph (2).
‘‘(4)(A) Beginning on the date that is six months after the
date of the enactment of the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act
of 2008, the Secretary shall—
‘‘(i) for each claim for disability compensation under laws
administered by the Secretary submitted to the Secretary on
or after such date, retain, monitor, and store in an accessible
format the data described in subparagraph (B); and
‘‘(ii) develop a demographic baseline for the data retained,
monitored, and stored under subparagraph (A).
‘‘(B) The data described in this subparagraph includes the
following:
‘‘(i) For each claim for disability compensation under laws
administered by the Secretary submitted by a claimant—
‘‘(I) the State in which the claimant resided when
the claim was submitted;
‘‘(II) the decision of the Secretary with respect to the
claim and each issue claimed; and
‘‘(III) the regional office and individual employee of
the Department responsible for rating the claim.
‘‘(ii) The State in which the claimant currently resides.

Page 14
S.3023—14

‘‘(iii) Such other data as the Secretary determines is appro-
priate for monitoring the accuracy and consistency of decisions
with respect to such claims.
‘‘(5) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to require
the Secretary to replace the quality assurance program under sub-
section (a) that was in effect on the day before the date of the
enactment of this subsection.’’.
(b) REPORT TO CONGRESS
.—Not later than the end of the three-
year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act,
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to Congress a report
containing the results and findings of the independent third-party
entity described in section 7731(c)(1) of title 38, United States
Code, as added by subsection (a), with respect to the assessment
conducted under such section 7731(c)(1).

SEC. 225. CERTIFICATION AND TRAINING OF EMPLOYEES OF THE VETERANS BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION RESPONSIBLE FOR PROCESSING CLAIMS.
(a) EMPLOYEE CERTIFICATION REQUIRED
.—
(1) IN GENERAL
.—Subchapter II of chapter 77 is amended
by inserting after section 7732 the following new section:
‘‘§7732A. Employee certification
‘‘(a) DEVELOPMENT OF CERTIFICATION EXAMINATION
.—(1) The Secretary shall provide for an examination of appropriate employees and managers of the Veterans Benefits Administration who are responsible for processing claims for compensation and pension benefits under the laws administered by the Secretary.
‘‘(2) In developing the examination required by paragraph (1),
the Secretary shall—
‘‘(A) consult with appropriate individuals or entities,
including examination development experts, interested stake-
holders, and employee representatives; and
‘‘(B) consider the data gathered and produced under section
7731(c)(3) of this title.
‘‘(b) EMPLOYEE AND MANAGER REQUIREMENT
.—The Secretary
shall require appropriate employees and managers of the Veterans
Benefits Administration who are responsible for processing claims
for compensation and pension benefits under the laws administered
by the Secretary to take the examination provided under subsection
(a).’’.
(2) CLERICAL AMENDMENT
.—The table of sections at the
beginning of such chapter 77 is amended by inserting after
the item relating to section 7732 the following new item:
‘‘7732A. Employee certification.’’.
(3) DEADLINES FOR IMPLEMENTATION
.—The Secretary of
Veterans Affairs shall—
(A) develop an updated certification examination
required under section 7732A of title 38, United States
Code, as added by subsection (a), not later than one year
after the date of the enactment of this Act; and
(B) begin administering such certification examination
required under such section not later than 90 days after
the date on which the development of such certification
examination is complete.
Page 15
S.3023—15
(b) EVALUATION OF TRAINING
.—Not later than one year after
the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General
of the United States shall—
(1) evaluate the training programs administered for
employees of the Veterans Benefits Administration of the
Department of Veterans Affairs; and
(2) submit to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the
Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House
of Representatives a report on the findings of the Comptroller
General with respect to the evaluation described in paragraph
(1).

SEC. 226. STUDY OF PERFORMANCE MEASURES FOR CLAIMS ADJUDICATIONS OF THE VETERANS BENEFITS ADMINISTRA-
TION.
(a) STUDY OF WORK CREDIT SYSTEM AND WORK MANAGEMENT SYSTEM REQUIRED
.—The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall conduct
a study on the effectiveness of the current employee work credit
system and work management system of the Veterans Benefits
Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is
used—
(1) to measure and manage the work production of
employees of the Veterans Benefits Administration who handle
claims for compensation and pension benefits; and
(2) to evaluate more effective means of improving perform-
ance.
(b) CONTENTS OF STUDY
.—In carrying out the study under
subsection (a), the Secretary shall consider—
(1) measures to improve the accountability, quality, and
accuracy for processing claims for compensation and pension
benefits under laws administered by the Secretary that are
adjudicated by the Veterans Benefits Administration;
(2) accountability for claims adjudication outcomes;
(3) the quality of claims adjudicated;
(4) a simplified process to adjudicate claims;
(5) the maximum use of information technology applica-
tions;
(6) rules-based applications and tools for processing and
adjudicating claims efficiently and effectively;
(7) methods of reducing the time required to obtain
information from outside sources; and
(8) the elements needed to implement—
(A) performance standards and accountability meas-
ures, intended to ensure that—
(i) claims for benefits under the laws administered
by the Secretary are processed in an objective,
accurate, consistent, and efficient manner; and
(ii) final decisions with respect to such claims are
consistent and issued within the target identified in
the most recent annual Performance and Account-
ability report submitted by the Secretary to Congress
for the most recent fiscal year;
(B) guidelines and procedures for the identification
and prompt processing of such claims that are ready to
rate upon submittal;
(C) guidelines and procedures for the identification
and prompt processing of such claims submitted by severely

Page 16
S.3023—16

injured and very severely injured veterans, as determined
by the Secretary; and
(D) requirements for assessments of claims processing
at each regional office for the purpose of producing lessons
learned and best practices.
(c) REPORT TO CONGRESS
.—Not later than October 31, 2009,
the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report on—
(1) the study conducted under subsection (a); and
(2) the components required to implement the updated
system for evaluating employees of the Veterans Benefits
Administration required under subsection (d).
(d) EVALUATION OF CERTAIN VETERANS BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION EMPLOYEES RESPONSIBLE FOR PROCESSING CLAIMS FOR COMPENSATION AND PENSION BENEFITS
.—Not later than 210 days after
the date on which the Secretary submits to Congress the report
required under subsection (c), the Secretary shall establish an
updated system for evaluating the performance and accountability
of employees of the Veterans Benefits Administration who are
responsible for processing claims for compensation or pension bene-
fits. Such system shall be based on the findings of the study
conducted by the Secretary under subsection (a).

SEC. 227. REVIEW AND ENHANCEMENT OF USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN VETERANS BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION.
(a) REVIEW AND COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
.—Not later than one
year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary
of Veterans Affairs shall—
(1) conduct a review of the use of information technology
in the Veterans Benefits Administration with respect to the
processing of claims for compensation and pension benefits;
and
(2) develop a comprehensive plan for the use of such tech-
nology in processing such claims so as to reduce subjectivity,
avoidable remands, and regional office variances in disability
ratings for specific disabilities.
(b) INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
.—The plan developed under sub-
section (a)(2) shall include the following:
(1) The use of rules-based processing or information tech-
nology systems utilizing automated decision support software
at all levels of processing such claims.
(2) The enhancement of the use of information technology
for all aspects of the claims process.
(3) Development of a technological platform that—
(A) allows for the use of information that members
of the Armed Forces, veterans, and dependents have sub-
mitted electronically, including uploaded military records,
medical evidence, and other appropriate documentation;
and
(B) to the extent practicable—
(i) provides the capability to such members, vet-
erans, and dependents to view applications for benefits
submitted online; and
(ii) complies with the provisions of subchapter III
of chapter 35 of title 44, United States Code, section
552a of title 5, United States Code, and other relevant
security policies and guidelines.

Page 17
S.3023—17

(4) The use of electronic examination templates in conjunc-
tion with the schedule for rating disabilities under section
1155 of title 38, United States Code.
(5) Such changes as may be required to the electronic
health record system of the Department of Veterans Affairs
and the Department of Defense to ensure that Veterans Bene-
fits Administration claims examiners can access the available
electronic medical information of the Department of Veterans
Affairs and the Department of Defense.
(6) The provision of bi-directional access to medical records
and service records between the Department of Veterans Affairs
and the Department of Defense.
(7) The availability, on a secure Internet website of the
Department of Veterans Affairs, of a portal that can be used
by a claimant to check on the status of any claim submitted
by that claimant and that provides information, if applicable,
on—
(A) whether a decision has been reached with respect
to such a claim and notice of the decision; or
(B) if no such decision has been reached, notice of—
(i) whether the application submitted by the claim-
ant is complete;
(ii) whether the Secretary requires additional
information or evidence to substantiate the claim;
(iii) the estimated date on which a decision with
respect to the claim is expected to be made; and
(iv) the stage at which the claim is being processed
as of the date on which such status is checked.
(c) REVIEW OF BEST PRACTICES AND LESSONS LEARNED
.—In
carrying out this section, the Secretary shall review—
(1) best practices and lessons learned within the Depart-
ment of Veterans Affairs; and
(2) the use of the technology known as ‘‘VistA’’ by other
Government entities and private sector organizations who
employ information technology and automated decision support
software.
(d) REDUCTION OF CLAIMS PROCESSING TIME
.—In carrying out
this section, the Secretary shall ensure that a plan is developed
that, not later than three years after implementation, includes
information technology to the extent possible to reduce the proc-
essing time for each compensation and pension claim processed
by the Veterans Benefits Administration. The performance for
claims processing under this plan shall be adjusted for changes
to the numbers of claims filed in a given period, the complexity
of those claims, and any changes to the basic claims processing
rules which occur during the assessment period.
(e) CONSULTATION
.—In carrying out this section, the Secretary
of Veterans Affairs shall consult with information technology
designers at the Veterans Benefits Administration, the Veterans
Health Administration, VistA managers, the Secretary of Defense,
appropriate officials of other Government agencies, appropriate
individuals in the private and public sectors, veterans service
organizations, and other relevant service organizations.
(f) REPORT TO CONGRESS
.—Not later than April 1, 2010, the
Secretary shall submit to Congress a report on the review and
comprehensive plan required under this section.

Page 18
S.3023—18

SEC. 228. STUDY AND REPORT ON IMPROVING ACCESS TO MEDICAL ADVICE.
(a) STUDY
.—The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall conduct
a study—
(1) to assess the feasibility and advisability of various
mechanisms to improve communication between the Veterans
Benefits Administration and the Veterans Health Administra-
tion to provide Veterans Benefits Administration employees
with access to medical advice from the Veterans Health
Administration when needed by such employees to carry out
their duties; and
(2) to evaluate whether additional medical professionals
are necessary to provide the access described in paragraph
(1).
(b) REPORT TO CONGRESS
.—Not later than 180 days after the
date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to
Congress a report on the study conducted under subsection (a).
+++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress.com.