Text: H.R.2288 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)All Information (Except Text)

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Public Law No: 115-55 (08/23/2017)

 
[115th Congress Public Law 55]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]



[[Page 131 STAT. 1105]]

Public Law 115-55
115th Congress

                                 An Act


 
    To amend title 38, United States Code, to reform the rights and 
processes relating to appeals of decisions regarding claims for benefits 
 under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and 
       for other purposes. <<NOTE: Aug. 23, 2017 -  [H.R. 2288]>> 

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled, <<NOTE: Veterans Appeals 
Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. 38 USC 101 note.>> 
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Veterans Appeals Improvement and 
Modernization Act of 2017''.
SEC. 2. REFORM OF RIGHTS AND PROCESSES RELATING TO APPEALS OF 
                    DECISIONS REGARDING CLAIMS FOR BENEFITS UNDER 
                    LAWS ADMINISTERED BY SECRETARY OF VETERANS 
                    AFFAIRS.

    (a) Definitions.--Section 101 of title 38, United States Code, is 
amended by adding at the end the following new paragraphs:
            ``(34) The term `agency of original jurisdiction' means the 
        activity which entered the original determination with regard to 
        a claim for benefits under laws administered by the Secretary.
            ``(35) The term `relevant evidence' means evidence that 
        tends to prove or disprove a matter in issue.
            ``(36) The term `supplemental claim' means a claim for 
        benefits under laws administered by the Secretary filed by a 
        claimant who had previously filed a claim for the same or 
        similar benefits on the same or similar basis.''.

    (b) Notice Regarding Claims.--Section 5103(a) of such title is 
amended--
            (1) in paragraph (1), in the first sentence, by striking 
        ``The'' and inserting ``Except as provided in paragraph (3), 
        the'';
            (2) in paragraph (2)(B)(i) by striking ``, a claim for 
        reopening a prior decision on a claim, or a claim for an 
        increase in benefits;'' and inserting ``or a supplemental 
        claim;''; and
            (3) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

    ``(3) The requirement to provide notice under paragraph (1) shall 
not apply with respect to a supplemental claim that is filed within the 
timeframe set forth in subparagraphs (B) and (D) of section 5110(a)(2) 
of this title.''.
    (c) Modification of Rule Regarding Disallowed Claims.--Section 
5103A(f) of such title is amended--
            (1) by striking ``reopen'' and inserting ``readjudicate''; 
        and
            (2) by striking ``material'' and inserting ``relevant''.

    (d) Modification of Duty to Assist Claimants.--Section 5103A of such 
title is amended--

[[Page 131 STAT. 1106]]

            (1) by redesignating subsections (e) through (g) as 
        subsections (g) through (i), respectively; and
            (2) by inserting after subsection (d) the following new 
        subsections:

    ``(e) Applicability of Duty to Assist.--(1) The Secretary's duty to 
assist under this section shall apply only to a claim, or supplemental 
claim, for a benefit under a law administered by the Secretary until the 
time that a claimant is provided notice of the agency of original 
jurisdiction's decision with respect to such claim, or supplemental 
claim, under section 5104 of this title.
    ``(2) The Secretary's duty to assist under this section shall not 
apply to higher-level review by the agency of original jurisdiction, 
pursuant to section 5104B of this title, or to review on appeal by the 
Board of Veterans' Appeals.
    ``(f) Correction of Duty to Assist Errors.--(1) If, during review of 
the agency of original jurisdiction decision under section 5104B of this 
title, the higher-level adjudicator identifies or learns of an error on 
the part of the agency of original jurisdiction to satisfy its duties 
under this section, and that error occurred prior to the agency of 
original jurisdiction decision being reviewed, unless the Secretary may 
award the maximum benefit in accordance with this title based on the 
evidence of record, the higher-level adjudicator shall return the claim 
for correction of such error and readjudication.
    ``(2)(A) If the Board of Veterans' Appeals, during review on appeal 
of an agency of original jurisdiction decision, identifies or learns of 
an error on the part of the agency of original jurisdiction to satisfy 
its duties under this section, and that error occurred prior to the 
agency of original jurisdiction decision on appeal, unless the Secretary 
may award the maximum benefit in accordance with this title based on the 
evidence of record, the Board shall remand the claim to the agency of 
original jurisdiction for correction of such error and readjudication.
    ``(B) Remand for correction of such error may include directing the 
agency of original jurisdiction to obtain an advisory medical opinion 
under section 5109 of this title.
    ``(3) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to imply that 
the Secretary, during the consideration of a claim, does not have a duty 
to correct an error described in paragraph (1) or (2) that was 
erroneously not identified during higher-level review or during review 
on appeal with respect to the claim.''.
    (e) Decisions and Notices of Decisions.--Subsection (b) of section 
5104 of such title is amended to read as follows:
    ``(b) Each notice provided under subsection (a) shall also include 
all of the following:
            ``(1) Identification of the issues adjudicated.
            ``(2) <<NOTE: Summary.>>  A summary of the evidence 
        considered by the Secretary.
            ``(3) <<NOTE: Summary.>>  A summary of the applicable laws 
        and regulations.
            ``(4) Identification of findings favorable to the claimant.
            ``(5) In the case of a denial, identification of elements 
        not satisfied leading to the denial.
            ``(6) An explanation of how to obtain or access evidence 
        used in making the decision.
            ``(7) <<NOTE: Criteria.>>  If applicable, identification of 
        the criteria that must be satisfied to grant service connection 
        or the next higher level of compensation.''.

    (f) Binding Nature of Favorable Findings.--

[[Page 131 STAT. 1107]]

            (1) In general.--Chapter 51 of such title is amended by 
        inserting after section 5104 the following new section:
``Sec. 5104A. <<NOTE: 38 USC 5104A.>>  Binding nature of favorable 
                    findings

    ``Any finding favorable to the claimant as described in section 
5104(b)(4) of this title shall be binding on all subsequent adjudicators 
within the Department, unless clear and convincing evidence is shown to 
the contrary to rebut such favorable finding.''.
            (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of chapter 51 of such title <<NOTE: 38 USC prec. 
        5100.>>  is amended by inserting after the item relating to 
        section 5104 the following new item:

``5104A. Binding nature of favorable findings.''.

    (g) Higher-level Review by Agency of Original Jurisdiction.--
            (1) In general.--Chapter 51 of such title, as amended by 
        subsection (f), is further amended by inserting after section 
        5104A, as added by such subsection, the following new section:
``Sec. 5104B. <<NOTE: 38 USC 5104B.>>  Higher-level review by the 
                    agency of original jurisdiction

    ``(a) In General.--(1) A claimant may request a review of the 
decision of the agency of original jurisdiction by a higher-level 
adjudicator within the agency of original jurisdiction.
    ``(2) <<NOTE: Approval.>>  The Secretary shall approve each request 
for review under paragraph (1).

    ``(b) Time and Manner of Request.--(1) A request for higher-level 
review by the agency of original jurisdiction shall be--
            ``(A) in writing in such form as the Secretary may 
        prescribe; and
            ``(B) <<NOTE: Deadline.>>  made within one year of the 
        notice of the agency of original jurisdiction's decision.

    ``(2) Such request may specifically indicate whether such review is 
requested by a higher-level adjudicator at the same office within the 
agency of original jurisdiction or by an adjudicator at a different 
office of the agency of original jurisdiction. The Secretary shall not 
deny such request for review by an adjudicator at a different office of 
the agency of original jurisdiction without good cause.
    ``(c) <<NOTE: Notice.>>  Decision.--Notice of a higher-level review 
decision under this section shall be provided in writing and shall 
include a general statement--
            ``(1) reflecting whether evidence was not considered 
        pursuant to subsection (d); and
            ``(2) noting the options available to the claimant to have 
        the evidence described in paragraph (1), if any, considered by 
        the Department.

    ``(d) Evidentiary Record for Review.--The evidentiary record before 
the higher-level adjudicator shall be limited to the evidence of record 
in the agency of original jurisdiction decision being reviewed.
    ``(e) De Novo Review.--A review of the decision of the agency of 
original jurisdiction by a higher-level adjudicator within the agency of 
original jurisdiction shall be de novo.''.
            (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of chapter 51 of such title, as amended by subsection 
        (f), is further amended <<NOTE: 38 USC prec. 5100.>>  by 
        inserting after the item relating

[[Page 131 STAT. 1108]]

        to section 5104A, as added by such subsection, the following new 
        item:

``5104B. Higher-level review by the agency of original jurisdiction.''.

    (h) Options Following Decision by Agency of Original Jurisdiction.--
            (1) In general.--Chapter 51 of such title, as amended by 
        subsection (g), is further amended by inserting after section 
        5104B, as added by such subsection, the following new section:
``Sec. 5104C. <<NOTE: Time periods. 38 USC 5104C.>>  Options 
                    following decision by agency of original 
                    jurisdiction

    ``(a) Within One Year of Decision.--(1) Subject to paragraph (2), in 
any case in which the Secretary renders a decision on a claim, the 
claimant may take any of the following actions on or before the date 
that is one year after the date on which the agency of original 
jurisdiction issues a decision with respect to that claim:
            ``(A) File a request for higher-level review under section 
        5104B of this title.
            ``(B) File a supplemental claim under section 5108 of this 
        title.
            ``(C) File a notice of disagreement under section 7105 of 
        this title.

    ``(2)(A) Once a claimant takes an action set forth in paragraph (1), 
the claimant may not take another action set forth in that paragraph 
with respect to the same claim or same issue contained within the claim 
until--
            ``(i) the higher-level review, supplemental claim, or notice 
        of disagreement is adjudicated; or
            ``(ii) the request for higher-level review, supplemental 
        claim, or notice of disagreement is withdrawn.

    ``(B) Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a claimant from 
taking any of the actions set forth in paragraph (1) in succession with 
respect to a claim or an issue contained within the claim.
    ``(C) Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a claimant from 
taking different actions set forth in paragraph (1) with respect to 
different claims or different issues contained within a claim.
    ``(D) The Secretary may, as the Secretary considers appropriate, 
develop and implement a policy for claimants who--
            ``(i) take an action under paragraph (1);
            ``(ii) wish to withdraw the action before the higher-level 
        review, supplemental claim, or notice of disagreement is 
        adjudicated; and
            ``(iii) in lieu of such action take a different action under 
        paragraph (1).

    ``(b) More Than One Year After Decision.--In any case in which the 
Secretary renders a decision on a claim and more than one year has 
passed since the date on which the agency of original jurisdiction 
issues a decision with respect to that claim, the claimant may file a 
supplemental claim under section 5108 of this title.''.
            (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of chapter 51 of such title, as amended by subsection 
        (g), is further amended <<NOTE: 38 USC prec. 5100.>>  by 
        inserting after the item relating

[[Page 131 STAT. 1109]]

        to section 5104B, as added by such subsection, the following new 
        item:

``5104C. Options following decision by agency of original 
           jurisdiction.''.

    (i) Supplemental Claims.--
            (1) In general.--Section 5108 of such title <<NOTE: 38 USC 
        5108.>>  is amended to read as follows:
``Sec. 5108. Supplemental claims

    ``(a) In General.--If new and relevant evidence is presented or 
secured with respect to a supplemental claim, the Secretary shall 
readjudicate the claim taking into consideration all of the evidence of 
record.
    ``(b) Duty to Assist.--(1) If a claimant, in connection with a 
supplemental claim, reasonably identifies existing records, whether or 
not in the custody of a Federal department or agency, the Secretary 
shall assist the claimant in obtaining the records in accordance with 
section 5103A of this title.
    ``(2) Assistance under paragraph (1) shall not be predicated upon a 
finding that new and relevant evidence has been presented or secured.''.
            (2) <<NOTE: 38 USC 5108 note.>>  Rule of construction.--
        Section 5108 of such title, as amended by paragraph (1), shall 
        not be construed to impose a higher evidentiary threshold than 
        the new and material evidence standard that was in effect 
        pursuant to such section on the day before the date of the 
        enactment of this Act.
            (3) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of chapter 51 of such title <<NOTE: 38 USC prec. 
        5100.>>  is amended by striking the item relating to section 
        5108 and inserting the following new item:

``5108. Supplemental claims.''.

    (j) Remand to Obtain Advisory Medical Opinion.--Section 5109 of such 
title is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
    ``(d)(1) The Board of Veterans' Appeals shall remand a claim to 
direct the agency of original jurisdiction to obtain an advisory medical 
opinion from an independent medical expert under this section if the 
Board finds that the Veterans Benefits Administration should have 
exercised its discretion to obtain such an opinion.
    ``(2) The Board's remand instructions shall include the questions to 
be posed to the independent medical expert providing the advisory 
medical opinion.''.
    (k) Restatement of Requirement for Expedited Treatment of Returned 
and Remanded Claims.--
            (1) In general.--Section 5109B of such title is amended to 
        read as follows:
``Sec. 5109B. Expedited treatment of returned and remanded claims

    ``The Secretary shall take such actions as may be necessary to 
provide for the expeditious treatment by the Veterans Benefits 
Administration of any claim that is returned by a higher-level 
adjudicator under section 5104B of this title or remanded by the Board 
of Veterans' Appeals.''.
            (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of chapter 51 of such title <<NOTE: 38 USC prec. 
        5100.>>  is amended by striking

[[Page 131 STAT. 1110]]

        the item relating to section 5109B and inserting the following 
        new item:

``5109B. Expedited treatment of returned and remanded claims.''.

    (l) Effective Dates of Awards.--Section 5110 of title 38, United 
States Code, is amended--
            (1) by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:

    ``(a)(1) Unless specifically provided otherwise in this chapter, the 
effective date of an award based on an initial claim, or a supplemental 
claim, of compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, or 
pension, shall be fixed in accordance with the facts found, but shall 
not be earlier than the date of receipt of application therefor.
    ``(2) <<NOTE: Determination.>>  For purposes of determining the 
effective date of an award under this section, the date of application 
shall be considered the date of the filing of the initial application 
for a benefit if the claim is continuously pursued by filing any of the 
following, either alone or in succession:
            ``(A) A request for higher-level review under section 5104B 
        of this title on or before the date that is one year after the 
        date on which the agency of original jurisdiction issues a 
        decision.
            ``(B) A supplemental claim under section 5108 of this title 
        on or before the date that is one year after the date on which 
        the agency of original jurisdiction issues a decision.
            ``(C) <<NOTE: Notice.>>  A notice of disagreement on or 
        before the date that is one year after the date on which the 
        agency of original jurisdiction issues a decision.
            ``(D) A supplemental claim under section 5108 of this title 
        on or before the date that is one year after the date on which 
        the Board of Veterans' Appeals issues a decision.
            ``(E) A supplemental claim under section 5108 of this title 
        on or before the date that is one year after the date on which 
        the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims issues a decision.

    ``(3) Except as otherwise provided in this section, for supplemental 
claims received more than one year after the date on which the agency of 
original jurisdiction issued a decision or the Board of Veterans' 
Appeals issued a decision, the effective date shall be fixed in 
accordance with the facts found, but shall not be earlier than the date 
of receipt of the supplemental claim.''; and
            (2) in subsection (i), in the first sentence--
                    (A) by striking ``reopened'' and inserting 
                ``readjudicated'';
                    (B) by striking ``material'' and inserting 
                ``relevant''; and
                    (C) by striking ``reopening'' and inserting 
                ``readjudication''.

    (m) Definition of Award or Increased Award for Purposes of 
Provisions Relating to Commencement of Period of Payment.--Section 
5111(d)(1) of such title is amended by striking ``or reopened award'' 
and inserting ``award or award based on a supplemental claim''.
    (n) Modification of Limitation on Fees Allowable for 
Representation.--Section 5904(c) of such title is amended, in paragraphs 
(1) and (2), by striking ``notice of disagreement is filed'' both places 
it appears and inserting ``claimant is provided notice of the agency of 
original jurisdiction's initial decision under section 5104 of this 
title''.

[[Page 131 STAT. 1111]]

    (o) Clarification of Board of Veterans' Appeals Referral 
Requirements After Order for Reconsideration of Decisions.--Section 
7103(b)(1) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking 
``heard'' both places it appears and inserting ``decided''.
    (p) Conforming Amendment Relating to Readjudication.--Section 
7104(b) of such title is amended by striking ``reopened'' and inserting 
``readjudicated''.
    (q) <<NOTE: Notices.>>  Modification of Procedures for Appeals to 
Board of Veterans' Appeals.--
            (1) In general.--Section 7105 of title 38, United States 
        Code, is amended--
                    (A) in subsection (a), by striking the first 
                sentence and inserting ``Appellate review shall be 
                initiated by the filing of a notice of disagreement in 
                the form prescribed by the Secretary.'';
                    (B) <<NOTE: Time period.>>  by amending subsection 
                (b) to read as follows:

    ``(b)(1)(A) Except in the case of simultaneously contested claims, a 
notice of disagreement shall be filed within one year from the date of 
the mailing of notice of the decision of the agency of original 
jurisdiction pursuant to section 5104, 5104B, or 5108 of this title.
    ``(B) A notice of disagreement postmarked before the expiration of 
the one-year period shall be accepted as timely filed.
    ``(C) A question as to timeliness or adequacy of the notice of 
disagreement shall be decided by the Board.
    ``(2)(A) Notices of disagreement shall be in writing, shall identify 
the specific determination with which the claimant disagrees, and may be 
filed by the claimant, the claimant's legal guardian, or such accredited 
representative, attorney, or authorized agent as may be selected by the 
claimant or legal guardian.
    ``(B) Not more than one recognized organization, attorney, or agent 
may be recognized at any one time in the prosecution of a claim.
    ``(C) Notices of disagreement shall be filed with the Board.
    ``(3) The notice of disagreement shall indicate whether the claimant 
requests--
            ``(A) <<NOTE: Hearing.>>  a hearing before the Board, which 
        shall include an opportunity to submit evidence in accordance 
        with section 7113(b) of this title;
            ``(B) an opportunity to submit additional evidence without a 
        hearing before the Board, which shall include an opportunity to 
        submit evidence in accordance with section 7113(c) of this 
        title; or
            ``(C) <<NOTE: Review.>>  a review by the Board without a 
        hearing or the submittal of additional evidence.

    ``(4) <<NOTE: Policy.>>  The Secretary shall develop a policy to 
permit a claimant to modify the information identified in the notice of 
disagreement after the notice of disagreement has been filed under this 
section pursuant to such requirements as the Secretary may prescribe.'';
                    (C) by amending subsection (c) to read as follows:

    ``(c) If no notice of disagreement is filed in accordance with this 
chapter within the prescribed period, the action or decision of the 
agency of original jurisdiction shall become final and the claim shall 
not thereafter be readjudicated or allowed, except--

[[Page 131 STAT. 1112]]

            ``(1) in the case of a readjudication or allowance pursuant 
        to a higher-level review that was requested in accordance with 
        section 5104B of this title;
            ``(2) as may otherwise be provided by section 5108 of this 
        title; or
            ``(3) as may otherwise be provided in such regulations as 
        are consistent with this title.'';
                    (D) by striking subsection (d) and inserting the 
                following new subsection (d):

    ``(d) The Board may dismiss any appeal which fails to identify the 
specific determination with which the claimant disagrees.'';
                    (E) by striking subsection (e); and
                    (F) in the section heading, by striking ``notice of 
                disagreement and''.
            (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of chapter 71 of such title <<NOTE: 38 USC prec. 
        7101.>>  is amended by striking the item relating to section 
        7105 and inserting the following new item:

``7105. Filing of appeal.''.

    (r) <<NOTE: Notices.>>  Modification of Procedures and Requirements 
for Simultaneously Contested Claims.--Subsection (b) of section 7105A of 
such title is amended to read as follows:

    ``(b)(1) <<NOTE: Time period.>>  The substance of the notice of 
disagreement shall be communicated to the other party or parties in 
interest and a period of thirty days shall be allowed for filing a brief 
or argument in response thereto.

    ``(2) Such notice shall be forwarded to the last known address of 
record of the parties concerned, and such action shall constitute 
sufficient evidence of notice.''.
    (s) Repeal of Procedures for Administrative Appeals.--
            (1) In general.--Chapter 71 of such title is amended by 
        striking section 7106.
            (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of chapter 71 of such title <<NOTE: 38 USC prec. 
        7101.>>  is amended by striking the item relating to section 
        7106.

    (t) Modifications Relating to Appeals: Dockets; Hearings.--Section 
7107 of such title is amended to read as follows:
``Sec. 7107. Appeals: dockets; hearings

    ``(a) Dockets.--(1) Subject to paragraph (2), the Board shall 
maintain at least two separate dockets.
    ``(2) <<NOTE: Notification.>>  The Board may not maintain more than 
two separate dockets unless the Board notifies the Committee on 
Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Veterans' Affairs 
of the House of Representatives of any additional docket, including a 
justification for maintaining such additional docket.

    ``(3)(A) The Board may assign to each docket maintained under 
paragraph (1) such cases as the Board considers appropriate, except that 
cases described in clause (i) of subparagraph (B) may not be assigned to 
any docket to which cases described in clause (ii) of such paragraph are 
assigned.
    ``(B) Cases described in this paragraph are the following:
            ``(i) Cases in which no Board hearing is requested.
            ``(ii) Cases in which a Board hearing is requested in the 
        notice of disagreement.

[[Page 131 STAT. 1113]]

    ``(4) Except as provided in subsection (b), each case before the 
Board will be decided in regular order according to its respective place 
on the docket to which it is assigned by the Board.
    ``(b) Advancement on the Docket.--(1) A case on one of the dockets 
of the Board maintained under subsection (a) may, for cause shown, be 
advanced on motion for earlier consideration and determination.
    ``(2) Any such motion shall set forth succinctly the grounds upon 
which the motion is based.
    ``(3) Such a motion may be granted only--
            ``(A) if the case involves interpretation of law of general 
        application affecting other claims;
            ``(B) if the appellant is seriously ill or is under severe 
        financial hardship; or
            ``(C) for other sufficient cause shown.

    ``(c) <<NOTE: Notification.>>  Manner and Scheduling of Hearings for 
Cases on a Docket That May Include a Hearing.--(1) For cases on a docket 
maintained by the Board under subsection (a) that may include a hearing, 
in which a hearing is requested in the notice of disagreement, the Board 
shall notify the appellant whether a Board hearing will be held--
            ``(A) at its principal location; or
            ``(B) by picture and voice transmission at a facility of the 
        Department where the Secretary has provided suitable facilities 
        and equipment to conduct such hearings.

    ``(2)(A) Upon notification of a Board hearing at the Board's 
principal location as described in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1), 
the appellant may alternatively request a hearing as described in 
subparagraph (B) of such paragraph. If so requested, the Board shall 
grant such request.
    ``(B) Upon notification of a Board hearing by picture and voice 
transmission as described in subparagraph (B) of paragraph (1), the 
appellant may alternatively request a hearing as described in 
subparagraph (A) of such paragraph. If so requested, the Board shall 
grant such request.
    ``(d) Screening of Cases.--Nothing in this section shall be 
construed to preclude the screening of cases for purposes of--
            ``(1) determining the adequacy of the record for decisional 
        purposes; or
            ``(2) the development, or attempted development, of a record 
        found to be inadequate for decisional purposes.

    ``(e) Policy on Changing Dockets.--The Secretary shall develop and 
implement a policy allowing an appellant to move the appellant's case 
from one docket to another docket.''.
    (u) Repeal of Certain Authority for Independent Medical Opinions.--
            (1) <<NOTE: 38 USC 7109.>>  In general.--Section 7109 of 
        such title is repealed.
            (2) Conforming amendment.--Section 5701(b)(1) of such title 
        is amended by striking ``or 7109''.
            (3) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of chapter 71 of such title <<NOTE: 38 USC prec. 
        7101.>>  is amended by striking the item relating to section 
        7109.

    (v) Clarification of Procedures for Review of Decisions on Grounds 
of Clear and Unmistakable Error.--Section 7111(e) of such title is 
amended by striking ``, without referral to any adjudicative or hearing 
official acting on behalf of the Secretary''.

[[Page 131 STAT. 1114]]

    (w) Evidentiary Record Before Board of Veterans' Appeals.--
            (1) In general.--Chapter 71 of such title is amended by 
        adding at the end the following new section:
``Sec. 7113. <<NOTE: 38 USC 7113.>>  Evidentiary record before the 
                  Board of Veterans' Appeals

    ``(a) Cases With No Request for a Hearing or Additional Evidence.--
For cases in which a hearing before the Board of Veterans' Appeals is 
not requested in the notice of disagreement and no request was made to 
submit evidence, the evidentiary record before the Board shall be 
limited to the evidence of record at the time of the decision of the 
agency of original jurisdiction on appeal.
    ``(b) Cases With a Request for a Hearing.--(1) Except as provided in 
paragraph (2), for cases in which a hearing is requested in the notice 
of disagreement, the evidentiary record before the Board shall be 
limited to the evidence of record at the time of the decision of the 
agency of original jurisdiction on appeal.
    ``(2) The evidentiary record before the Board for cases described in 
paragraph (1) shall include each of the following, which the Board shall 
consider in the first instance:
            ``(A) Evidence submitted by the appellant and his or her 
        representative, if any, at the Board hearing.
            ``(B) <<NOTE: Deadline.>>  Evidence submitted by the 
        appellant and his or her representative, if any, within 90 days 
        following the Board hearing.

    ``(c) Cases With No Request for a Hearing and With a Request for 
Additional Evidence.--(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), for cases 
in which a hearing is not requested in the notice of disagreement but an 
opportunity to submit evidence is requested, the evidentiary record 
before the Board shall be limited to the evidence considered by the 
agency of original jurisdiction in the decision on appeal.
    ``(2) The evidentiary record before the Board for cases described in 
paragraph (1) shall include each of the following, which the Board shall 
consider in the first instance:
            ``(A) Evidence submitted by the appellant and his or her 
        representative, if any, with the notice of disagreement.
            ``(B) <<NOTE: Deadline.>>  Evidence submitted by the 
        appellant and his or her representative, if any, within 90 days 
        following receipt of the notice of disagreement.''.
            (2) Notification when evidence not considered.--Section 
        7104(d) of such title is amended--
                    (A) in paragraph (1), by striking ``; and'' and 
                inserting a semicolon;
                    (B) by redesignating paragraph (2) as paragraph (3); 
                and
                    (C) by inserting after paragraph (1) the following 
                new paragraph (2):
            ``(2) a general statement--
                    ``(A) reflecting whether evidence was not considered 
                in making the decision because the evidence was received 
                at a time when not permitted under section 7113 of this 
                title; and
                    ``(B) noting such options as may be available for 
                having the evidence considered by the Department; and''.

[[Page 131 STAT. 1115]]

            (3) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of chapter 71 of such title <<NOTE: 38 USC prec. 
        7101.>>  is amended by inserting after the item relating to 
        section 7112 the following new item:

``7113. Evidentiary record before the Board of Veterans' Appeals.''.

    (x) Applicability.--
            (1) <<NOTE: Effective dates. Time period. 38 USC 101 
        note.>>  In general.--Except as otherwise provided in this 
        subsection, the amendments made by this section shall apply to 
        all claims for which notice of a decision under section 5104 of 
        title 38, United States Code, is provided by the Secretary of 
        Veterans Affairs on or after the later of--
                    (A) the date that is 540 days after the date of the 
                enactment of this Act; and
                    (B) the date that is 30 days after the date on which 
                the Secretary of Veterans Affairs submits to the 
                appropriate committees of Congress--
                          (i) <<NOTE: Certification.>>  a certification 
                      that the Secretary confirms, without delegation, 
                      that the Department of Veterans Affairs has the 
                      resources, personnel, office space, procedures, 
                      and information technology required--
                                    (I) to carry out the new appeals 
                                system;
                                    (II) to timely address appeals under 
                                the new appeals system; and
                                    (III) to timely address appeals of 
                                decisions on legacy claims; and
                          (ii) <<NOTE: Summary.>>  a summary of the 
                      expectations for performance outcomes that the 
                      Secretary used in making the certification under 
                      clause (i)(III) and a comparison of such expected 
                      performance outcomes with actual performance 
                      outcomes with respect to appeals of legacy claims 
                      before the effective date of the new appeals 
                      system.
            (2) Collaboration.--In determining whether and when to make 
        a certification under paragraph (1)(B), the Secretary shall 
        collaborate with, partner with, and give weight to the advice of 
        veterans service organizations and such other stakeholders as 
        the Secretary considers appropriate.
            (3) Early applicability.--The Secretary may apply the new 
        appeals system to a claim with respect to which the claimant--
                    (A) <<NOTE: Notice.>>  receives a notice of a 
                decision under section 5104 of such title after the date 
                of the enactment of this Act and before the 
                applicability date set forth in paragraph (1); and
                    (B) elects to subject the claim to the new appeals 
                system.
            (4) <<NOTE: Effective date.>>  Phased rollout.--The 
        Secretary may begin implementation of the new appeals system in 
        phases, with the first phase of such phased implementation 
        beginning on the applicability date set forth in paragraph (1).
            (5) Treatment of legacy claims.--With respect to legacy 
        claims, upon the issuance to a claimant of a statement of the 
        case or supplemental statement of the case occurring on or after 
        the applicability date specified in paragraph (1), a claimant 
        may elect to participate in the new appeals system.
            (6) <<NOTE: Deadline. Federal Register, publication.>>  
        Publication of applicability date.--Not later than the date on 
        which the new appeals system goes into effect (or the first 
        phase of the new appeals system goes into effect

[[Page 131 STAT. 1116]]

        under paragraph (4), as the case may be), the Secretary shall 
        publish in the Federal Register such date.
            (7) Definitions.--In this subsection:
                    (A) Appropriate committees of congress.--The term 
                ``appropriate committees of Congress'' means--
                          (i) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the 
                      Committee on Appropriations of the Senate; and
                          (ii) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and 
                      the Committee on Appropriations of the House of 
                      Representatives.
                    (B) Veterans service organization.--The term 
                ``veterans service organization'' means any organization 
                recognized by the Secretary for the representation of 
                veterans under section 5902 of title 38, United States 
                Code.

    (y) <<NOTE: 38 USC 101 note.>>  Rule of Construction.--Nothing in 
this section or any of the amendments made by this section shall be 
construed to limit the ability of a claimant to request a revision of a 
decision under section 5109A or 7111 of title 38, United States Code.
SEC. 3. <<NOTE: 38 USC 101 note.>>  COMPREHENSIVE PLAN FOR 
                    PROCESSING OF LEGACY APPEALS AND IMPLEMENTING 
                    NEW APPEALS SYSTEM.

    (a) <<NOTE: Deadline.>>  Plan Required.--Not later than 90 days 
after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress and the 
Comptroller General of the United States a comprehensive plan for--
            (1) the processing of appeals of decisions on legacy claims 
        that the Secretary considers pending;
            (2) implementing the new appeals system;
            (3) timely processing, under the new appeals system, of--
                    (A) supplemental claims under section 5108 of title 
                38, United States Code, as amended by section 2(i);
                    (B) requests for higher-level review under section 
                5104B of such title, as added by section 2(g); and
                    (C) appeals on any docket maintained under section 
                7107 of such title, as amended by section 2(t); and
            (4) monitoring the implementation of the new appeals system, 
        including metrics and goals--
                    (A) to track the progress of the implementation;
                    (B) to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of 
                the implementation; and
                    (C) to identify potential issues relating to the 
                implementation.

    (b) Elements.--The plan required by subsection (a) shall include, at 
a minimum, the following:
            (1) Delineation of the total resource requirements of the 
        Veterans Benefits Administration and the Board of Veterans' 
        Appeals, disaggregated by resources required to implement and 
        administer the new appeals system and resources required to 
        address the appeals of decisions on legacy claims.
            (2) Delineation of the personnel requirements of the 
        Administration and the Board, including staffing levels during 
        the--
                    (A) period in which the Administration and the Board 
                are concurrently processing--
                          (i) appeals of decisions on legacy claims; and

[[Page 131 STAT. 1117]]

                          (ii) appeals of decisions on non-legacy claims 
                      under the new appeals system; and
                    (B) the period during which the Administration and 
                the Board are no longer processing any appeals of 
                decisions on legacy claims.
            (3) Identification of the legal authorities under which the 
        Administration or the Board may--
                    (A) <<NOTE: Hiring.>>  hire additional employees to 
                conduct the concurrent processing described in paragraph 
                (2)(A); and
                    (B) remove employees who are no longer required by 
                the Administration or the Board once the Administration 
                and the Board are no longer processing any appeals of 
                decisions on legacy claims.
            (4) <<NOTE: Estimate.>>  An estimate of the amount of time 
        the Administration and the Board will require to hire additional 
        employees as described in paragraph (3)(A) once funding has been 
        made available for such purpose, including a comparison of such 
        estimate and the historical average time required by the 
        Administration and the Board to hire additional employees.
            (5) A description of the amount of training and experience 
        that will be required of individuals conducting higher-level 
        reviews under section 5104B of title 38, United States Code, as 
        added by section 2(g).
            (6) <<NOTE: Estimate.>>  An estimate of the percentage of 
        higher-level adjudicators who will be employees of the 
        Department of Veterans Affairs who were Decision Review Officers 
        on the day before the new appeals system takes effect or had 
        experience, as of such date, comparable to that of one who was a 
        Decision Review Officer.
            (7) A description of the functions that will be performed 
        after the date on which the new appeals system takes effect by 
        Decision Review Officers who were Decision Review Officers on 
        the day before the date the new appeals system takes effect.
            (8) Identification of and a timeline for--
                    (A) any training that may be required as a result of 
                hiring new employees to carry out the new appeals system 
                or to process appeals of decisions on legacy claims; and
                    (B) any retraining of existing employees that may be 
                required to carry out such system or to process such 
                claims.
            (9) Identification of the costs to the Department of 
        Veterans Affairs of the training identified under paragraph (8) 
        and any additional training staff and any additional training 
        facilities that will be required to provide such training.
            (10) A description of the modifications to the information 
        technology systems of the Administration and the Board that the 
        Administration and the Board require to carry out the new 
        appeals system, including cost estimates and a timeline for 
        making the modifications.
            (11) <<NOTE: Estimates.>>  An estimate of the office space 
        the Administration and the Board will require during each of the 
        periods described in paragraph (2), including--
                    (A) an estimate of the amount of time the 
                Administration and the Board will require to acquire any 
                additional office space to carry out processing of 
                appeals of decisions

[[Page 131 STAT. 1118]]

                on legacy claims and processing of appeals under the new 
                appeals system;
                    (B) a comparison of the estimate under subparagraph 
                (A) and the historical average time required by the 
                Administration and the Board to acquire new office 
                space; and
                    (C) <<NOTE: Telework plan.>>  a plan for using 
                telework to accommodate staff exceeding available office 
                space, including how the Administration and the Board 
                will provide training and oversight with respect to such 
                teleworking.
            (12) Projections for the productivity of individual 
        employees at the Administration and the Board in carrying out 
        tasks relating to the processing of appeals of decisions on 
        legacy claims and appeals under the new appeals system, taking 
        into account the experience level of new employees and the 
        enhanced notice requirements under section 5104(b) of title 38, 
        United States Code, as amended by section 2(e).
            (13) An outline of the outreach the Secretary expects to 
        conduct to inform veterans, families of veterans, survivors of 
        veterans, veterans service organizations, military service 
        organizations, congressional caseworkers, advocates for 
        veterans, and such other stakeholders as the Secretary considers 
        appropriate about the new appeals system, including--
                    (A) a description of the resources required to 
                conduct such outreach; and
                    (B) timelines for conducting such outreach.
            (14) Timelines for updating any policy guidance, Internet 
        websites, and official forms that may be necessary to carry out 
        the new appeals system, including--
                    (A) identification of which offices and entities 
                will be involved in efforts relating to such updating; 
                and
                    (B) historical information about how long similar 
                update efforts have taken.
            (15) A timeline, including interim milestones, for 
        promulgating such regulations as may be necessary to carry out 
        the new appeals system and a comparison with historical averages 
        for time required to promulgate regulations of similar 
        complexity and scope.
            (16) An outline of the circumstances under which claimants 
        with pending appeals of decisions on legacy claims would be 
        authorized to have their appeals reviewed under the new appeals 
        system.
            (17) A delineation of the key goals and milestones for 
        reducing the number of pending appeals that are not processed 
        under the new appeals system, including the expected number of 
        appeals, remands, and hearing requests at the Administration and 
        the Board each year, beginning with the one year period 
        beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, until there 
        are no longer any appeals pending before the Administration or 
        the Board for a decision on a legacy claim.
            (18) <<NOTE: Contingency plan.>>  A description of each risk 
        factor associated with each element of the plan and a 
        contingency plan to minimize each such risk.

    (c) Review by Comptroller General of the United States.--

[[Page 131 STAT. 1119]]

            (1) <<NOTE: Deadline.>>  In general.--Not later than 90 days 
        after the Comptroller General of the United States receives the 
        plan required by subsection (a), the Comptroller General shall--
                    (A) <<NOTE: Assessment.>>  assess such plan; and
                    (B) <<NOTE: Notification.>>  notify the appropriate 
                committees of Congress of the findings of the 
                Comptroller General with respect to the assessment 
                conducted under subparagraph (A).
            (2) Elements.--The assessment conducted under paragraph 
        (1)(A) shall include the following:
                    (A) <<NOTE: Assessment.>>  An assessment of whether 
                the plan comports with sound planning practices.
                    (B) Identification of any gaps in the plan.
                    (C) Formulation of such recommendations as the 
                Comptroller General considers appropriate.

    (d) Periodic Progress Reports.--Not later than 90 days after the 
date on which the Secretary submits the plan under subsection (a), not 
less frequently than once every 90 days thereafter until the 
applicability date set forth in section 2(x)(1), and not less frequently 
than once every 180 days thereafter for the seven-year period following 
such applicability date, the Secretary shall submit to the appropriate 
committees of Congress and the Comptroller General a report on the 
progress of the Secretary in carrying out the plan and what steps, if 
any, the Secretary has taken to address any recommendations formulated 
by the Comptroller General pursuant to subsection (c)(2)(C).
    (e) <<NOTE: Public information. Web posting.>>  Publication.--The 
Secretary shall make available to the public on an Internet website of 
the Department of Veterans Affairs--
            (1) the plan required by subsection (a); and
            (2) the periodic progress reports required by subsection 
        (d).

    (f) Appropriate Committees of Congress Defined.--In this section, 
the term ``appropriate committees of Congress'' means--
            (1) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Committee on 
        Appropriations of the Senate; and
            (2) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Committee on 
        Appropriations of the House of Representatives.
SEC. 4. PROGRAMS TO TEST ASSUMPTIONS RELIED ON IN DEVELOPMENT OF 
                    COMPREHENSIVE PLAN FOR PROCESSING OF LEGACY 
                    APPEALS AND SUPPORTING NEW APPEALS SYSTEM.

    (a) Authorization.--
            (1) In general.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs may carry 
        out such programs as the Secretary considers appropriate to test 
        any assumptions relied upon in developing the comprehensive plan 
        required by section 3(a) and to test the feasibility and 
        advisability of any facet of the new appeals system.
            (2) <<NOTE: Determination. Notice.>>  Reporting required.--
        Whenever the Secretary determines, based on the conduct of a 
        program under paragraph (1), that legislative changes to the new 
        appeals system are necessary, the Secretary shall submit to the 
        Committee on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and the Committee 
        on Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives notice of 
        such determination.

    (b) Department of Veterans Affairs Program on Fully Developed 
Appeals.--

[[Page 131 STAT. 1120]]

            (1) In general.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs may, 
        under subsection (a)(1), carry out a program to provide the 
        option of an alternative appeals process that shall more quickly 
        determine such appeals in accordance with this subsection.
            (2) Election.--
                    (A) Filing.--In accordance with subparagraph (B), a 
                claimant may elect to file a fully developed appeal 
                under the program by filing with the Secretary all of 
                the following:
                          (i) The notice of disagreement under chapter 
                      71 of title 38, United States Code, along with the 
                      written election of the claimant to have the 
                      appeal determined under the program.
                          (ii) All evidence that the claimant believes 
                      is needed for the appeal as of the date of the 
                      filing.
                          (iii) A statement of the argument in support 
                      of the claim, if any.
                    (B) Timing.--A claimant shall make an election under 
                subparagraph (A) as part of the notice of disagreement 
                filed by the claimant in accordance with subparagraph 
                (A)(i).
                    (C) <<NOTE: Assessment. Notification.>>  Triage.--
                The Secretary shall, upon expiration of the period 
                specified in paragraph (3)(C)(iii), ensure that an 
                assessment is undertaken of whether an appeal filed 
                under subparagraph (A) of this paragraph satisfies the 
                requirements for appeal under the program and provide 
                appropriate notification to the claimant of the results 
                of that assessment.
                    (D) Reversion.--
                          (i) Elected reversion.--At any time, a 
                      claimant who makes an election under subparagraph 
                      (A) may elect to revert to the standard appeals 
                      process. Such a reversion shall be final.
                          (ii) Automatic reversion.--A claimant 
                      described in clause (i), or a claimant who makes 
                      an election under subparagraph (A) but is later 
                      determined to be ineligible for the program under 
                      paragraph (1), shall revert to the standard 
                      appeals process without any penalty to the 
                      claimant other than the loss of the docket number 
                      associated with the fully developed appeal.
                    (E) Outreach.--In providing claimants with notices 
                of the determination of a claim during the period in 
                which the program under paragraph (1) is carried out, 
                the Secretary shall conduct outreach as follows:
                          (i) The Secretary shall provide to the 
                      claimant (and to the representative of record of 
                      the claimant, if any) information regarding--
                                    (I) the program, including the 
                                advantages and disadvantages of the 
                                program;
                                    (II) how to make an election under 
                                subparagraph (A);
                                    (III) the limitation on the use of 
                                new evidence described in subparagraph 
                                (C) of paragraph (3) and the development 
                                of information under subparagraph (D) of 
                                such paragraph;

[[Page 131 STAT. 1121]]

                                    (IV) the ability of the claimant to 
                                seek advice and education regarding such 
                                process from veterans service 
                                organizations, attorneys, and claims 
                                agents recognized under chapter 59 of 
                                title 38, United States Code; and
                                    (V) the circumstances under which 
                                the appeal will automatically revert to 
                                the standard appeals process, including 
                                by making a request for a hearing.
                          (ii) <<NOTE: Web posting.>>  The Secretary 
                      shall collaborate, partner with, and give weight 
                      to the advice of the three veterans service 
                      organizations with the most members and such other 
                      stakeholders as the Secretary considers 
                      appropriate to publish on the Internet website of 
                      the Department of Veterans Affairs an online 
                      tutorial explaining the advantages and 
                      disadvantages of the program.
            (3) Treatment by department and board.--
                    (A) Process.--Upon the election of a claimant to 
                file a fully developed appeal pursuant to paragraph 
                (2)(A), the Secretary shall--
                          (i) not provide the claimant with a statement 
                      of the case nor require the claimant to file a 
                      substantive appeal; and
                          (ii) transfer jurisdiction over the fully 
                      developed appeal directly to the Board of 
                      Veterans' Appeals.
                    (B) Docket.--
                          (i) In general.--The Board of Veterans' 
                      Appeals shall--
                                    (I) maintain fully developed appeals 
                                on a separate docket than standard 
                                appeals;
                                    (II) decide fully developed appeals 
                                in the order that the fully developed 
                                appeals are received on the fully 
                                developed appeal docket;
                                    (III) except as provided by clause 
                                (ii), decide not more than one fully 
                                developed appeal for each four standard 
                                appeals decided; and
                                    (IV) to the extent practicable, 
                                decide each fully developed appeal by 
                                the date that is one year following the 
                                date on which the claimant files the 
                                notice of disagreement.
                          (ii) <<NOTE: Effective date. Determination.>>  
                      Adjustment.--Beginning one year after the date on 
                      which the program commences, the Board may adjust 
                      the number of standard appeals decided for each 
                      fully developed appeal under clause (i)(III) if 
                      the Board determines that such adjustment is fair 
                      for both standard appeals and fully developed 
                      appeals.
                    (C) Limitation on use of new evidence.--
                          (i) In general.--Except as provided by clauses 
                      (ii) and (iii)--
                                    (I) a claimant may not submit or 
                                identify to the Board of Veterans' 
                                Appeals any new evidence relating to a 
                                fully developed appeal after filing such 
                                appeal unless the claimant reverts to 
                                the standard appeals process pursuant to 
                                paragraph (2)(D); and

[[Page 131 STAT. 1122]]

                                    (II) if a claimant submits or 
                                identifies any such new evidence, such 
                                submission or identification shall be 
                                deemed to be an election to make such a 
                                reversion pursuant to paragraph (2)(D).
                          (ii) Evidence gathered by board.--Clause (i) 
                      shall not apply to evidence developed pursuant to 
                      subparagraphs (D) and (E). The Board shall 
                      consider such evidence in the first instance 
                      without consideration by the Veterans Benefits 
                      Administration.
                          (iii) Representative of record.--The 
                      representative of record of a claimant for appeals 
                      purposes, if any, shall be provided an opportunity 
                      to review the fully developed appeal of the 
                      claimant and submit any additional arguments or 
                      evidence that the representative determines 
                      necessary during a period specified by the Board 
                      for purposes of this subparagraph.
                    (D) <<NOTE: Determination. Records.>>  Prohibition 
                on remand for additional development.--If the Board of 
                Veterans' Appeals determines that a fully developed 
                appeal requires Federal records, independent medical 
                opinions, or new medical examinations, the Board shall--
                          (i) in accordance with subparagraph (E), take 
                      such actions as may be necessary to develop such 
                      records, opinions, or examinations in accordance 
                      with section 5103A of title 38, United States 
                      Code;
                          (ii) retain jurisdiction of the fully 
                      developed appeal without requiring a determination 
                      by the Veterans Benefits Administration based on 
                      such records, opinions, or examinations;
                          (iii) ensure the claimant, and the 
                      representative of record of a claimant, if any, 
                      receives a copy of such records, opinions, or 
                      examinations; and
                          (iv) <<NOTE: Time period.>>  provide the 
                      claimant a period of 90 days after the date of 
                      mailing such records, opinions, or examinations 
                      during which the claimant may provide the Board 
                      any additional evidence without requiring the 
                      claimant to make a reversion pursuant to paragraph 
                      (2)(D).
                    (E) Development unit.--
                          (i) <<NOTE: Determination.>>  Establishment.--
                      The Board of Veterans' Appeals shall establish an 
                      office to develop Federal records, independent 
                      medical opinions, and new medical examinations 
                      pursuant to subparagraph (D)(i) that the Board 
                      determines necessary to decide a fully developed 
                      appeal.
                          (ii) Requirements.--The Secretary shall--
                                    (I) ensure that the Veterans 
                                Benefits Administration cooperates with 
                                the Board of Veterans' Appeals in 
                                carrying out clause (i); and
                                    (II) <<NOTE: Determination.>>  
                                transfer employees of the Veterans 
                                Benefits Administration who, prior to 
                                the enactment of this Act, were 
                                responsible for processing claims 
                                remanded by the Board of Veterans' 
                                Appeals to positions within the office 
                                of the Board established under clause 
                                (i) in a number the Secretary determines 
                                sufficient to carry out such 
                                subparagraph.
                    (F) Hearings.--Notwithstanding section 7107 of title 
                38, United States Code, the Secretary may not provide

[[Page 131 STAT. 1123]]

                hearings with respect to fully developed appeals under 
                the program. If a claimant requests to hold a hearing 
                pursuant to such section 7107, such request shall be 
                deemed to be an election to revert to the standard 
                appeals process pursuant to paragraph (2)(D).
            (4) Duration; applicability.--
                    (A) Duration.--Subject to subsection (c), the 
                Secretary may carry out the program during such period 
                as the Secretary considers appropriate.
                    (B) Applicability.--This section shall apply only to 
                fully developed appeals that are filed during the period 
                in which the program is carried out pursuant to 
                subparagraph (A).
            (5) Definitions.--In this subsection:
                    (A) Compensation.--The term ``compensation'' has the 
                meaning given that term in section 101 of title 38, 
                United States Code.
                    (B) Fully developed appeal.--The term ``fully 
                developed appeal'' means an appeal of a claim for 
                disability compensation that is--
                          (i) filed by a claimant in accordance with 
                      paragraph (2)(A); and
                          (ii) considered in accordance with this 
                      subsection.
                    (C) Standard appeal.--The term ``standard appeal'' 
                means an appeal of a claim for disability compensation 
                that is not a fully developed appeal.

    (c) Termination of Authority.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs may 
not carry out a program under this section after the applicability date 
set forth in section 2(x)(1).
SEC. 5. <<NOTE: Web posting.>>  PERIODIC PUBLICATION OF METRICS 
                    RELATING TO PROCESSING OF APPEALS BY 
                    DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

    The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall periodically publish on an 
Internet website of the Department of Veterans Affairs the following:
            (1) With respect to the processing by the Secretary of 
        appeals under the new appeals system of decisions regarding 
        claims for benefits under laws administered by the Secretary, 
        the following:
                    (A) For the Veterans Benefits Administration and, to 
                the extent practicable, each regional office of the 
                Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of--
                          (i) supplemental claims under section 5108 of 
                      title 38, United States Code, as amended by 
                      section 2(i), that are pending; and
                          (ii) requests for higher-level review under 
                      section 5104B of such title, as added by section 
                      2(g), that are pending.
                    (B) The number of appeals on any docket maintained 
                under section 7107 of such title, as amended by section 
                2(t), that are pending.
                    (C) The average duration for processing claims and 
                supplemental claims, disaggregated by regional office.
                    (D) The average duration for processing requests for 
                higher-level review under section 5104B of such title, 
                as added by section 2(g), disaggregated by regional 
                office.

[[Page 131 STAT. 1124]]

                    (E) The average number of days that appeals are 
                pending on a docket of the Board of Veterans' Appeals 
                maintained pursuant to section 7107 of such title, as 
                amended by section 2(t), disaggregated by--
                          (i) appeals that include a request for a 
                      hearing;
                          (ii) appeals that do not include a request for 
                      a hearing and do include submittal of evidence; 
                      and
                          (iii) appeals that do not include a request 
                      for a hearing and do not include submittal of 
                      evidence.
                    (F) With respect to the policy developed and 
                implemented under section 7107(e) of such title, as 
                amended by section 2(t)--
                          (i) the number of cases moved from one docket 
                      to another pursuant to such policy;
                          (ii) the average time cases were pending prior 
                      to moving from one docket to another; and
                          (iii) the average time to adjudicate the cases 
                      after so moving.
                    (G) The total number of remands to obtain advisory 
                medical opinions under section 5109(d) of title 38, 
                United States Code, as added by section 2(j).
                    (H) The average number of days between the date on 
                which the Board remands a claim to obtain an advisory 
                medical opinion under section 5109(d) of such title, as 
                so added, and the date on which the advisory medical 
                opinion is obtained.
                    (I) The average number of days between the date on 
                which the Board remands a claim to obtain an advisory 
                medical opinion under section 5109(d) of such title, as 
                so added, and the date on which the agency of original 
                jurisdiction issues a decision taking that advisory 
                opinion into account.
                    (J) The number of appeals that are granted, the 
                number of appeals that are remanded, and the number of 
                appeals that are denied by the Board disaggregated by 
                docket.
                    (K) The number of claimants each year that take 
                action within the period set forth in section 5110(a)(2) 
                of such title, as added by section 2(l), to protect 
                their effective date under such section 5110(a)(2), 
                disaggregated by the status of the claimants taking the 
                actions, such as whether the claimant is represented by 
                a veterans service organization, the claimant is 
                represented by an attorney, or the claimant is taking 
                such action pro se.
                    (L) The total number of times on average each 
                claimant files under section 5110(a)(2) of such title, 
                as so added, to protect their effective date under such 
                section, disaggregated by the subparagraph of such 
                section under which they file.
                    (M) The average duration, from the filing of an 
                initial claim until the claim is resolved and claimants 
                no longer take any action to protect their effective 
                date under section 5110(a)(2) of such title, as so 
                added--
                          (i) of claims under the new appeals system, 
                      excluding legacy claims that opt in to the new 
                      appeals system; and

[[Page 131 STAT. 1125]]

                          (ii) of legacy claims that opt in to the new 
                      appeals system.
                    (N) How frequently an action taken within one year 
                to protect an effective date under section 5110(a)(2) of 
                such title, as so added, leads to additional grant of 
                benefits, disaggregated by action taken.
                    (O) The average of how long it takes to complete 
                each segment of the claims process while claimants are 
                protecting the effective date under such section, 
                disaggregated by the time waiting for the claimant to 
                take an action and the time waiting for the Secretary to 
                take an action.
                    (P) The number and the average amount of retroactive 
                awards of benefits from the Secretary as a result of 
                protected effective dates under such section, 
                disaggregated by action taken.
                    (Q) The average number of times claimants submit to 
                the Secretary different claims with respect to the same 
                condition, such as an initial claim and a supplemental 
                claim.
                    (R) The number of cases each year in which a 
                claimant inappropriately tried to take simultaneous 
                actions, such as filing a supplemental claim while a 
                higher-level review is pending, what actions the 
                Secretary took in response, and how long it took on 
                average to take those actions.
                    (S) In the case that the Secretary develops and 
                implements a policy under section 5104C(a)(2)(D) of such 
                title, as amended by section 2(h)(1), the number of 
                actions withdrawn and new actions taken pursuant to such 
                policy.
                    (T) The number of times the Secretary received 
                evidence relating to an appeal or higher-level review at 
                a time not authorized under the new appeals system, 
                disaggregated by actions taken by the Secretary to deal 
                with the evidence and how long on average it took to 
                take those actions.
                    (U) The number of errors committed by the Secretary 
                in carrying out the Secretary's duty to assist under 
                section 5103A of title 38, United States Code, that were 
                identified by higher-level review and by the Board, 
                disaggregated by type of error, such as errors relating 
                to private records and inadequate examinations, and a 
                comparison with errors committed by the Secretary in 
                carrying out such duty with respect to appeals of 
                decisions on legacy claims.
                    (V) <<NOTE: Assessment.>>  An assessment of the 
                productivity of employees at the regional offices and at 
                the Board, disaggregated by level of experience of the 
                employees.
                    (W) The percentage of cases that are decided within 
                the goals established by the Secretary for deciding 
                cases, disaggregated by cases that involve a 
                supplemental claim, cases that involve higher-level 
                review, and by docket maintained under section 7107(a) 
                of such title, as amended by section 2(t), or in the 
                case that the Secretary has not established goals for 
                deciding cases, the percentage of cases which are 
                decided within one year, two years, three years, and 
                more than three years, disaggregated by docket.
                    (X) Of the cases that involve higher-level review, 
                the percentage of decisions that are overturned in whole 
                or in part by the higher-level adjudicator, that are 
                upheld

[[Page 131 STAT. 1126]]

                by the higher-level adjudicator, and that are returned 
                for correction of an error.
                    (Y) The frequency by which the Secretary 
                readjudicates a claim pursuant to section 5108 of such 
                title, as amended by section 2(i), and the frequency by 
                which readjudication pursuant to section 5108 of such 
                title, as so amended, results in an award of benefits.
                    (Z) In any case in which the Board decides to screen 
                cases for a purpose described in section 7107(d) of such 
                title, as amended by section 2(t)(1)--
                          (i) a description of the way in which the 
                      cases are screened and the purposes for which they 
                      are screened;
                          (ii) a description of the effect such 
                      screening has had on--
                                    (I) the timeliness of the issuance 
                                of decisions of the Board; and
                                    (II) the inventory of cases before 
                                the Board; and
                          (iii) the type and frequency of development 
                      errors detected through such screening.
            (2) With respect to the processing by the Secretary of 
        appeals of decisions on legacy claims, the following:
                    (A) The average duration of each segment of the 
                appeals process, disaggregated by periods in which the 
                Secretary is waiting for a claimant to take an action 
                and periods in which the claimant is waiting for the 
                Secretary to take an action.
                    (B) The frequency by which appeals lead to 
                additional grant of benefits by the Secretary, 
                disaggregated by whether the additional benefits are a 
                result of additional evidence added after the initial 
                decision.
                    (C) The number and average amount of retroactive 
                awards of benefits resulting from an appeal.
                    (D) The average duration from filing a legacy claim 
                with the Secretary until all appeals and remands 
                relating to such legacy claim are completed.
                    (E) The average number of times claimants submit to 
                the Secretary different claims with respect to the same 
                condition, such as an initial claim, new and material 
                evidence, or a claim for an increase in benefits.
                    (F) <<NOTE: Assessment.>>  An assessment of the 
                productivity of employees at the regional offices and at 
                the Board, disaggregated by level of experience of the 
                employees.
                    (G) The average number of days the duration of an 
                appeal is extended because the Secretary secured or 
                attempted to secure an advisory medical opinion under 
                section 5109 of title 38, United States Code, or section 
                7109 of such title (as in effect on the day before the 
                date of the enactment of this Act).
                    (H) The frequency by which claims are reopened 
                pursuant to section 5108 of such title and the frequency 
                by which such reopening results in an award of benefits.
            (3) With respect to the processing by the Secretary of 
        appeals of decisions on legacy claims that opt in to the new 
        appeals system, the following:
                    (A) The cumulative number of such legacy claims.

[[Page 131 STAT. 1127]]

                    (B) The portion of work in the new appeals system 
                attributable to appeals of decisions on such legacy 
                claims.
                    (C) The average period such legacy claims were 
                pending before opting in to the new appeals system and 
                the average period required to adjudicate such legacy 
                claims on average after opting in--
                          (i) with respect to claims at a regional 
                      office of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 
                      disaggregated by--
                                    (I) supplemental claims under 
                                section 5108 of title 38, United States 
                                Code, as amended by section 2(i); and
                                    (II) requests for higher-level 
                                review under section 5104B of such 
                                title, as added by section 2(g); and
                          (ii) with respect to appeals, disaggregated by 
                      docket of the Board maintained under section 7107 
                      of such title, as amended by section 2(t).
SEC. 6. DEFINITIONS.

    In this Act:
            (1) Claimant.--The term ``claimant'' has the meaning given 
        such term in section 5100 of title 38, United States Code.
            (2) Legacy claims.--The term ``legacy claim'' means a 
        claim--
                    (A) that was submitted to the Secretary of Veterans 
                Affairs for a benefit under a law administered by the 
                Secretary; and
                    (B) for which notice of a decision under section 
                5104 of title 38, United States Code, was provided by 
                the Secretary before the date set forth in section 2(x).
            (3) Opt in.--The term ``opt in'' means, with respect to a 
        legacy claim of a claimant, that the claimant elects to subject 
        the claim to the new appeals system pursuant to--
                    (A) section 2(x)(3); or
                    (B) such other mechanism as the Secretary may 
                prescribe for purposes of carrying out this Act and the 
                amendments made by this Act.
            (4) New appeals system.--The term ``new appeals system'' 
        means the set of processes and mechanisms by which the

[[Page 131 STAT. 1128]]

        Secretary processes, pursuant to the authorities and 
        requirements modified by section 2, claims for benefits under 
        laws administered by the Secretary.

    Approved August 23, 2017.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY--H.R. 2288 (S. 1024):
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

HOUSE REPORTS: No. 115-135 (Comm. on Veterans' Affairs).
SENATE REPORTS: No. 115-126 (Comm. on Veterans' Affairs) accompanying 
S. 1024.
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Vol. 163 (2017):
            May 23, considered and passed House.
            Aug. 1, considered and passed Senate, amended.
            Aug. 11, House concurred in Senate amendment.

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