Summary: H.R.5892 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed House amended (07/30/2008)

Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act of 2008 - Title I: Matters Relating to Modernizing the Disability Compensation System of Department of Veterans Affairs - (Sec. 101) Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to: (1) establish in the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) an Office of Survivor Assistance to provide direct assistance to survivors and dependents of deceased veterans and members of the Armed Forces regarding all benefits and services delivered by the VA; and (2) report annually to Congress on Office activities.

(Sec. 102) Requires the Secretary to conduct, and report to Congress on, a study on adjusting the VA schedule for rating veterans' disabilities (rating schedule) to base such schedule on current standards, practices, and codes in common use by medical, mental health, and disability professions. Directs the Secretary, after the report, to submit to Congress a plan for the readjustment of such schedule, along with a proposed implementation timeline (not to exceed three years). Authorizes appropriations.

Establishes in the VA the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation to advise the Secretary on the maintenance and periodic readjustment of the rating schedule. Requires an annual Committee report to the Secretary (to be forwarded to the congressional veterans' committees) on its programs and activities.

(Sec. 103) Directs the Secretary to: (1) conduct a study of the VBA's work credit system used to measure the work production of VBA employees; (2) establish a new system; and (3) report to Congress on the study and on VA progress in implementing the new system. Prohibits the Secretary from awarding work credits to VBA employees until the new system is established.

(Sec. 104) Requires the Secretary to conduct a study of, and report to Congress on, the VBA work management system, which is designed to improve accountability, quality, and accuracy of, and reduce the time for processing, veterans' benefit claims (claims) adjudicated by the VBA.

(Sec. 105) Directs the Secretary to: (1) develop and implement a certification examination for VBA employees and managers responsible for processing claims; (2) contract for an evaluation of training and performance assessment programs for employees responsible for matters relating to veterans' compensation or pension benefits; and (3) report to Congress on actions taken under (1) and (2).

(Sec. 106) Requires the Secretary to: (1) contract for an independent annual assessment of the VBA's quality assurance program; and (2) report annually to Congress on the most recent assessment.

(Sec. 107) Directs the Secretary to: (1) provide for the expedited treatment by the appropriate VBA regional office of any fully developed claim to ensure that it is adjudicated no more than 90 days after its submission; (2) provide to claimants a checklist of information required to substantiate claims; and (3) submit the checklist to Congress.

(Sec. 108) Requires the Secretary to: (1) evaluate the need of the VBA and VA to employ additional medical professionals to act as consultants to assist VBA employees to accurately assess medical evidence submitted in support of claims; and (2) report to Congress on the evaluation.

(Sec. 109) Provides VA authority to provide partial disability ratings for severely (50% service-connected) and very severely (100% service-connected) disabled veterans who are 365 days or less from active-duty discharge and for whom gainful employment is not feasible or likely. Terminates such partial rating on the earlier of 365 days after discharge or the date on which the veteran receives a permanent rating.

(Sec. 110) Directs the Secretary to: (1) review VBA use of information technology and develop a comprehensive plan for the use of such technology in processing claims; (2) review VA best practices and lessons learned and the use of the technology known as VistA by other government agencies and private organizations who employ information technology and automated decision support software; (3) develop a plan that would reduce the processing time for each claim processed by the VBA to the average amount of time required to process a claim as determined by the Secretary; and (4) report to Congress on the reviews and plan required under this section.

(Sec. 111) Provides that if a veteran claimant dies while a claim or appeal is pending, the claim beneficiary shall be treated as the claimant for purposes of processing the claim to completion, except that such person may only submit new evidence in support of the claim during the one-year period following the veteran's death.

Title II: Matters Relating to United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims - (Sec. 201) Requires the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Court) to report annually to the veterans' committees summarizing the Court's workload.

(Sec. 202) Empowers the Court to affirm, modify, reverse, remand, or vacate and remand a decision of the Board of Veterans' Appeals after deciding all relevant assignments of error raised for each claim. Provides that, when the Court reverses a decision on the merits of a claim and orders an award of benefits, the Court need not decide any additional assignments of error with respect to that claim.