H. Rept. 113-236 - 113th Congress (2013-2014)
September 27, 2013, As Reported by the Veterans' Affairs Committee

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House Report 113-236 - TO ESTABLISH A COMMISSION OR TASK FORCE TO EVALUATE THE BACKLOG OF DISABILITY CLAIMS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS




[House Report 113-236]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]


113th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                    113-236

======================================================================



 
  TO ESTABLISH A COMMISSION OR TASK FORCE TO EVALUATE THE BACKLOG OF 
        DISABILITY CLAIMS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

                                _______
                                

 September 27, 2013.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on 
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

    Mr. Miller of Florida, from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 2189]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 2189) to establish a commission or task force to 
evaluate the backlog of disability claims of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs, having considered the same, report favorably 
thereon with amendments and recommend that the bill as amended 
do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Amendment........................................................     2
Purpose and Summary..............................................    20
Background and Need for Legislation..............................    21
Hearings.........................................................    34
Subcommittee Consideration.......................................    34
Committee Consideration..........................................    35
Committee Votes..................................................    36
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................    36
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............    36
New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures    36
Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits.............................    36
Committee Cost Estimate..........................................    36
Congressional Budget Office Estimate.............................    37
Federal Mandates Statement.......................................    45
Advisory Committee Statement.....................................    45
Constitutional Authority Statement...............................    45
Applicability to Legislative Branch..............................    45
Statement on Duplication of Federal Programs.....................    45
Disclosure of Directed Rulemaking................................    46
Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation...................    46
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill as Reported.............    51

                               Amendment

    The amendments are as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. TABLE OF CONTENTS.

  The table of contents for this Act is as follows:

Sec. 1. Table of contents.
Sec. 2. Scoring of budgetary effects.

               TITLE I--IMPROVEMENT OF CLAIMS PROCESSING

Sec. 101. Evaluation of backlog of disability claims and appeals of 
claims of Department of Veterans Affairs.
Sec. 102. Supplemental reports to the Strategic Plan to Eliminate the 
Compensation Claims Backlog.
Sec. 103. Expedition of transfer of certain records.
Sec. 104. Claims processors training.
Sec. 105. Report by Comptroller General of the United States.
Sec. 106. Priority for processing claims of the Department of Veterans 
Affairs.
Sec. 107. Public availability of certain information about pending and 
completed claims for compensation under the laws administered by the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Sec. 108. Annual report on processing of claims.
Sec. 109. Department of Veterans Affairs notice of average times for 
processing claims and percentage of claims approved.
Sec. 110. Claim defined.

                  TITLE II--COMPENSATION AND PENSIONS

Sec. 201. Improvements to authority for performance of medical 
disabilities examinations by contract physicians.
Sec. 202. Consideration by Secretary of Veterans Affairs of resources 
disposed of for less than fair market value by individuals applying for 
pension.
Sec. 203. Bifurcated payments of compensation benefits under laws 
administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Sec. 204. Pension for certain veterans covered by Medicaid plans for 
services furnished by nursing facilities.

                        TITLE III--OTHER MATTERS

Sec. 301. Review of operation of certain ships during the Vietnam Era.
Sec. 302. Methods for validating certain service considered to be 
active service by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Sec. 303. Designation of American World War II Cities.
Sec. 304. Observance of Veterans Day.

SEC. 2. SCORING OF BUDGETARY EFFECTS.

  The budgetary effects of this Act, for the purpose of complying with 
the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010, shall be determined by 
reference to the latest statement titled ``Budgetary Effects of PAYGO 
Legislation'' for this Act, submitted for printing in the Congressional 
Record by the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, provided that 
such statement has been submitted prior to the vote on passage.

               TITLE I--IMPROVEMENT OF CLAIMS PROCESSING

SEC. 101. EVALUATION OF BACKLOG OF DISABILITY CLAIMS AND APPEALS OF 
                    CLAIMS OF DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

  (a) In General.--There is established a commission or task force to 
evaluate the backlog of claims within the Department of Veterans 
Affairs and the appeals process of claims.
  (b) Studies.--
          (1) Backlog study.--
                  (A) In general.--The Commission or Task Force, acting 
                through the subcommittee described in subsection 
                (d)(2)(A), shall carry out a study on the backlog of 
                claims, including the current process the Secretary of 
                Veterans Affairs uses to evaluate claims and appeals 
                and the laws and regulations applicable to such claims 
                and appeals. Such study shall be a comprehensive 
                evaluation and assessment of the backlog of claims, an 
                analysis of possible improvements to the procedures 
                used to process such claims, and any related issues 
                that the Commission or Task Force considers relevant.
                  (B) Matters included.--In carrying out the study 
                under subparagraph (A), the Commission or Task Force 
                shall examine the following:
                          (i) The backlog of claims, including an 
                        analysis of--
                                  (I) the most effective means to 
                                quickly and accurately resolve all 
                                claims pending as of the date of the 
                                study; and
                                  (II) with respect to the Department, 
                                the annual funding, number of full-time 
                                employees, workload management 
                                practices, and the progress, as of the 
                                date of the study, of the strategic 
                                plan.
                          (ii) Possible improvements to the claims 
                        process, including an evaluation and 
                        recommendations with respect to whether 
                        substantive and structural changes to the 
                        overall claims process are required.
                          (iii) In carrying out the evaluation and 
                        recommendations under subparagraph (B), an 
                        examination of--
                                  (I) options that make no major 
                                substantive changes to the claims 
                                process;
                                  (II) options that maintain the 
                                process but make minor changes; and
                                  (III) options that make broad changes 
                                to the process.
          (2) Appeals process study.--
                  (A) In general.--The Commission or Task Force, acting 
                through the subcommittee described in subsection 
                (d)(2)(B), shall carry out a study on the anticipated 
                increase of appeals of claims, including the current 
                appeals process and the laws and regulations applicable 
                to such appeals. Such study shall be a comprehensive 
                evaluation and assessment of such anticipated increase 
                of appeals claims, an analysis of possible improvements 
                to the procedures used to process such appeals, and any 
                related issues that the Commission or Task Force 
                considers relevant.
                  (B) Matters included.--In carrying out the study 
                under subparagraph (A), the Commission or Task Force 
                shall examine the following:
                          (i) The anticipated surge in appeals of 
                        claims, including an analysis of--
                                  (I) the most effective means to 
                                quickly and accurately resolve pending 
                                appeals and future appeals;
                                  (II) with respect to both the Board 
                                and the Court of Appeals for Veterans 
                                Claims, the annual funding, number of 
                                full-time employees, workload 
                                management practices, and the progress, 
                                as of the date of the study, of the 
                                strategic plan; and
                                  (III) the efficiency, effectiveness, 
                                and utility of the Veterans Benefits 
                                Management System with respect to 
                                appeals operations, including an 
                                identification of key changes that may 
                                need to be implemented to such system.
                          (ii) Possible improvements to the appeals 
                        process, including an evaluation and 
                        recommendations with respect to whether 
                        substantive and structural changes to the 
                        overall appeals process are required.
                          (iii) In carrying out the evaluation and 
                        recommendations under clause (ii), an 
                        examination of--
                                  (I) options that make no major 
                                substantive changes to the appeals 
                                process;
                                  (II) options that maintain the 
                                process but make minor changes;
                                  (III) options that make broad changes 
                                to the process;
                                  (IV) the necessity of the multi-
                                tiered levels of appeals at the 
                                regional office level, including filing 
                                a notice of disagreement, receipt of a 
                                statement of the case, supplemental 
                                statement of the case (if applicable), 
                                and substantive appeal (VA Form 9);
                                  (V) the role of the Board and the 
                                Appeals Management Center, including--
                                          (aa) the effectiveness of the 
                                        workload management of the 
                                        Board and the Center;
                                          (bb) whether the Board and 
                                        Center should be regionalized 
                                        or maintain the centralized 
                                        structure in the District of 
                                        Columbia;
                                          (cc) whether Board members 
                                        should be required to pass the 
                                        administrative law judges 
                                        certification examination; and
                                          (dd) whether the Board should 
                                        continue to require de novo 
                                        review of appeals; and
                                  (VI) the role of the Court of Appeals 
                                for Veterans Claims and the United 
                                States Court of Appeals for the Federal 
                                Circuit, including--
                                          (aa) the continued 
                                        effectiveness and necessity of 
                                        a multi-tiered structure of 
                                        judicial review;
                                          (bb) whether the Court of 
                                        Appeals for Veterans Claims 
                                        should have Article I or 
                                        Article III status;
                                          (cc) expansion of either the 
                                        Court of Appeals for Veterans 
                                        Claims or the United States 
                                        Court of Appeals for the 
                                        Federal Circuit jurisdiction, 
                                        including by allowing such 
                                        courts to hear class action 
                                        lawsuits with respect to 
                                        claims; and
                                          (dd) the possibility of 
                                        expanding judicial review of 
                                        claims to all Federal circuit 
                                        courts of appeals or allowing 
                                        judicial review beyond the 
                                        Court of Appeals for Veterans 
                                        Claims only by the Supreme 
                                        Court.
          (3) Consideration.--In carrying out the studies under 
        paragraph (1)(A) and (2)(A) and making any recommendations 
        under this section, the Commission or Task Force shall consider 
        the following:
                  (A) The interests of veterans, including with respect 
                to accuracy, fairness, and transparency in the claims 
                process of the Department.
                  (B) The values and requirements of the Constitution, 
                including with respect to compliance with procedural 
                and substantive due process.
                  (C) The public interest, including with respect to 
                the responsible use of available resources.
                  (D) With respect to the study conducted under 
                paragraph (1)(A), the importance of the claimant 
                friendly, nonadversarial nature of the claims process.
                  (E) With respect to the study conducted under 
                paragraph (2)(A), the importance of an appeals process 
                that is efficient and easily understandable by a 
                claimant.
          (4) Role of secretary, chairman of the board, and chief 
        judge.--
                  (A) Information.--In carrying out each study under 
                paragraph (1)(A) and (2)(A), at times that the 
                Commission or Task Force determines appropriate, the 
                Commission or Task Force shall submit to the Secretary 
                of Veterans Affairs, the Chairman of the Board, and the 
                Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for Veterans 
                Claims, as the case may be, information with respect to 
                remedies and solutions that the Commission or Task 
                Force identifies pursuant to such a study.
                  (B) Implementation.--The Secretary, the Chairman of 
                the Board, and the Chief Judge shall each--
                          (i) fully consider the remedies and solutions 
                        submitted to the Secretary, the Chairman, or 
                        the Chief Judge, as the case may be, under 
                        subparagraph (A);
                          (ii) implement such remedies and solutions as 
                        the Secretary, the Chairman, or the Chief 
                        Judge, respectively, determines appropriate; 
                        and
                          (iii) submit to Congress justification for 
                        failing to implement any such remedy or 
                        solution.
                  (C) Plan.--The Commission or Task Force shall submit 
                to the Secretary, the Chairman of the Board, and the 
                Chief Judge a feasible, timely, and cost-effective plan 
                to eliminate the backlog of appeals of claims based on 
                the remedies and solutions identified pursuant to the 
                study under paragraph (2)(A) and the information 
                submitted under subparagraph (A).
  (c) Comprehensive Reports.--
          (1) Initial comprehensive report.--Not later than 60 days 
        after the date on which the Commission or Task Force first 
        meets, the Commission or Task Force shall submit to the 
        President and Congress an initial comprehensive report on the 
        studies conducted under paragraphs (1)(A) and (2)(A) of 
        subsection (b), including--
                  (A) the findings of the causes of the backlog of 
                claims;
                  (B) a proposed plan to handle the anticipated surge 
                in appeals of claims; and
                  (C) the level of cooperation the Commission or Task 
                Force has received from the Secretary and the heads of 
                other departments or agencies of the Federal 
                Government.
          (2) Interim comprehensive reports.--Not later than 90 days 
        after the date on which the Commission or Task Force first 
        meets, and each 30-day period thereafter ending on the date on 
        which the Commission or Task Force submits the final 
        comprehensive report under paragraph (3), the Commission or 
        Task Force shall submit to the President and Congress a 
        comprehensive report on--
                  (A) the progress of the Secretary with respect to 
                implementing solutions to expedite the elimination of 
                the backlog of claims pursuant to subsection 
                (b)(4)(B)(ii);
                  (B) the progress of the Secretary, the Chairman of 
                the Board, and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals 
                for Veterans Claims with respect to implementing 
                solutions to complete appeals of claims in a timely 
                manner in a timely manner pursuant to such subsection; 
                and
                  (C) the level of cooperation the Commission or Task 
                Force has received from the Secretary and the heads of 
                other departments or agencies of the Federal 
                Government.
          (3) Final comprehensive report.--Not later than 180 days 
        after the date on which the Commission or Task Force first 
        meets, the Commission or Task Force shall submit to the 
        President and Congress a comprehensive report on the following:
                  (A) With respect to the study conducted under 
                subsection (b)(1)(A)--
                          (i) The findings, conclusions, and 
                        recommendations of the Commission or Task Force 
                        with respect to the matters referred to in such 
                        subsection.
                          (ii) The recommendations of the Commission or 
                        Task Force for revising and improving the 
                        backlog of claims and the procedures used to 
                        process claims.
                          (iii) The progress of the Secretary with 
                        respect to implementing solutions to expedite 
                        the elimination of the backlog of claims 
                        pursuant to subsection (b)(4)(B)(ii).
                          (iv) Other information and recommendations 
                        with respect to claims as the Commission or 
                        Task Force considers appropriate.
                  (B) With respect to the study conducted under 
                subsection (b)(2)(A)--
                          (i) The findings, conclusions, and 
                        recommendations of the Commission or Task Force 
                        with respect to the matters referred to in such 
                        subsection.
                          (ii) The recommendations of the Commission or 
                        Task Force for revising and improving the 
                        appeals process;
                          (iii) The information described in subsection 
                        (b)(4)(A).
                          (iv) The feasible, timely, and cost effective 
                        plan described in subsection (b)(4)(C).
                          (v) The progress of the Secretary, the 
                        Chairman of the Board, and the Chief Judge of 
                        the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims with 
                        respect to implementing solutions to provide 
                        timely appeals of claims.
                          (vi) Other information and recommendations 
                        with respect to the appeals process as the 
                        Commission or Task Force considers appropriate.
  (d) Membership.--
          (1) Number and appointment.--The Commission or Task Force 
        shall be composed of 15 members, appointed as follows:
                  (A) Two members appointed by the Speaker of the House 
                of Representatives, one of whom shall be designated to 
                serve upon the Subcommittee on the Backlog of Claims 
                and one of whom shall be designated to serve upon the 
                Subcommittee on Appeals.
                  (B) Two members appointed by the minority leader of 
                the House of Representatives, one of whom shall be 
                designated to serve upon the Subcommittee on the 
                Backlog of Claims and one of whom shall be designated 
                to serve upon the Subcommittee on Appeals.
                  (C) Two members appointed by the majority leader of 
                the Senate, one of whom shall be designated to serve 
                upon the Subcommittee on the Backlog of Claims and one 
                of whom shall be designated to serve upon the 
                Subcommittee on Appeals.
                  (D) Two members appointed by the minority leader of 
                the Senate, one of whom shall be designated to serve 
                upon the Subcommittee on the Backlog of Claims and one 
                of whom shall be designated to serve upon the 
                Subcommittee on Appeals.
                  (E) Three members appointed by the President, two of 
                whom shall be designated to serve upon the Subcommittee 
                on the Backlog of Claims and one of whom shall be 
                designated to serve upon the Subcommittee on Appeals.
                  (F) One member appointed by the Secretary of Defense, 
                whom shall be designated to serve upon the Subcommittee 
                on the Backlog of Claims.
                  (G) Two members appointed by the Secretary of 
                Veterans Affairs, one of whom shall be designated to 
                serve upon the Subcommittee on the Backlog of Claims 
                and one of whom shall be designated to serve upon the 
                Subcommittee on Appeals.
                  (H) One member appointed by the Chief Judge of the 
                Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, whom shall be 
                designated to serve upon the Subcommittee on Appeals.
          (2) Subcommittees.--The Commission or Task Force shall have 
        two subcommittees as follows:
                  (A) A Subcommittee on the Backlog of Claims 
                consisting of the eight members designated in 
                accordance with paragraph (1).
                  (B) A Subcommittee on Appeals consisting of the seven 
                members designated in accordance with paragraph (1).
          (3) Qualifications.--Each member appointed under paragraph 
        (1) shall be appointed based on the experience of the member as 
        a veteran or on the subject matter expertise or other relevant 
        experience of the member.
          (4) Advisors.--
                  (A) In general.--In addition to the 15 members 
                appointed under paragraph (1), the Commission or Task 
                Force shall--
                          (i) have five nonvoting, nonmember advisors, 
                        appointed by a majority of the Commission or 
                        Task Force, each from a different organization 
                        that represents the interests of veterans; and
                          (ii) seek advice from experts from 
                        nongovernmental organizations (including 
                        veterans service organizations and military 
                        organizations), the Internet technology 
                        industry, and the insurance industry.
                  (B) Advice.--Individuals described in clause (i) and 
                (ii) of subparagraph (A) shall provide advice to both 
                subcommittees described in paragraph (2).
          (5) Chairman.--The President shall designate a member of the 
        Commission or Task Force who is appointed by the President and 
        designated to serve upon the Subcommittee on the Backlog of 
        Claims to serve as the chairman of the Commission or Task 
        Force. The chairman may designate a member to serve as the 
        chairman of the Subcommittee on the Backlog of Claims and a 
        member to serve as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Appeals 
        to chair such subcommittees as the designee of the chairman of 
        the Commission or Task Force.
          (6) Period of appointment.--Members of the Commission or Task 
        Force shall be appointed for the life of the Commission or Task 
        Force. A vacancy shall not affect its powers.
          (7) Vacancy.--A vacancy on the Commission or Task Force shall 
        be filled in the manner in which the original appointment was 
        made.
          (8) Appointment deadline.--The appointment of members of the 
        Commission or Task Force established in this section shall be 
        made not later than 15 days after the date of the enactment of 
        this Act.
  (e) Meetings.--
          (1) Initial meeting.--The Commission or Task Force shall hold 
        its first meeting not later than 15 days after the date on 
        which a majority of the members are appointed.
          (2) Meetings.--The Commission or Task Force shall meet at the 
        call of the chairman.
          (3) Quorum.--A majority of the members of the Commission or 
        Task Force shall constitute a quorum, but a lesser number may 
        hold hearings.
  (f) Powers of the Commission or Task Force.--
          (1) Hearings.--The Commission or Task Force may hold such 
        hearings, sit and act at such times and places, take such 
        testimony, and receive such evidence as the Commission or Task 
        Force considers advisable to carry out the purposes of this 
        section.
          (2) Information from federal agencies.--The Commission or 
        Task Force may secure directly from any department or agency of 
        the Federal Government such information as the Commission or 
        Task Force considers necessary to carry out the provisions of 
        this section. Upon request of the chairman, the head of such 
        department or agency shall furnish such information to the 
        Commission or Task Force.
          (3) Postal services.--The Commission or Task Force may use 
        the United States mails in the same manner and under the same 
        conditions as other departments and agencies of the Federal 
        Government.
          (4) Gifts.--The Commission or Task Force may accept, use, and 
        dispose of gifts or donations of service or property.
  (g) Personnel Matters.--
          (1) Compensation of members.--Each member of the Commission 
        or Task Force who is not an officer or employee of the United 
        States shall be compensated at a rate equal to the daily 
        equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay prescribed for level 
        IV of the Executive Schedule under section 5315 of title 5, 
        United States Code, for each day (including travel time) during 
        which the member is engaged in the performance of the duties of 
        the Commission or Task Force. All members of the Commission or 
        Task Force who are officers or employees of the United States 
        shall serve without compensation in addition to that received 
        for their services as officers or employees of the United 
        States.
          (2) Travel expenses.--The members of the Commission or Task 
        Force shall be allowed travel expenses, including per diem in 
        lieu of subsistence, at rates authorized for employees of 
        agencies under subchapter I of chapter 57 of title 5, United 
        States Code, while away from their homes or regular places of 
        business in the performance of service of the Commission or 
        Task Force.
          (3) Staff.--
                  (A) Appointment.--The chairman of the Commission or 
                Task Force may, without regard to the civil service 
                laws and regulations, appoint an executive director and 
                such other personnel as may be necessary to enable the 
                Commission or Task Force to perform its duties. The 
                appointment of an executive director shall be subject 
                to the approval of the Commission or Task Force.
                  (B) Compensation.--The chairman of the Commission or 
                Task Force may fix the compensation of the executive 
                director and other personnel without regard to the 
                provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 
                53 of title 5, United States Code, relating to 
                classification of positions and General Schedule pay 
                rates, except that the rate of pay for the executive 
                director and other personnel may not exceed the rate 
                payable for level V of the Executive Schedule under 
                section 5316 of such title.
          (4) Detail of government employees.--Upon request of the 
        chairman of the Commission or Task Force, the head of any 
        department or agency of the Federal Government may detail, on a 
        nonreimbursable basis, any personnel of that department or 
        agency to the Commission or Task Force to assist it in carrying 
        out its duties.
          (5) Procurement of temporary and intermittent services.--The 
        chairman of the Commission or Task Force may procure temporary 
        and intermittent services under section 3109(b) of title 5, 
        United States Code, at rates for individuals which do not 
        exceed the daily equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay 
        prescribed for level V of the Executive Schedule under section 
        5316 of such title.
  (h) Termination of Commission or Task Force.--The Commission or Task 
Force shall terminate 60 days after the date on which the Commission or 
Task Force submits the final comprehensive report under subsection 
(c)(3).
  (i) Funding.--
          (1) In general.--The Secretary shall, upon the request of the 
        chairman of the Commission or Task Force, make available to the 
        Commission or Task Force such amounts as the Commission or Task 
        Force may require to carry out the duties of the Commission or 
        Task Force under this section.
          (2) Availability.--Any sums made available to the Commission 
        or Task Force shall remain available, without fiscal year 
        limitation, until the termination of the Commission or Task 
        Force.
  (j) Definitions.--In this section:
          (1) The term ``appeals process'' means the process to appeal 
        the determination by the Secretary of a claim beginning with 
        the notice of disagreement filed pursuant to section 7105 of 
        title 38, United States Code, and ending with the review of a 
        decision by the Supreme Court pursuant to section 7292(c) of 
        such title.
          (2) The term ``Board'' means the Board of Veterans' Appeals.
          (3) The term ``strategic plan'' means the Strategic Plan to 
        Eliminate the Compensation Claims Backlog, published by the 
        Secretary of Veterans Affairs on January 25, 2013.

SEC. 102. SUPPLEMENTAL REPORTS TO THE STRATEGIC PLAN TO ELIMINATE THE 
                    COMPENSATION CLAIMS BACKLOG.

  Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, 
and every 120 days thereafter until Memorial Day (May 25), 2015, the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to Congress a supplemental 
report on the implementation by the Department of Veterans Affairs of 
the Strategic Plan to Eliminate the Compensation Claims Backlog. Each 
such report shall include--
          (1) verification that during the period covered by the 
        report, each claim was approved or denied by not later than 125 
        days after the date on which the claim is submitted with an 
        accuracy rate of 98 percent, as specified in the Strategic 
        Plan;
          (2) a description of the specific measures, procedures, and 
        metrics used to assess the implementation of the Strategic Plan 
        for purposes of the supplemental report; and
          (3) a detailed timeline for the implementation of each 
        initiative contained in the Strategic Plan.

SEC. 103. EXPEDITION OF TRANSFER OF CERTAIN RECORDS.

  (a) SSA Records.--Not later than 60 days after the date of the 
enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall enter 
into an agreement with the Commissioner of the Social Security 
Administration to ensure that the Commissioner transfers to the 
Secretary disability or medical records of the Commissioner that the 
Secretary will use to evaluate a claim by not later than 30 days after 
the Secretary requests such records.
  (b) DOD Records.--Not later than 60 days after the date of the 
enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall enter 
into an agreement with the Secretary of Defense to ensure that the 
Secretary of Defense transfers to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
medical records of members or former members of the Armed Forces that 
the Secretary will use to evaluate a claim by not later than 30 days 
after the Secretary requests such records.
  (c) National Guard Records.--Not later than 60 days after the date of 
the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the 
Secretary of Defense shall jointly--
          (1) submit to Congress a plan to reduce to 30 days the amount 
        of time needed to provide members of the National Guard and the 
        Secretary of Veterans Affairs with the medical records of such 
        members, including by partnering with appropriate officials of 
        Federal or State departments or agencies; and
          (2) implement such plan.
  (d) Effective Date.--This section shall take effect on the date that 
is one year after the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 104. CLAIMS PROCESSORS TRAINING.

  (a) Establishment.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall establish 
a training program to provide newly hired claims processors of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs with training for a period of not less 
than two years. In carrying out such program, the Secretary shall 
identify successful claims processors of the Department who can assist 
in the training of newly hired claims processors.
  (b) Ability to Process Claims.--The Secretary shall carry out the 
training program established under subsection (a) without increasing 
the amount of time in which claims are processed by the Department.
  (c) Effective Date.--This section shall take effect on the date that 
is one year after the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 105. REPORT BY COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES.

  Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, 
the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to Congress a 
report on the progress of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in 
improving the timeliness of claims processing and eliminating the 
backlog of claims. The report shall include any recommendations of the 
Comptroller General with respect to improving the ability of the 
Secretary to make such progress.

SEC. 106. PRIORITY FOR PROCESSING CLAIMS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS 
                    AFFAIRS.

  (a) In General.--Subchapter I of chapter 51 of title 38, United 
States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

``Sec. 5109C. Priority for processing claims

  ``(a) Priority.--In processing claims for compensation under this 
chapter, the Secretary shall provide the following claimants with 
priority over other claimants:
          ``(1) Veterans who have attained the age of 70.
          ``(2) Veterans who are terminally ill.
          ``(3) Veterans with life-threatening illnesses.
          ``(4) Homeless veterans (as defined in section 2002 of this 
        title).
          ``(5) Veterans who were awarded the Medal of Honor.
          ``(6) Veterans who are former prisoners of war.
          ``(7) Veterans whose claims are being reviewed again in 
        relation to a previously denied claim relating to military 
        sexual trauma.
          ``(8) Veterans whom the Secretary determines, on a case-by-
        case basis, are seriously or very seriously injured.
          ``(9) Veterans whom the Secretary determines, on a case-by-
        case basis, should be given priority under this section based 
        on an application for good cause established by the Secretary.
  ``(b) Regulations.--The Secretary shall prescribe regulations to 
carry out subsection (a).''.
  (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections at the beginning of 
such chapter is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 
5109B the following new item:

``5109C. Priority for processing claims.''.

SEC. 107. PUBLIC AVAILABILITY OF CERTAIN INFORMATION ABOUT PENDING AND 
                    COMPLETED CLAIMS FOR COMPENSATION UNDER THE LAWS 
                    ADMINISTERED BY THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

  (a) In General.--Subchapter I of chapter 51 of title 38, United 
States Code, is amended by adding after section 5109C, as added by 
section 106, the following new section:

``Sec. 5109D. Information about pending and completed claims

  ``(a) Availability of Information.--The Secretary shall maintain on 
the Internet website of the Department publicly accessible information 
about pending and completed claims for compensation under chapter 11 of 
this title. Such information shall include each of the following:
          ``(1) For each regional office and for the Department as a 
        whole--
                  ``(A) the average number of days between the date of 
                the submittal of a claim and the date of the decision 
                with respect to the claim for each of the preceding 
                three-month and one-year period;
                  ``(B) the average number of days such a claim is 
                pending during the preceding three-month and one-year 
                periods;
                  ``(C) the quality and accuracy rating of the claims 
                adjudication process during the preceding three-month 
                and one-year periods;
                  ``(D) the number of claims pending;
                  ``(E) the number of pending claims that have been 
                pending for more than 125 days; and
                  ``(F) the number of claims completed during--
                          ``(i) the current month, to date;
                          ``(ii) the month preceding the current month;
                          ``(iii) the current calendar year, to date; 
                        and
                          ``(iv) the calendar year preceding the 
                        current calendar year.
          ``(2) For each medical condition for which a claim for 
        compensation is submitted, for each regional office and for the 
        Department as a whole--
                  ``(A) the average number of days between the date of 
                the submittal of a claim relating to such medical 
                condition and the date of the decision with respect to 
                the claim for each of the preceding three-month and 
                one-year period;
                  ``(B) the average number of days such a claim is 
                pending during the preceding three-month and one-year 
                periods;
                  ``(C) the quality and accuracy rating of the claims 
                adjudication process as applied to claims relating to 
                such medical condition during the preceding three-month 
                and one-year periods;
                  ``(D) the number of pending claims relating to such 
                condition;
                  ``(E) the number of such pending claims that have 
                been pending for more than 125 days; and
                  ``(F) the number of claims relating to such medical 
                condition completed during--
                          ``(i) the current month, to date;
                          ``(ii) the month preceding current month;
                          ``(iii) the current calendar year, to date; 
                        and
                          ``(iv) the calendar year preceding the 
                        current calendar year.
  ``(b) Updates.--The Secretary shall update the information on the 
website under subsection (a) not less frequently than once every seven 
days.''.
  (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections at the beginning of 
such chapter is amended by adding after the item relating to section 
5109C, as added by section 106, the following new item:

``5109D. Information about pending and completed claims.''.

SEC. 108. ANNUAL REPORT ON PROCESSING OF CLAIMS.

  (a) In General.--Subchapter I of chapter 51 of title 38, United 
States Code, is amended by adding after section 5109D, as added by 
section 107, the following new section:

``Sec. 5109E. Annual report on processing of claims

  ``(a) Annual Report.--The Secretary shall include in the annual 
report to Congress required under section 529 of this title information 
on the following:
          ``(1) The automatic processing of claims for compensation.
          ``(2) The performance of any regional office that fails to 
        meet the administrative goals of the regional office with 
        respect to timeliness and accuracy in processing claims for 
        compensation.
          ``(3) The timeliness of receiving information pursuant to a 
        request by the Secretary to the head of another department or 
        agency of the United States for information required by the 
        Secretary in adjudicating a claim for compensation under 
        chapter 11 of this title.
  ``(b) Matters Included.--In carrying out subsection (a) to include 
information in the report required under section 529 of this title, the 
Secretary shall include the following:
          ``(1) With respect to the information required by subsection 
        (a)(1)--
                  ``(A) each medical condition for which claims 
                relating to such condition were processed in an 
                electronic automated fashion during the fiscal year 
                covered by the report;
                  ``(B) the feasibility of processing any additional 
                medical conditions in an electronic automated fashion 
                and any barriers to such processing, including any such 
                barriers relating to the schedule for rating 
                disabilities under section 1155 of this title;
                  ``(C) the number of claims for compensation relating 
                to each medical condition submitted during such fiscal 
                year; and
                  ``(D) for each medical condition, the percentage of 
                claims denied and the percentage of claims approved 
                during such fiscal year.
          ``(2) With respect to the information required by subsection 
        (a)(2), in the case of any regional office that, for the fiscal 
        year covered by the report, did not meet the administrative 
        goal of having no claim pending for more than 125 days and 
        achieving an accuracy rating of 98 percent--
                  ``(A) a signed statement prepared by the individual 
                serving as director of the regional office as of the 
                date of the submittal of the report containing--
                          ``(i) an explanation for why the regional 
                        office did not meet the goal;
                          ``(ii) a description of the additional 
                        resources needed to enable the regional office 
                        to reach the goal; and
                          ``(iii) a description of any additional 
                        actions planned for the subsequent fiscal year 
                        that are proposed to enable the regional office 
                        to meet the goal; and
                  ``(B) a statement prepared by the Under Secretary for 
                Benefits explaining how the failure of the regional 
                office to meet the goal affected the performance 
                evaluation of the director of the regional office.
          ``(3) With respect to the information required by subsection 
        (a)(3)--
                  ``(A) the number of requests described in such 
                paragraph made during the fiscal year covered by the 
                report; and
                  ``(B) the average response time for such requests 
                made during each month of such fiscal year, as 
                determined based on the period beginning on the date on 
                which the Secretary made the request and ending on the 
                date on which the Secretary determines that the request 
                is completed.''.
  (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections at the beginning of 
such chapter is amended by adding after the item relating to section 
5109D, as added by section 107, the following new item:

``5109E. Annual report on processing of claims.''.

  (c) Effective Date.--Section 5109E of title 38, United States Code, 
as added by subsection (a) shall take effect on the date that is one 
year after the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 109. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS NOTICE OF AVERAGE TIMES FOR 
                    PROCESSING CLAIMS AND PERCENTAGE OF CLAIMS 
                    APPROVED.

  (a) Public Notice.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall post the 
information described in subsection (c)--
          (1) in a conspicuous place in each regional office and claims 
        intake facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs; and
          (2) on the Internet website of the Department.
  (b) Notice to Applicants.--
          (1) In general.--The Secretary shall provide to each person 
        who submits a claim for benefits under the laws administered by 
        the Secretary before the person submits such claim--
                  (A) notice of the information described in subsection 
                (c); and
                  (B) notice that, during the period ending on August 
                6, 2015, the person is eligible to receive up to an 
                extra year of benefits payments if the person files an 
                original claim that is fully developed.
          (2) Acknowledgment of receipt of notice.--Each person who 
        submits a claim for benefits under the laws administered by the 
        Secretary shall include in such application a signed form 
        acknowledging that the person received the information 
        described in subsection (c).
  (c) Information Described.--
          (1) In general.--The information described in this subsection 
        is the following:
                  (A) The average processing time of the claims 
                described in paragraph (2) and the percentage of such 
                submitted claims for which benefits are awarded.
                  (B) The percentage of each of the following types of 
                submitted claims for benefits under the laws 
                administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for 
                which benefits are awarded:
                          (i) Claims filed by veterans who authorized a 
                        veterans service organization to act on the 
                        veterans' behalf under a durable power of 
                        attorney.
                          (ii) Claims filed by veterans who authorized 
                        a person other than a veterans service 
                        organization to act on the veterans' behalf 
                        under a durable power of attorney.
                          (iii) Claims filed by veterans who did not 
                        authorize a person to act on the veterans' 
                        behalf under a durable power of attorney.
          (2) Claims described.--The claims described in this paragraph 
        are each of the following types of claims for benefits under 
        the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs:
                  (A) A fully developed claim that is submitted in 
                standard electronic form.
                  (B) A fully developed claim that is submitted in 
                standard paper form.
                  (C) A claim that is not fully developed that is 
                submitted in standard electronic form.
                  (D) A claim that is not fully developed that is 
                submitted in standard paper form.
                  (E) A claim that is not fully developed that is 
                submitted in nonstandard paper form.
          (3) Update of information.--The information described in this 
        subsection shall be updated not less frequently than once each 
        fiscal quarter.
  (d) Effective Date.--This section shall take effect on the date that 
is one year after the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 110. CLAIM DEFINED.

  Except as otherwise provided, in this title, the term ``claim'' means 
a claim for disability compensation under the laws administered by the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

                  TITLE II--COMPENSATION AND PENSIONS

SEC. 201. IMPROVEMENTS TO AUTHORITY FOR PERFORMANCE OF MEDICAL 
                    DISABILITIES EXAMINATIONS BY CONTRACT PHYSICIANS.

  (a) Extension of Temporary Authority.--Subsection (c) of section 704 
of the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 (38 U.S.C. 5101 note) is amended 
by striking ``December 31, 2013'' and inserting ``December 31, 2016''.
  (b) Licensure of Contract Physicians.--
          (1) Temporary authority.--Such section 704 is further 
        amended--
                  (A) by redesignating subsection (d) as subsection 
                (e); and
                  (B) by inserting after subsection (c) the following 
                new subsection (d):
  ``(d) Licensure of Contract Physicians.--
          ``(1) In general.--Notwithstanding any law regarding the 
        licensure of physicians, a physician described in paragraph (2) 
        may conduct an examination pursuant to a contract entered into 
        under subsection (b) at any location in any State, the District 
        of Columbia, or a Commonwealth, territory, or possession of the 
        United States, so long as the examination is within the scope 
        of the authorized duties under such contract.
          ``(2) Physician described.--A physician described in this 
        paragraph is a physician who--
                  ``(A) has a current license to practice the health 
                care profession of the physician; and
                  ``(B) is performing authorized duties for the 
                Department of Veterans Affairs pursuant to a contract 
                entered into under subsection (b).''.
          (2) Pilot program.--Section 504 of the Veterans' Benefits 
        Improvement Act of 1996 (38 U.S.C. 5101 note) is amended--
                  (A) by redesignating subsections (c) and (d) as 
                subsections (d) and (e), respectively; and
                  (B) by inserting after subsection (b) the following 
                new subsection (c):
  ``(c) Licensure of Contract Physicians.--
          ``(1) In general.--Notwithstanding any law regarding the 
        licensure of physicians, a physician described in paragraph (2) 
        may conduct an examination pursuant to a contract entered into 
        under subsection (a) at any location in any State, the District 
        of Columbia, or a Commonwealth, territory, or possession of the 
        United States, so long as the examination is within the scope 
        of the authorized duties under such contract.
          ``(2) Physician described.--A physician described in this 
        paragraph is a physician who--
                  ``(A) has a current license to practice the health 
                care profession of the physician; and
                  ``(B) is performing authorized duties for the 
                Department of Veterans Affairs pursuant to a contract 
                entered into under subsection (a).''.
  (c) Expansion of Pilot Program.--Subsection (b) of such section 504 
is amended to read as follows:
  ``(b) Locations.--
          ``(1) Number.--The Secretary may carry out the pilot program 
        under this section through not more than 15 regional offices of 
        the Department of Veterans Affairs.
          ``(2) Selection.--The Secretary shall select the regional 
        offices under paragraph (1) by analyzing appropriate data to 
        determine the regional offices that require support. Such 
        appropriate data shall include--
                  ``(A) the number of backlogged claims;
                  ``(B) the total pending case workload;
                  ``(C) the length of time cases have been pending;
                  ``(D) the accuracy of completed cases;
                  ``(E) the overall timeliness of completed cases;
                  ``(F) the availability and workload of the 
                examination units and physicians of the medical centers 
                in the regional office; and
                  ``(G) any other data the Secretary determines 
                appropriate.
          ``(3) Annual analysis.--The Secretary shall carry out the 
        data analysis of the regional offices under paragraph (2) 
        during each year in which the program under this section is 
        carried out to determine the regional offices selected under 
        paragraph (1) for such year.''.
  (d) Effective Date.--This section and the amendment made by this 
section shall take effect on the date that is one year after the date 
of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 202. CONSIDERATION BY SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS OF RESOURCES 
                    DISPOSED OF FOR LESS THAN FAIR MARKET VALUE BY 
                    INDIVIDUALS APPLYING FOR PENSION.

  (a) Veterans.--Section 1522 of title 38, United States Code, is 
amended--
          (1) in subsection (a)--
                  (A) by inserting ``(1)'' before ``The Secretary''; 
                and
                  (B) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
  ``(2)(A) If a veteran otherwise eligible for payment of pension under 
section 1513 or 1521 of this title or the spouse of such veteran 
disposes of covered resources for less than fair market value on or 
after the look-back date described in subparagraph (C)(i), the 
Secretary shall deny or discontinue the payment of pension to such 
veteran under section 1513 or 1521 of this title, as the case may be, 
for months during the period beginning on the date described in 
subparagraph (D) and equal to the number of months calculated as 
provided in subparagraph (E).
  ``(B)(i) For purposes of this paragraph, a covered resource is any 
resource that was a part of the corpus of the estate of the veteran or, 
if the veteran has a spouse, the corpus of the estates of the veteran 
and of the veteran's spouse, that the Secretary considers that under 
all the circumstances, if the veteran or spouse had not disposed of 
such resource, it would be reasonable that the resource (or some 
portion of the resource) be consumed for the veteran's maintenance.
  ``(ii) For purposes of this paragraph, the Secretary may consider, in 
accordance with regulations the Secretary shall prescribe, a transfer 
of an asset (including a transfer of an asset to an annuity, trust, or 
other financial instrument or investment) a disposal of a covered 
resource for less than fair market value if such transfer reduces the 
amount in the corpus of the estate of the veteran or, if the veteran 
has a spouse, the corpus of the estates of the veteran and of the 
veteran's spouse, that the Secretary considers, under all the 
circumstances, would be reasonable to be consumed for the veteran's 
maintenance.
  ``(C)(i) The look-back date described in this clause is a date that 
is 36 months before the date described in clause (ii).
  ``(ii) The date described in this clause is the date on which the 
veteran applies for pension under section 1513 or 1521 of this title 
or, if later, the date on which the veteran (or the spouse of the 
veteran) disposes of covered resources for less than fair market value.
  ``(D) The date described in this subparagraph is the first day of the 
first month in or after which covered resources were disposed of for 
less than fair market value and which does not occur in any other 
period of ineligibility under this paragraph.
  ``(E) The number of months calculated under this subparagraph shall 
be equal to--
          ``(i) the total, cumulative uncompensated value of the 
        portion of covered resources so disposed of by the veteran (or 
        the spouse of the veteran) on or after the look-back date 
        described in subparagraph (C)(i) that the Secretary determines 
        would reasonably have been consumed for the veteran's 
        maintenance; divided by
          ``(ii) the maximum amount of monthly pension that is payable 
        to a veteran under section 1513 or 1521 of this title, 
        including the maximum amount of increased pension payable under 
        such sections on account of family members, but not including 
        any amount of pension payable under such sections because a 
        veteran is in need of regular aid and attendance or is 
        permanently housebound,
rounded, in the case of any fraction, to the nearest whole number, but 
shall not in any case exceed 36 months.'';
          (2) in subsection (b)--
                  (A) by inserting ``(1)'' before ``The Secretary''; 
                and
                  (B) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
  ``(2)(A) If a veteran otherwise eligible for payment of increased 
pension under subsection (c), (d), (e), or (f) of section 1521 of this 
title on account of a child, the spouse of the veteran, or the child 
disposes of covered resources for less than fair market value on or 
after the look-back date described in subparagraph (C)(i), the 
Secretary shall deny or discontinue payment of such increased pension 
for months during the period beginning on the date described in 
subparagraph (D) and equal to the number of months calculated as 
provided in subparagraph (E).
  ``(B)(i) For purposes of this paragraph, a covered resource is any 
resource that was a part of the corpus of the estate of the child that 
the Secretary considers that under all the circumstances, if the 
veteran, the spouse of the veteran, or the child had not disposed of 
such resource, it would be reasonable that the resource (or some 
portion of the resource) be consumed for the child's maintenance.
  ``(ii) For purposes of this paragraph, the Secretary may consider, in 
accordance with regulations the Secretary shall prescribe, a transfer 
of an asset (including a transfer of an asset to an annuity, trust, or 
other financial instrument or investment) a disposal of a covered 
resource for less than fair market value if such transfer reduces the 
amount in the corpus of the estate of the child that the Secretary 
considers, under all the circumstances, would be reasonable to be 
consumed for the child's maintenance.
  ``(C)(i) The look-back date described in this clause is a date that 
is 36 months before the date described in clause (ii).
  ``(ii) The date described in this clause is the date on which the 
veteran applies for payment of increased pension under subsection (c), 
(d), (e), or (f) of section 1521 of this title on account of a child 
or, if later, the date on which the veteran, the spouse of the veteran, 
or the child disposes of covered resources for less than fair market 
value.
  ``(D) The date described in this subparagraph is the first day of the 
first month in or after which covered resources were disposed of for 
less than fair market value and which does not occur in any other 
period of ineligibility under this paragraph.
  ``(E) The number of months calculated under this subparagraph shall 
be equal to--
          ``(i) the total, cumulative uncompensated value of the 
        portion of covered resources so disposed of by the veteran, the 
        spouse of the veteran, or the child on or after the look-back 
        date described in subparagraph (C)(i) that the Secretary 
        determines would reasonably have been consumed for the child's 
        maintenance; divided by
          ``(ii) the maximum amount of increased monthly pension that 
        is payable to a veteran under subsection (c), (d), (e), or (f) 
        of section 1521 of this title on account of a child,
rounded, in the case of any fraction, to the nearest whole number, but 
shall not in any case exceed 36 months.''; and
          (3) by adding at the end the following new subsections:
  ``(c)(1) The Secretary shall not deny or discontinue payment of 
pension under section 1513 or 1521 of this title or payment of 
increased pension under subsection (c), (d), (e), or (f) of section 
1521 of this title on account of a child by reason of the application 
of subsection (a)(2) or (b)(2) of this section to the disposal of 
resources by an individual to the extent that--
          ``(A) a satisfactory showing is made to the Secretary (in 
        accordance with regulations promulgated by the Secretary) that 
        all resources disposed of for less than fair market value have 
        been returned to the individual who disposed of the resources; 
        or
          ``(B) the Secretary determines, under procedures established 
        by the Secretary, that the denial or discontinuance of payment 
        would work an undue hardship as determined on the basis of 
        criteria established by the Secretary.
  ``(2) At the time a veteran applies for pension under section 1513 or 
1521 of this title or increased pension under subsection (c), (d), (e), 
or (f) of section 1521 of this title on account of a child, and at such 
other times as the Secretary considers appropriate, the Secretary 
shall--
          ``(A) inform such veteran of the provisions of subsections 
        (a)(2) and (b)(2) providing for a period of ineligibility for 
        payment of pension under such sections for individuals who make 
        certain dispositions of resources for less than fair market 
        value; and
          ``(B) obtain from such veteran information which may be used 
        in determining whether or not a period of ineligibility for 
        such payments would be required by reason of such subsections.
  ``(d) Subsections (a)(2) and (b)(2) shall not apply with respect to 
the disposal of resources or the transfer of an asset if such disposal 
or transfer is to a trust described in section 1917(d)(4) of the Social 
Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1396p(d)(4)) that is established for the 
benefit of a child of the veteran.''.
  (b) Surviving Spouses and Children.--Section 1543 of such title is 
amended--
          (1) in subsection (a)--
                  (A) by redesignating paragraph (2) as paragraph (3);
                  (B) by inserting after paragraph (1) the following 
                new paragraph (2):
  ``(2)(A) If a surviving spouse otherwise eligible for payment of 
pension under section 1541 of this title disposes of covered resources 
for less than fair market value on or after the look-back date 
described in subparagraph (C)(i), the Secretary shall deny or 
discontinue the payment of pension to such surviving spouse under 
section 1541 of this title for months during the period beginning on 
the date described in subparagraph (D) and equal to the number of 
months calculated as provided in subparagraph (E).
  ``(B)(i) For purposes of this paragraph, a covered resource is any 
resource that was a part of the corpus of the estate of the surviving 
spouse that the Secretary considers that under all the circumstances, 
if the surviving spouse had not disposed of such resource, it would be 
reasonable that the resource (or some portion of the resource) be 
consumed for the surviving spouse's maintenance.
  ``(ii) For purposes of this paragraph, the Secretary may consider, in 
accordance with regulations the Secretary shall prescribe, a transfer 
of an asset (including a transfer of an asset to an annuity, trust, or 
other financial instrument or investment) a disposal of a covered 
resource for less than fair market value if such transfer reduces the 
amount in the corpus of the estate of the surviving spouse that the 
Secretary considers, under all the circumstances, would be reasonable 
to be consumed for the surviving spouse's maintenance.
  ``(C)(i) The look-back date described in this clause is a date that 
is 36 months before the date described in clause (ii).
  ``(ii) The date described in this clause is the date on which the 
surviving spouse applies for pension under section 1541 of this title 
or, if later, the date on which the surviving spouse disposes of 
covered resources for less than fair market value.
  ``(D) The date described in this subparagraph is the first day of the 
first month in or after which covered resources were disposed of for 
less than fair market value and which does not occur in any other 
period of ineligibility under this paragraph.
  ``(E) The number of months calculated under this subparagraph shall 
be equal to--
          ``(i) the total, cumulative uncompensated value of the 
        portion of covered resources so disposed of by the surviving 
        spouse on or after the look-back date described in subparagraph 
        (C)(i) that the Secretary determines would reasonably have been 
        consumed for the surviving spouse's maintenance; divided by
          ``(ii) the maximum amount of monthly pension that is payable 
        to a surviving spouse under section 1541 of this title, 
        including the maximum amount of increased pension payable under 
        such section on account of a child, but not including any 
        amount of pension payable under such section because a 
        surviving spouse is in need of regular aid and attendance or is 
        permanently housebound,
rounded, in the case of any fraction, to the nearest whole number, but 
shall not in any case exceed 36 months.
  ``(F) In the case of a transfer by the surviving spouse during the 
veteran's lifetime that resulted in a period of ineligibility for the 
veteran under section 1522 of this title, the Secretary shall apply to 
the surviving spouse any remaining ineligibility for that period.''; 
and
                  (C) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
  ``(4)(A) If a surviving spouse otherwise eligible for payment of 
increased pension under subsection (c), (d), or (e) of section 1541 of 
this title on account of a child or the child disposes of covered 
resources for less than fair market value on or after the look-back 
date described in subparagraph (C)(i), the Secretary shall deny or 
discontinue payment of such increased pension for months during the 
period beginning on the date described in subparagraph (D) and equal to 
the number of months calculated as provided in subparagraph (E).
  ``(B)(i) For purposes of this paragraph, a covered resource is any 
resource that was a part of the corpus of the estate of the child that 
the Secretary considers that under all the circumstances, if the 
surviving spouse or the child had not disposed of such resource, it 
would be reasonable that the resource (or some portion of the resource) 
be consumed for the child's maintenance.
  ``(ii) For purposes of this paragraph, the Secretary may consider, in 
accordance with regulations the Secretary shall prescribe, a transfer 
of an asset (including a transfer of an asset to an annuity, trust, or 
other financial instrument or investment) a disposal of a covered 
resource for less than fair market value if such transfer reduces the 
amount in the corpus of the estate of the child that the Secretary 
considers, under all the circumstances, would be reasonable to be 
consumed for the child's maintenance.
  ``(C)(i) The look-back date described in this clause is a date that 
is 36 months before the date described in clause (ii).
  ``(ii) The date described in this clause is the date on which the 
surviving spouse applies for payment of increased pension under 
subsection (c), (d), or (e) of section 1541 of this title on account of 
a child or, if later, the date on which the surviving spouse (or the 
child) disposes of covered resources for less than fair market value.
  ``(D) The date described in this subparagraph is the first day of the 
first month in or after which covered resources were disposed of for 
less than fair market value and which does not occur in any other 
period of ineligibility under this paragraph.
  ``(E) The number of months calculated under this clause shall be 
equal to--
          ``(i) the total, cumulative uncompensated value of the 
        portion of covered resources so disposed of by surviving spouse 
        (or the child) on or after the look-back date described in 
        subparagraph (C)(i) that the Secretary determines would 
        reasonably have been consumed for the child's maintenance; 
        divided by
          ``(ii) the maximum amount of increased monthly pension that 
        is payable to a surviving spouse under subsection (c), (d), or 
        (e) of section 1541 of this title on account of a child,
rounded, in the case of any fraction, to the nearest whole number, but 
shall not in any case exceed 36 months.'';
          (2) in subsection (b)--
                  (A) by inserting ``(1)'' before ``The Secretary''; 
                and
                  (B) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
  ``(2)(A) If a child otherwise eligible for payment of pension under 
section 1542 of this title or any person with whom such child is 
residing who is legally responsible for such child's support disposes 
of covered resources for less than fair market value on or after the 
look-back date described in subparagraph (C)(i), the Secretary shall 
deny or discontinue the payment of pension to such child under section 
1542 of this title for months during the period beginning on the date 
described in subparagraph (D) and equal to the number of months 
calculated as provided in subparagraph (E).
  ``(B)(i) For purposes of this paragraph, a covered resource is any 
resource that was a part of the corpus of the estate of the child or 
the corpus of the estate of any person with whom such child is residing 
who is legally responsible for such child's support that the Secretary 
considers that under all the circumstances, if the child or person had 
not disposed of such resource, it would be reasonable that the resource 
(or some portion of the resource) be consumed for the child's 
maintenance.
  ``(ii) For purposes of this paragraph, the Secretary may consider, in 
accordance with regulations the Secretary shall prescribe, a transfer 
of an asset (including a transfer of an asset to an annuity, trust, or 
other financial instrument or investment) a disposal of a covered 
resource for less than fair market value if such transfer reduces the 
amount in the corpus of the estate described in clause (i) that the 
Secretary considers, under all the circumstances, would be reasonable 
to be consumed for the child's maintenance.
  ``(C)(i) The look-back date described in this clause is a date that 
is 36 months before the date described in clause (ii).
  ``(ii) The date described in this clause is the date on which the 
child applies for pension under section 1542 of this title or, if 
later, the date on which the child (or person described in subparagraph 
(B)) disposes of covered resources for less than fair market value.
  ``(D) The date described in this clause is the first day of the first 
month in or after which covered resources were disposed of for less 
than fair market value and which does not occur in any other period of 
ineligibility under this paragraph.
  ``(E) The number of months calculated under this clause shall be 
equal to--
          ``(i) the total, cumulative uncompensated value of the 
        portion of covered resources so disposed of by the child (or 
        person described in subparagraph (B)) on or after the look-back 
        date described in subparagraph (C)(i) that the Secretary 
        determines would reasonably have been consumed for the child's 
        maintenance; divided by
          ``(ii) the maximum amount of monthly pension that is payable 
        to a child under section 1542 of this title,
rounded, in the case of any fraction, to the nearest whole number, but 
shall not in any case exceed 36 months.''; and
          (3) by adding at the end the following new subsections:
  ``(c)(1) The Secretary shall not deny or discontinue payment of 
pension under section 1541 or 1542 of this title or payment of 
increased pension under subsection (c), (d), or (e) of section 1541 of 
this title on account of a child by reason of the application of 
subsection (a)(2), (a)(4), or (b)(2) of this section to the disposal of 
resources by an individual to the extent that--
          ``(A) a satisfactory showing is made to the Secretary (in 
        accordance with regulations promulgated by the Secretary) that 
        all resources disposed of for less than fair market value have 
        been returned to the individual who disposed of the resources; 
        or
          ``(B) the Secretary determines, under procedures established 
        by the Secretary, that the denial or discontinuance of payment 
        would work an undue hardship as determined on the basis of 
        criteria established by the Secretary.
  ``(2) At the time a surviving spouse or child applies for pension 
under section 1541 or 1542 of this title or increased pension under 
subsection (c), (d), or (e) of section 1541 of this title on account of 
a child, and at such other times as the Secretary considers 
appropriate, the Secretary shall--
          ``(A) inform such surviving spouse or child of the provisions 
        of subsections (a)(2), (a)(4), and (b)(2), as applicable, 
        providing for a period of ineligibility for payment of pension 
        or increased pension under such sections for individuals who 
        make certain dispositions of resources for less than fair 
        market value; and
          ``(B) obtain from such surviving spouse or child information 
        which may be used in determining whether or not a period of 
        ineligibility for such payments would be required by reason of 
        such subsections.
  ``(d) Paragraphs (2) and (4) of subsection (a) and subsection (b)(2) 
shall not apply with respect to the disposal of resources or the 
transfer of an asset if such disposal or transfer is to a trust 
described in section 1917(d)(4) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 
1396p(d)(4)) that is established for the benefit of a child of the 
veteran or surviving spouse.''.
  (c) Effective Date.--Subsections (a)(2), (b)(2), and (c) of section 
1522 of title 38, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), and 
subsections (a)(2), (a)(4), (b)(2), and (c) of section 1543 of such 
title, as added by subsection (b), shall take effect on the date that 
is one year after the date of the enactment of this Act and shall apply 
with respect to payments of pension and increased pension applied for 
after such date and to payments of pension and increased pension for 
which eligibility is redetermined after such date, except that no 
reduction in pension shall be made under such subsections because of 
any disposal of covered resources made before such date.
  (d) Annual Reports.--
          (1) In general.--Not later than two years after the date of 
        the enactment of this Act and not less frequently than once 
        each year thereafter through 2018, the Secretary of Veterans 
        Affairs shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress 
        a report on the administration of subsections (a)(2), (b)(2), 
        and (c) of section 1522 of title 38, United States Code, as 
        added by subsection (a), and subsections (a)(2), (a)(4), 
        (b)(2), and (c) of section 1543 of such title, as added by 
        subsection (b), during the most recent 12-month period.
          (2) Elements.--Each report submitted under paragraph (1) 
        shall include the following, for the period covered by the 
        report:
                  (A) The number of individuals who applied for pension 
                under chapter 15 of such title.
                  (B) The number of individuals who received pension 
                under such chapter.
                  (C) The number of individuals with respect to whom 
                the Secretary denied or discontinued payment of pension 
                under the subsections referred to in paragraph (1).
                  (D) A description of any trends identified by the 
                Secretary regarding pension payments that have occurred 
                as a result of the amendments made by this section.
                  (E) Such other information as the Secretary considers 
                appropriate.
          (3) Appropriate committees of congress defined.--In this 
        subsection, the term ``appropriate committees of Congress'' 
        means--
                  (A) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Select 
                Committee on Aging of the Senate; and
                  (B) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs of the House 
                of Representatives.

SEC. 203. BIFURCATED PAYMENTS OF COMPENSATION BENEFITS UNDER LAWS 
                    ADMINISTERED BY THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

  (a) In General.--Subchapter III of chapter 51 of title 38, United 
States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

``Sec. 5127. Bifurcated payments of compensation benefits

  ``(a) In General.--During the eight-year period beginning on the date 
of the enactment of this section, in the case of a claim described in 
subsection (b), prior to adjudicating the claim, the Secretary shall 
make payments of monetary benefits to the claimant based on any 
disability for which the Secretary has made a decision. Upon the 
adjudication of the claim, the Secretary shall pay to the claimant any 
monetary benefits awarded to the claimant for the period of payment 
under section 5111 of this title less the amount of such benefits paid 
to the claimant under this section.
  ``(b) Claim Described.--A claim described in this subsection is a 
claim for disability compensation under chapter 11 of this title--
          ``(1) the adjudication of which requires the Secretary to 
        make decisions with respect to two or more disabilities; and
          ``(2) for which, before completing the adjudication of the 
        claim, the Secretary makes a decision with respect to a 
        disability that would result in the payment of monetary 
        benefits to the claimant upon the adjudication of the claim.''.
  (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections at the beginning of 
such chapter is amended by adding at the end of the items relating to 
such subchapter the following new item:

``5127. Bifurcated payments of compensation benefits.''.

  (c) Effective Date.--Section 5127 of title 38, United State Code, as 
added by subsection (a) shall take effect on the date that is one year 
after the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 204. PENSION FOR CERTAIN VETERANS COVERED BY MEDICAID PLANS FOR 
                    SERVICES FURNISHED BY NURSING FACILITIES.

  Section 5503(d)(7) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by 
striking ``November 30, 2016'' and inserting ``September 30, 2018''.

                        TITLE III--OTHER MATTERS

SEC. 301. REVIEW OF OPERATION OF CERTAIN SHIPS DURING THE VIETNAM ERA.

  (a) Review Required.--By not later than one year after the date of 
the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall review the 
logs of each ship under the authority of the Secretary of the Navy that 
is known to have operated in the waters near Vietnam during the period 
beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975, to determine--
          (1) whether each such ship operated in the territorial waters 
        of the Republic of Vietnam during such period; and
          (2) for each such ship that so operated--
                  (A) the date or dates when the ship so operated; and
                  (B) the distance from the shore of the location where 
                the ship operated that was the closest proximity to 
                shore.
  (b) Provision of Information to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.--
Upon a determination that any such ship so operated, the Secretary of 
Defense shall provide such determination, together with the information 
described in subsection (a)(2) about the ship, to the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs.
  (c) Public Availability of Information.--The Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs shall make publicly available all unclassified information 
provided to the Secretary under subsection (b).

SEC. 302. METHODS FOR VALIDATING CERTAIN SERVICE CONSIDERED TO BE 
                    ACTIVE SERVICE BY THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS 
                    AFFAIRS.

  (a) Findings.--Congress makes the following findings:
          (1) The Merchant Marine Act, 1936 established the United 
        States Maritime Commission, and stated as a matter of policy 
        that the United States should have a merchant marine that is 
        ``capable of serving as a naval and military auxiliary in time 
        of war or national emergency''.
          (2) The Social Security Act Amendments of 1939 (Public Law 
        76-379) expanded the definition of employment to include 
        service ``on or in connection with an American vessel under 
        contract of service which is entered into within the United 
        States or during the performance of which the vessel touches at 
        a port in the United States, if the employee is employed on and 
        in connection with such vessel''.
          (3) The Joint Resolution to repeal sections 2, 3, and 6 of 
        the Neutrality Act of 1939, and for other purposes (Public Law 
        77-294; 55 Stat. 764) repealed section 6 of the Neutrality Act 
        of 1939 (related to the arming of United States vessels) and 
        authorized the President during the national emergency to arm 
        or permit to arm any United States vessel.
          (4) On February 7, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 
        through Executive Order Number 9054, established the War 
        Shipping Administration that was charged with building or 
        purchasing, and operating the civilian shipping vessels needed 
        for the war effort.
          (5) During World War II, United States merchant mariners 
        transported goods and materials through ``contested waters'' to 
        the various combat theaters.
          (6) At the conclusion of World War II, United States merchant 
        mariners were responsible for transporting several million 
        members of the United States Armed Forces back to the United 
        States.
          (7) The GI Bill Improvement Act of 1977 (Public Law 95-202) 
        provided that the Secretary of Defense could determine that 
        service for the Armed Forces by organized groups of civilians, 
        or contractors, be considered ``active service'' for benefits 
        administered by the Veterans Administration.
          (8) Department of Defense Directive 1000.20 directed that the 
        determination be made by the Secretary of the Air Force, and 
        established the Civilian/Military Service Review Board and 
        Advisory Panel.
          (9) In 1987, three merchant mariners along with the AFL-CIO 
        sued Edward C. Aldridge, Secretary of the Air Force, 
        challenging the denial of their application for veterans 
        status. In Schumacher v. Aldridge (665 F. Supp. 41 (D.D.C. 
        1987)), the Court determined that Secretary Aldridge had failed 
        to ``articulate clear and intelligible criteria for the 
        administration'' of the application approval process.
          (10) During World War II, women were repeatedly denied 
        issuance of official documentation affirming their merchant 
        marine seaman status by the War Shipping Administration.
          (11) Coast Guard Information Sheet #77 (April 1992) 
        identifies the following acceptable forms of documentation for 
        eligibility meeting the requirements set forth in the GI Bill 
        Improvement Act of 1977 (Public Law 95-202) and Veterans 
        Programs Enhancement Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-368):
                  (A) Certificate of shipping and discharge forms.
                  (B) Continuous discharge books (ship's deck or engine 
                logbooks).
                  (C) Company letters showing vessel names and dates of 
                voyages.
          (12) Coast Guard Commandant Order of March 20, 1944, relieved 
        masters of tugs, towboats, and seagoing barges of the 
        responsibility of submitting reports of seamen shipped or 
        discharged on forms, meaning certificates of shipping and 
        discharge forms are not available to all eligible individuals 
        seeking to document their eligibility.
          (13) Coast Guard Information Sheet #77 (April 1992) states 
        that ``deck logs were traditionally considered to be the 
        property of the owners of the ships. After World War II, 
        however, the deck and engine logbooks of vessels operated by 
        the War Shipping Administration were turned over to that agency 
        by the ship owners, and were destroyed during the 1970s'', 
        meaning that continuous discharge books are not available to 
        all eligible individuals seeking to document their eligibility.
          (14) Coast Guard Information Sheet #77 (April, 1992) states 
        ``some World War II period log books do not name ports visited 
        during the voyage due to wartime security restrictions'', 
        meaning that company letters showing vessel names and dates of 
        voyages are not available to all eligible individuals seeking 
        to document their eligibility.
  (b) Methods for Validating Certain Service Considered to Be Active 
Service by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.--
          (1) In general.--For the purposes of verifying that an 
        individual performed service under honorable conditions that 
        satisfies the requirements of a coastwise merchant seaman who 
        is recognized pursuant to section 401 of the GI Bill 
        Improvement Act of 1977 (Public Law 95-202; 38 U.S.C. 106 note) 
        as having performed active duty service for the purposes 
        described in paragraph (3)(A), the Secretary of Homeland 
        Security shall accept the following:
                  (A) In the case of an individual who served on a 
                coastwise merchant vessel seeking such recognition for 
                whom no applicable Coast Guard shipping or discharge 
                form, ship logbook, merchant mariner's document or Z-
                card, or other official employment record is available, 
                the Secretary shall provide such recognition on the 
                basis of applicable Social Security Administration 
                records submitted for or by the individual, together 
                with validated testimony given by the individual or the 
                primary next of kin of the individual that the 
                individual performed such service during the period 
                beginning on December 7, 1941, and ending on December 
                31, 1946.
                  (B) In the case of an individual who served on a 
                coastwise merchant vessel seeking such recognition for 
                whom the applicable Coast Guard shipping or discharge 
                form, ship logbook, merchant mariner's document or Z-
                card, or other official employment record has been 
                destroyed or otherwise become unavailable by reason of 
                any action committed by a person responsible for the 
                control and maintenance of such form, logbook, or 
                record, the Secretary shall accept other official 
                documentation demonstrating that the individual 
                performed such service during period beginning on 
                December 7, 1941, and ending on December 31, 1946.
                  (C) For the purpose of determining whether to 
                recognize service allegedly performed during the period 
                beginning on December 7, 1941, and ending on December 
                31, 1946, the Secretary shall recognize masters of 
                seagoing vessels or other officers in command of 
                similarly organized groups as agents of the United 
                States who were authorized to document any individual 
                for purposes of hiring the individual to perform 
                service in the merchant marine or discharging an 
                individual from such service.
          (2) Treatment of other documentation.--Other documentation 
        accepted by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to 
        paragraph (1)(B) shall satisfy all requirements for eligibility 
        of service during the period beginning on December 7, 1941, and 
        ending on December 31, 1946.
          (3) Benefits allowed.--
                  (A) Burial benefits eligibility.--Service of an 
                individual that is considered active duty pursuant to 
                paragraph (1) shall be considered as active duty 
                service with respect to providing burial benefits under 
                chapters 23 and 24 of title 38, United States Code, to 
                the individual.
                  (B) Medals, ribbons, and decorations.--An individual 
                whose service is recognized as active duty pursuant to 
                paragraph (1) may be awarded an appropriate medal, 
                ribbon, or other military decoration based on such 
                service.
                  (C) Status of veteran.--An individual whose service 
                is recognized as active duty pursuant to paragraph (1) 
                shall be honored as a veteran but shall not be entitled 
                by reason of such recognized service to any benefit 
                that is not described in this subsection.
          (4) Determination of coastwise merchant seaman.--The 
        Secretary of Homeland Security shall verify that an individual 
        performed service under honorable conditions that satisfies the 
        requirements of a coastwise merchant seaman pursuant to this 
        section without regard to the sex, age, or disability of the 
        individual during the period in which the individual served as 
        such a coastwise merchant seaman.
          (5) Definition of primary next of kin.--In this section, the 
        term ``primary next of kin'' with respect to an individual 
        seeking recognition for service under this section means the 
        closest living relative of the individual who was alive during 
        the period of such service.
          (6) Effective date.--This section shall take effect 90 days 
        after the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 303. DESIGNATION OF AMERICAN WORLD WAR II CITIES.

  (a) In General.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall designate at 
least one city in the United States each year as an ``American World 
War II City''.
  (b) Criteria for Designation.--After the designation made under 
subsection (c), the Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of 
Defense, shall make each designation under subsection (a) based on the 
following criteria:
          (1) Contributions by a city to the war effort during World 
        War II, including those related to defense manufacturing, bond 
        drives, service in the Armed Forces, and the presence of 
        military facilities within the city.
          (2) Efforts by a city to preserve the history of the city's 
        contributions during World War II, including through the 
        establishment of preservation organizations or museums, 
        restoration of World War II facilities, and recognition of 
        World War II veterans.
  (c) First American World War II City.--The city of Wilmington, North 
Carolina, is designated as an ``American World War II City''.

SEC. 304. OBSERVANCE OF VETERANS DAY.

  (a) Two Minutes of Silence.--Chapter 1 of title 36, United States 
Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

``Sec. 145. Veterans Day

  ``The President shall issue each year a proclamation calling on the 
people of the United States to observe two minutes of silence on 
Veterans Day in honor of the service and sacrifice of veterans 
throughout the history of the Nation, beginning at--
          ``(1) 3:11 p.m. Atlantic standard time;
          ``(2) 2:11 p.m. eastern standard time;
          ``(3) 1:11 p.m. central standard time;
          ``(4) 12:11 p.m. mountain standard time;
          ``(5) 11:11 a.m. Pacific standard time;
          ``(6) 10:11 a.m. Alaska standard time; and
          ``(7) 9:11 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian standard time.''.
  (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections for chapter 1 of title 
36, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following 
new item:

``145. Veterans Day.''.

    Amend the title so as to read:
    A bill to improve the processing of disability claims by 
the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

                          Purpose and Summary

    H.R. 2189 was introduced on May 23, 2013, by Representative 
Jeff Miller of Florida. H.R. 2189, as amended, incorporates 
provisions from H.R. 2138, as amended, introduced by 
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, H.R. 2382, as 
amended, introduced by Representative Paul Cook of California, 
H.R. 1623, as amended, introduced by Representative Gloria 
Negrete McLeod of California, H.R. 1805, as amended, introduced 
by Representative Ann M. Kuster of New Hampshire, H.R. 1759, as 
amended, introduced by Representative Raul Ruiz of California, 
H.R. 1824, as amended, introduced by Representative Grace Meng 
of New York, H.R. 1809, as amended, introduced by 
Representative Beto O'Rourke of Texas, H.R. 2423, as amended, 
introduced by Representative Jon Runyan of New Jersey, H.R. 
2341, as amended, introduced by Representative Thomas J. Rooney 
of Florida, H.R. 2086, as amended, introduced by Representative 
Dina Titus of Nevada, H.R. 1494, as amended, introduced by 
Representative Christopher P. Gibson of New York, H.R. 1288, 
introduced by Representative G. K. Butterfield of North 
Carolina, H.R. 864, introduced by Representative Mike McIntyre 
of North Carolina, H.R. 2185, introduced by Representative 
Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts. Together, these provisions 
would establish a commission or task force to provide a 
comprehensive evaluation and assessment of the backlog of 
disability claims of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as 
well as appeals of claims, would require VA to regularly report 
on implementation of its Strategic Plan, would require 
departmental coordination to expedite the transfer of Social 
Security, Department of Defense, and National Guard records, 
would establish a statutory two-year training program for 
claims processors, would require the Comptroller General to 
submit to Congress a report on the progress of the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs in implementing the Strategic Plan to 
Eliminate the Compensation Claims Backlog within one year of 
enactment, would require Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
prioritize certain enumerated claims for disability benefits, 
would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make publicly 
available certain information about pending and completed 
claims for compensation and would also require VA to report 
data on individual medical-issue processing, would add multiple 
reporting requirements for the Secretary's annual report to 
Congress, would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
provide notice of average times for processing claims and 
percentage of claims approved, would extend the temporary 
authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into 
contracts with private physicians to conduct medical disability 
examinations from 2013 through 2016, would expand scope of 
pilot project on contracts with private physicians to provide 
compensation and pension exam from ten regional offices to 
fifteen regional offices, would reduce licensing hurdles for 
licensed contracted physicians for purposes of veteran 
compensation and pension examinations, would require the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, when determining the eligibility 
of individuals for pension benefits, to consider the resources 
of individuals applying for pension that were disposed of 
within three years of application by the individuals for less 
than fair market value and make reports to Congress, would 
direct the Secretary to make bifurcated payments of disability 
compensation benefits prior to the adjudication of additional 
issues within the claim, would extend provision of law 
regarding pension for certain veterans covered by Medicaid 
plans for services furnished by nursing facilities for two 
additional years, would direct the Secretary of Defense to 
review the operation of ships operated in the waters near 
Vietnam during the Vietnam Era, and would require notification 
to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and public, of the 
findings, would permit additional documentation to be 
considered for veterans' status of coastwise merchant seamen 
during World War II, would direct the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to designate at least one city in the United States 
annually as an ``American World War II City,'' and would codify 
a two minute moment of silence on Veterans Day.

                  Background and Need for Legislation


Section 1--Table of contents

    Section 1 of H.R. 2189, as amended, contains a table of 
contents.

Section 2--Scoring of budgetary effects

    Section 2 of H.R. 2189, as amended, contains budgetary 
information regarding compliance with the Statutory Pay-As-You-
Go Act of 2010.

                                TITLE I

Section 101--Evaluation of backlog of disability claims and appeals of 
        claims of Department of Veterans Affairs

    Section 101 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would establish a 
commission or task force to provide a comprehensive evaluation 
and assessment of the backlog of VA disability claims, as well 
as the lesser noted backlog of appealed claims, an analysis of 
possible improvements to the Department of Veterans Affairs? 
(VA) disability claims process, and any related issues that the 
commission or task force considers relevant. This section would 
require interim and final reports to Congress within 180 days 
of commencement of work.
    The VA disability compensation program provides monetary 
support to veterans with disabling conditions that were 
incurred or aggravated during military service. In fiscal year 
2012, the program provided over $48 billion in disability 
compensation benefits to nearly 3.5 million veterans. For 
years, the disability compensation claims process has been the 
subject of concern and attention by VA, Congress, and Veterans 
Service Organizations (VSO), due in large part to long waits 
for decisions and the large number of claims pending a 
decision. Moreover, VA's backlog of claims, defined as claims 
awaiting a decision for over 125 days, had more than tripled 
since September 2009. Against this backdrop, hundreds of 
thousands of servicemembers are expected to become veterans in 
the coming years according to VA officials, with a significant 
number expected to apply for disability benefits.
    VA has faced challenges in reducing the time it takes to 
decide veterans' claims, and continues to struggle with 
hundreds of thousands of backlogged veterans' and survivors' 
claims. In 2013, VA presented its Strategic Plan to Eliminate 
the Compensation Claims Backlog. While this Strategic Plan set 
ambitious goals for 2015, it did not adequately define clear 
initiatives, correlations between initiatives, or expectations 
for success of the initiatives. Recently, on December 21, 2012, 
the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report\1\ 
on VA's plan for backlog reduction, wherein it noted that VA's 
Strategic Plan was inadequate. GAO wrote that VA's ongoing 
efforts should be driven by a robust, comprehensive plan; 
however when reviewing the Strategic Plan of the Veterans 
Benefits Administration (VBA), GAO found that it fell short of 
established criteria for sound planning.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\United States Government Accountability Office, Veterans? 
disability Benefits: Timely Processing Remains a Daunting Challenge, 
December, 2012, GAO-13-89.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    VA has installed sweeping technological changes in recent 
months, and has implemented various initiatives under its 
Strategic Plan. However, VA has also layered new initiative 
upon new initiative, including short-notice mandatory overtime, 
focused deadlines for claims dated in excess of two years and 
one year, and alteration of the VA tracking and reporting 
figures of backlogged claims in its Monday Morning Workload 
Report. While VA has targeted backlog elimination by 2015, VA 
lacks a comprehensive process and workload strategy for the 
future that takes into account the changing nature of 
disabilities in our nation, the evolution of VA's duty to 
assist in light of amended notices to veterans, partnerships 
with the VSO community, and newly structured processing of 
claims that VA delineates as fully developed upon submission. 
Within its review, GAO noted that although VBA is attempting to 
address processing challenges through various improvement 
initiatives, without a comprehensive plan to strategically 
manage resources and evaluate the effectiveness of these 
efforts, the agency risks spending limited resources on 
initiatives that may not speed up disability claims and appeals 
processes. This may, in turn, result in forcing veterans to 
continue to wait months and even years to receive compensation 
for injuries incurred during their service to the country.
    Furthermore, numerous recent reports of the VA Office of 
Inspector General (VA OIG) demonstrate that VA regional offices 
across the nation continue to lack effective controls and 
accuracy in processing disability claims, fail to adequately 
interpret policy requirements, lack effective training, and 
further lack proper managerial oversight. While VA has set 
concrete goals for processing times, and reduction of 
backlogged veterans' disability compensation claims, it is 
evident that more must be done to ensure that VA implements a 
workload management strategy that will not only eliminate the 
current backlog, but will also improve the system in a holistic 
manner, provide capacity for anticipated and unanticipated 
surges, ensure accurate processing of claims, and prevent 
future backlog occurrences.
    The need for this legislation establishing a commission or 
task force has been highlighted before the Committee by 
independent subject matter expert academics, organizations who 
advocate on behalf of veterans, and by the Court of Appeals for 
Veterans Claims, most recently at a Subcommittee of Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs' hearing on June 18, 2013, 
entitled, ``Why Are Veterans Waiting Years on Appeal?: A Review 
of the Post-Decision Process for Appealed Veterans' Disability 
Benefits Claims.'' An outside analysis is necessary to clearly 
identify, first, why the backlog exists, and second, how to 
prevent this situation from ever recurring, whether by needed 
amendment to law, regulation, policy, or process.
    The commission or task force created by this section would 
augment and support VA's ongoing work, contribute added value 
to VA's efforts, report on its findings early and often, and 
increase transparency throughout the process. Additionally, 
while much focus is placed upon the backlog of veterans' 
disability benefit claims, a commensurate focus upon the 
backlog of veterans' appealed claims does not exist. With a 
current caseload of over 250,000 appeals and a projected 
workload of hundreds of thousands of appealed claims in the 
coming years, the appellate system must also be considered with 
thoughtful analysis, evaluation, and recommendations for 
improvement.

Section 102--Supplemental reports to the Strategic Plan to Eliminate 
        the Compensation Claims Backlog

    Section 102 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would direct the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide a supplemental report 
to the Strategic Plan to Eliminate the Compensation Claims 
Backlog within 60 days of enactment, and every 120 days 
thereafter until May 25, 2015.
    While VA's Strategic Plan to Eliminate the Compensation 
Claims Backlog sets forth dozens of initiatives targeted at 
eliminating the backlog, VA has failed to forecast the effects 
of each initiative. The Committee is significantly concerned 
that VA's Strategic Plan lacks specific details on how its 
metrics were derived, lacks data on which those metrics were 
based, and lacks sufficient information on how the plan would 
be implemented. Furthermore, insufficient transparency as VA 
works toward the 2015 goal complicates Congress' ability to 
hold VA accountable for meeting its goals. Thus, this 
legislation is necessary in order to ascertain the efficacy of 
the various new approaches undertaken by VA, allow for 
transparency of process, and enable accountability and further 
development of VA's improved service to veterans.

Section 103--Expedition of transfer of certain records

    Section 103 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would require the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs enter into agreements with the 
Secretary of Defense and the Commissioner of the Social 
Security Administration to ensure that the relevant federal 
records of members or former members of the Armed Forces, 
including persons who served within the National Guard, are 
transferred to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for use in 
evaluating claims by not later than 30 days after the Secretary 
of Veterans Affairs requests such records.
    The enactment of this provision would reduce the delay that 
VA experiences when waiting for records from other federal 
agencies. VA officials have repeatedly indicated that the 
longest delays in processing compensation claims result from 
incomplete medical, service, and financial records that are 
needed to support the claim. While all delays in records 
receipt are problematic, it is unacceptable to have such delays 
for records in the custody of federal or state governmental 
agencies. Accordingly, this legislation is necessary to require 
that the federal departments that possess relevant records 
treat VA requests with proper expediency, and coordinate as 
needed with state actors.

Section 104--Claims processors training

    Section 104 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would direct the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a training program 
to provide newly hired claims processors of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs with training for a period of not less than 
two years. In carrying out such program, the Secretary would be 
required to identify successful claims processors of the 
Department who can assist in the training of newly hired claims 
processors.
    Within VA's transformation process, focus has been placed 
on improving employee training programs in order to provide 
high-quality, timely, and relevant training for both new and 
experienced personnel. To that end, VA redesigned and deployed 
centralized programs and new tools that standardize training 
for the disability compensation and pension benefit programs 
across its 56 regional offices. VA has implemented eight-week 
Challenge Training for new employees, has deployed intensive 
multi-week Station Enhancement Training to regional offices 
that have reported consistently low performance and poor 
results, and has developed a National Training Curriculum. 
However, VA has also indicated that, on average, it takes two 
to three years for an employee to master the skills necessary 
within the Regional Offices. While VA has implemented new 
training programs, VSOs have long reported that VA's training 
is not sufficient. Accordingly, this section will require VA to 
ensure that adequate focus and resources remain targeted to 
ongoing and improved education and training for employees.

Section 105--Report by Comptroller General of the United States

    Section 105 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would require the 
Comptroller General to submit to Congress a report on the 
progress of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in implementing 
the Strategic Plan to Eliminate the Compensation Claims Backlog 
within one year of enactment.
    On December 21, 2012, the Government Accountability Office 
(GAO) issued a report\2\ on VA's transformation efforts, which 
noted that VBA was taking steps to improve the timeliness of 
claims and appeals processing; however, prospects for 
improvement remained uncertain because timely processing 
remained a daunting challenge. GAO indicated that VBA was using 
contractors to handle some aspects of the claims process, and 
was also shifting some workload between regional offices. Also, 
VBA was modifying and streamlining certain claims and appeals 
processing procedures for veterans who opt to participate in 
these initiatives in exchange for an expedited decision. For 
example, veterans receive expedited processing when they submit 
a claim that is certified as having all required evidence. In 
addition, VBA has been trying to decrease the amount of time it 
takes to gather medical evidence. For example, VBA recently 
encouraged medical providers to use a standardized form when 
responding to VBA's request for information. However, results 
of this initiative have been mixed. VBA was also taking steps 
to streamline the claims process, including implementing 
initiatives to create standardized language for decision 
letters sent to veterans, specialized teams that process claims 
based on level of complexity, and a paperless claims system.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\Supra, note 1.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    GAO noted that, according to VBA officials, these efforts 
will help VA process veterans' claims within 125 days by 2015. 
However, GAO raised concerns as to the extent to which VA is 
positioned to meet this ambitious goal. Specifically, VBA's 
Strategic Plan did not articulate performance measures for each 
initiative, including their intended impact on the claims 
backlog. Furthermore, VA has not yet reported on how these 
efforts have affected processing times, a condition which 
raises concern given the mixed results that have emerged to 
date. GAO made several recommendations on areas for 
improvement. Accordingly, this section is necessary to ensure 
that GAO remains apprised of VA's actions, and is able to 
provide a follow-up report so as to inform Congress on VA's 
progress in its implementation of the Strategic Plan.

Section 106--Priority for processing claims of the Department of 
        Veterans Affairs

    Section 106 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would require 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs to prioritize disability benefits 
claims submitted by veterans who have attained the age of 70, 
who are terminally ill, have life-threatening illnesses, are 
homeless, have received the Medal of Honor, were prisoners of 
war, were seriously or very seriously injured, and those whose 
claims are being reviewed again in relation to a previously 
denied claim relating to military sexual trauma, or for good 
cause shown at the discretion of the Secretary on a case by 
case basis.
    Current VA's practice includes the prioritization of 
certain claims, including Medal of Honor recipients, homeless 
veterans, and veterans experiencing extreme financial 
hardships, terminal illness, among others. Thus, VA has 
identified certain classes of claimants, and determined that in 
some instances expedited treatment is appropriate. Most of the 
classes of claimants enumerated in section 106 of H.R. 2189, as 
amended, currently qualify for prioritization and expedited 
process under VA's policy. However, on June 28, 2013, at a 
Subcommittee legislative hearing on this proposal, VBA Director 
of Compensation Service, Thomas Murphy, testified that it is 
not guaranteed that the VA practice is uniformly applied across 
all regional offices. Accordingly, it is the intent of this 
section to create a statutory requirement in order to ensure 
uniform prioritization for these most urgent claimants. The 
Committee believes that codification of this requirement would 
ensure uniform application of the priority classes, while still 
giving discretion to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
provide for the prioritization of additional claims on a case 
by case basis.
    In addition, pursuant to this section, veterans whose 
claims are being reviewed again in relation to a previously 
denied claim relating to military sexual trauma (MST) would be 
prioritized. The Committee is aware that, for several years, VA 
has insufficiently processed veterans' claims relating to MST. 
At a Subcommittee legislative hearing, held April 16, 2013, VA 
Director of Pension and Fiduciary Service, David R. McLenachen, 
testified that Under Secretary Hickey has devoted efforts to 
improving VA's overall sensitivity to MST-related post 
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims through implementation 
of regulations, training, and coordination within VBA and the 
Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Even so, VA has 
recognized that some veterans' MST-related claims were decided 
before these targeted efforts began.
    To assist those veterans and provide them with the same 
evidentiary considerations as veterans who file claims today, 
VBA plans to advise veterans of the opportunity to request that 
VA review their previously denied PTSD claims based on MST. 
Those veterans who respond will receive reconsideration of 
their claims based on VA's heightened sensitivity to MST and a 
more complete awareness of evidence development. However, as it 
stands currently, these claims will go to the back of the line 
and wait for newer filed claims to be processed. As the 
veterans' MST claims were both pending and adjudicated after 
lengthy wait times in the first instance, without the benefits 
of newly implemented safeguards for increased accuracy, the 
Committee believes that these veterans should also receive 
urgent and expeditious review within the statutorily 
prioritized classes.

Section 107--Public availability of certain information about pending 
        and completed claims for compensation under the laws 
        administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

    Section 107 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would require VA to 
increase its capabilities to regularly track the processing of 
claims in greater detail, and with an emphasis on the medical 
issues within a claim. Currently, VA tracks claims, but not 
individual medical issues. While VA reports its statistics on 
claim completions, this statistic is an ineffective measure of 
productivity, as a claim may contain any number of medical 
issues; some claims have as few as one issue, while others may 
have 15 or 16 issues. While each claim does represent one 
veteran, from an operational perspective, the preferred 
knowledge would be to have an understanding of the effort 
required for completion of the claim. In terms of gaining 
understanding of VA's workload, the Committee believes that 100 
claims completed, each containing two objective issues is 
entirely different than 100 claims completed, each containing 
10 or 11 issues demonstrating complex medical conditions.
    At a Committee hearing in March, 2013,\3\ VBA Under 
Secretary for Benefits, Allison A. Hickey, testified that the 
average number of claimed issues for recently separated 
Servicemembers is currently in the 12 to 16 range. Accordingly, 
VA does not believe the current all-or-nothing measure of claim 
accuracy reflects the actual level of decision accuracy 
achieved.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\Hearing, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, ``Focusing on People: A 
Review of VA's Plans for Employee Training, Accountability, and 
Workload Management to Improve Disability Claims Processing,'' March 
20, 2013.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Under Secretary indicated that VA has proposed an 
issue-based accuracy approach, which identifies individual 
medical issues and affords VBA the opportunity to precisely 
target those medical issues where the most errors are made. 
Ideally, with issue-based accuracy detail, VBA will be able to 
dedicate targeted training and improve employees' level of 
medical issue accuracy.
    Dovetailing with VBA's internal identification of issue-
based accuracy metrics, this section would require VA to track 
the time spent evaluating each issue within a veteran's 
disability claim, as well as the performance of each regional 
office in handling disability claims at the medical issue 
level. It would also require VA to provide public information 
on respective lengths for processing time. This information 
would provide Congress, VA, and the public with greater 
understanding of the backlog, including specific information on 
medical issues that are experiencing the shortest, and longest, 
delays. While this level of detail was not available in the 
legacy paper system, VA has indicated that an issue-based level 
of clarity would be possible within the Veterans Benefits 
Management System (VBMS). The Committee's intent is to both 
ensure that VA prioritizes the building of these capabilities 
within VBMS system, and to ensure that this information is 
shared on a regular basis with stakeholders.

Sec. 108. Annual report on processing of claims

    As noted by the Veterans Benefits Administration, Under 
Secretary for Benefits, Allison A. Hickey, at March hearing,\4\ 
the average benefits claim for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans 
contains 12 to 16 separate conditions. The medical conditions 
vary in complexity and each issue is individually adjudicated 
by VA employees; however, the veteran only begins receiving 
benefits when the entire claim has been processed.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Committee believes that VA's annual reporting 
requirements to Congress require amendment in order to quantify 
the efficacy of various initiatives and performance-improving 
endeavors of the department. For instance, VA's continued 
pursuit of increased automation in the adjudication process is, 
in part, aimed at streamlining the objective facets of 
adjudication in order to allow full time employees to 
concentrate their efforts upon more complex claims. This 
section would direct the VA to provide information on the 
automatic processing of claims.
    Section 108 would also require VA to provide information 
within its annual report to Congress on the performance of any 
regional office that fails to meet the administrative goals of 
the regional office with respect to timeliness and accuracy in 
processing claims for compensation. The Committee believes that 
this reporting requirement would allow for greater transparency 
of backlog and claims' processing issues, and would improve 
regional office accountability by providing individual 
reporting requirements for any of VA's 56 regional offices that 
fail to meet the department's target goals. This reporting 
requirement would also allow regional offices to explain the 
unique challenges faced, and would facilitate targeted 
resourcing and remediation of struggling offices.
    Finally, this section would create a reporting requirement 
within VA's annual report to Congress on the timeliness of 
receiving information pursuant to a request by the Secretary to 
the head of another department or agency of the United States 
for information required by the Secretary in adjudicating a 
claim for compensation under chapter 11 of title 38, United 
States Code. At the March 20, 2013, Committee hearing,\5\ VA 
indicated that veterans' claims are often delayed due to slow 
response from other agencies, who must provide records in order 
to permit claim adjudication. For instance, the Committee is 
aware that a large proportion of claims are waiting for 
information from DoD in order to progress in the claims' 
adjudication process. As of August 26, 2013, VA's national 
average days to complete a claim, as reported upon VA's Monday 
Morning Workload Report, was over 375 days. Many months of that 
period consist of a holding pattern, wherein VA waits for the 
Department of Defense, the Internal Revenue Service, the Social 
Security Administration to respond to requests for records. 
Under Secretary Hickey stated that VA has made agreements with 
the other federal entities to provide a cleaner and quicker 
transfer of needed records, and so as to provide necessary 
oversight of this collaboration, this section would require 
annual information on the progress of these records transfers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\Id.
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Sec. 109. Department of Veterans Affairs notice of average times for 
        processing claims and percentage of claims approved

    VA adopted the fully developed claims (FDCs) program 
pursuant to section 221 of P.L. 110-389 (122 Stat. 4145), the 
Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2008. This program allows 
veterans to collect their necessary documents and records 
independently, and then submit those claims as ``fully 
developed.'' The veterans' efforts in providing the necessary 
records and documentation up front reduces VA's required 
efforts to assist the veterans in records development, thereby 
reducing several delays in the claim adjudication process with 
regards to VA's statutory duty to notify and duty to assist, 
provided at section 5103 and 5103A of title 38, United States 
Code. Within VBA's briefing to Congressional staff for July 
2013, entitled ``Understanding the VA Claims Process,'' VA 
reported that claims submitted pursuant to the FDC program have 
benefited from wait time reductions of up to 62 percent.
    VA seeks to expand the FDC program and encourage an 
increase in FDC submissions nationally. In order to gain 
insight on the benefits that may be attributed to this program, 
this section would require VA to report quarterly on certain 
information regarding VA's timeliness for adjudicating claims 
in different formats such as paper application or online 
utilizing the FDC program. This section is intended to provide 
information that would educate VA stakeholders and veterans of 
the available options, and the consequent timeliness that would 
be associated with various forms of claims submission including 
fully developed claims submitted in electronic form, fully 
developed claims submitted in paper form, undeveloped claims 
submitted in paper form, undeveloped claims submitted in 
standard paper form, claims submitted in a non-standard form, 
as well as claims submitted with the assistance of veterans 
service organizations (VSO). By providing ready access to this 
information, the Committee believes that veterans will be more 
informed on the possible benefits for faster adjudication of 
certain forms of claims submission, which will consequently 
shift behavior by encouraging submissions by the most 
manageable formats and with an appropriate level of VSO 
assistance. Additionally, this section would require that 
veterans be notified of the statutory benefit that is provided 
to FDC submissions; pursuant to statute, FDCs are eligible for 
up to one extra year of benefits through August 6, 2015. This 
provision is also intended to encourage veterans to file FDCs, 
and is intended to result in time savings within the claims 
process.

Sec. 110. Claim defined

    Section 110 of H.R. 2189, as amended, defines the term 
``claim,'' for the purposes of Title I, as a claim for 
disability compensation under the laws administered by the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

                  TITLE II--COMPENSATION AND PENSIONS

Sec. 201. Improvements to authority for performance of medical 
        disabilities examinations by contract physicians

    Section 201 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would extend from 
December 31, 2013, through December 31, 2016, VA's authority 
under the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 to provide for medical 
examinations by contract physicians in claims for VA disability 
benefits. VA specifically requested this extension in its FY 
2014 budget submission, at that time stating of the proposal:

          Contract Physicians Medical Disability Evaluations: 
        This proposal seeks to amend Public Law 108-183 by 
        amending Section 704(c) with a five year extension. 
        This Public Law provides authority under which persons 
        not employed by the VA carry out examinations with 
        respect to medical disability or applicants for VA 
        benefits.\6\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Fiscal Year 2014 Budget 
Submission, Vol. 3, pg. 2A-24.

    The need for this legislation was demonstrated at the 
legislative hearing held on June 28, 2012 of the Subcommittee 
on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. In testimony 
before the Committee, Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) 
offered that the quality and timeliness of compensation exams 
conducted by contractors have proven to be on par, and 
sometimes better than, disability exams conducted by VA 
physicians who are generally more focused on treating veterans 
rather than evaluating disabilities under the VA Schedule for 
Rating Disabilities. Moreover, VSOs noted that with demand for 
VA medical care rising, it is important that VA's treating 
physicians, especially specialists, remain focused on providing 
high quality care to their patients. In addition, the more 
technologically-advanced and user-friendly scheduling and 
Information Technology (IT) systems used by some contractors 
has contributed to higher customer satisfaction scores from 
veterans receiving contract exams. The Committee heard 
testimony that if the existing contracting authority were to 
expire, an already overstressed system would be further taxed, 
potentially to the breaking point. With wait times for exams a 
potential delaying factor in an already overlong disability 
claims process, VSOs indicate that losing this contracting 
authority could be disastrous to VA's attempts to eradicate the 
backlog of disability claims. Accordingly, it is the 
Committee's belief that extension of this VA authority is 
merited.
    Section 201 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would also address 
physician licensure issues for contract physicians, as it would 
permit physicians who possess a license to practice the health 
care profession of the physician to perform compensation and 
pension examinations under the authority of VA at any location 
in any State, the District of Columbia, or a Commonwealth, 
territory, or possession of the United States, so long as the 
examination is within the scope of the authorized duties under 
such contract. The Committee finds this provision to be a 
sensible accommodation in light of several factors, including 
the fact that VA physicians similarly licensed are permitted to 
provide VA medical care at VA locations nationwide, as well as 
the supply and demand realities of specialized physicians in 
various geographic locations, and the specialized nature of 
compensation and pension examinations for the purpose of the VA 
disability benefits program. The licensure extended for VA 
purposes within this section regard only the contract 
physician's ability to provide compensation and pension 
examinations for VA rating purposes.
    Finally, Section 201 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would extend 
VA's authority under the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 
1996. This provision would allow VA to utilize contract 
physicians at five additional Regional Offices, thus permitting 
VA to increase from 10 Regional Office to 15 Regional Offices. 
Due to the echoed support of both VA and VSOs of the contract 
physician program, the Committee believes that enlarging the 
pilot program to 15 of VA's 56 Regional Offices is appropriate, 
in order to expedite medical examination and, ultimately, 
claims' decisions for veterans.

Sec. 202. Consideration by Secretary of Veterans Affairs of resources 
        disposed of for less than fair market value by individuals 
        applying for pension

    Section 202 would protect veterans the unscrupulous actions 
of individuals who have designed methods to scam veterans of 
their benefits. This section would eliminate the loophole that 
allows predators to divert veterans' assets in order to 
improperly qualify them for a pension. By creating a three-year 
``look-back'' period to determine eligibility for the VA 
pension program, this section is designed to ensure that bad 
actors are not taking advantage of the system, and ensure the 
benefits for those veterans that truly qualify for the program.
    Representative Thomas J. Rooney of Florida provided a 
written statement for the record at the legislative hearing 
held by the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial 
Affairs on June 28, 2013. Representative Rooney indicated that 
there is concern that financial advisors and firms seeking to 
prey on elderly and disabled veterans are misleading and taking 
advantage of these veterans. The firms and individuals promise 
to help veterans qualify for VA pension benefits if they divert 
their assets into trusts or annuities. Currently the VA only 
considers net worth at the time a veteran applies for benefits, 
therefore the Department cannot determine if an applicant has 
recently diverted their assets in order to qualify. 
Consequently, the firms profit from the purchased trusts or 
annuities, which are often poor investments for seniors. As a 
result, victims have lost access to their savings in exchange 
for a small pension and the VA pension fund is further drained 
for veterans in need. In addition, these firms further profit 
by charging veterans exorbitant fees and selling them 
additional, costly services.
    This practice is shameful and appalling, and the Committee 
believes that this section is necessary in order to remedy this 
predatory situation. The financial firms are not only scamming 
elderly veterans out of their life savings, but they are also 
undermining the VA pension program in the process.

Sec. 203. Bifurcated payments of compensation benefits under laws 
        administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

    The Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) is a 
transformational effort aimed at a paperless environment for 
veterans claims processing and benefits delivery across VBA's 
business lines. VBMS was originally piloted at the Providence 
and Salt Lake City regional offices in 2012, and was expanded 
to all regional offices in June 2013. Upon full development, 
VBMS is intended to provide end-to-end electronic claims 
processing for each stage of the claims life cycle.
    The Committee believes that VBMS has the potential to allow 
for improvements to VBA's production performance and accuracy. 
Additionally, by operating in an electronic environment, VBA 
will eventually be able to adjudicate individual medical 
conditions.
    More than 85 percent of claims are only paid after the 
entire claim has been reviewed and processed. The average 
benefits claim for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans contains 12 to 
16 separate claimed disabling conditions. Each medical 
condition is individually adjudicated, but the veteran only 
begins receiving benefits when the entire claim has been 
processed. This section would require VA to pay veterans 
benefits they are entitled to as each element of their claim is 
finalized, rather than when the entire package has been 
processed. Such a payment approach was difficult in a paper 
processing operation; however, the Committee believes that 
paying veterans by individual medical condition should be 
achievable with VA's ongoing technological updates. Such a 
bifurcated payment system would be beneficial to veterans 
within the electronic processing system.

Sec. 204. Pension for certain veterans covered by Medicaid plans for 
        services furnished by nursing facilities

    Section 204 would extend through September 30, 2018, the 
expiration date for the reduction of VA pensions for certain 
beneficiaries with no dependents who are covered by Medicaid 
plans for services furnished by nursing facilities.
    Under current law, a veteran with no dependents who is 
entitled to receive pension under section 1521 of title 38, 
United States Code, cannot be paid more than $90 per month if 
the veteran is in a nursing facility where services are covered 
by a Medicaid plan. The $90 pension benefit may not be counted 
in determining eligibility for Medicaid or the patient's share 
of cost.
    This section is necessary, as extending the current law 
would generate required cost savings to provide funding for 
alterations of veterans' benefits programs that would be 
provided within H.R. 2189, as amended. While generating cost 
savings, the impact upon veterans' receipt of benefits is 
minimized as the enumerated reduction of VA pensions provided 
for Medicaid recipients, within section 5503 of title 38, 
United States Code, are currently in effect.

                        TITLE III--OTHER MATTERS

Sec. 301. Review of operation of certain ships during the Vietnam Era

    Under current law, so-called ``Blue Water'' Navy Veterans 
who did not set foot in Vietnam or serve aboard ships that 
operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam between January 9, 
1962 and May 7, 1975 have the burden of proof to demonstrate 
exposure to Agent Orange and the connection to their illnesses. 
These claims are decided on a case-by-case basis.
    VA maintains a list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships that 
operated within the vicinity of Vietnam. Some offshore vessels 
docked to the shore of Vietnam, operated in Vietnam's close 
coastal waters and sent smaller vessels ashore. Section 301 or 
H.R. 2189, as amended, would direct the Secretary of Defense to 
do a comprehensive search to determine which ships are eligible 
for coverage under current law, reducing the wait time when new 
claims are filed, and taking the burden off of claimant 
veterans to prove the operational maneuvers of DoD ships in the 
Vietnam Era. The Secretary of Defense would be required to 
report the information to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, 
who would provide publicly accessible information. This section 
would properly place the burden on the organization that enjoys 
both access and subject matter expertise, the DoD, and would 
result in more accurate and timely claims processing for 
Vietnam veterans as a consequence of this thorough review and 
reporting.

Sec. 302. Methods for validating certain service considered to be 
        active service by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

    Section 302 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would expand the 
official documentation accepted by the Secretary of Homeland 
Security to grant veterans status with limited benefits to 
World War II Merchant Marine, Coastwise Merchant Seamen. In 
all, fewer than 10,000 World War II Merchant Mariners are still 
alive and because of their specialized mission and small 
numbers, it's likely that only several hundred Coastwise 
Merchant Seamen are still living. This section would provide 
for the awarding of any commendations, ribbons, or honors 
earned during their time of service, and provide burial 
benefits to these individuals.
    The Merchant Marines were private citizens employed by 
freight shipping companies. In an effort to support the 
American war effort during World War II, these freight shipping 
companies and their employees became an auxiliary to the United 
States Navy. Their mission was to transport bulk war materials 
including food, clothing, weapons, and even troops to all areas 
of conflict and coastal installations here at home.
    The ranks of the Coastwise Merchant Seamen were not solely 
filled by men, but with women, children, and disabled 
individuals as well. Although Coastwise Merchant Seamen did not 
sail across the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans into areas of 
conflict, they still encountered the enemy while delivering 
cargo that kept the war effort moving forward. One coastwise 
tugboat operating just off the coast of Virginia was sunk by a 
German U-Boat tragically killing several members of the crew.
    Congress has attempted to recognize the efforts of the 
Merchant Marine with legislation signed into law such as the GI 
Bill Improvement Act of 1977, the Merchant Mariners Act of 
1988, and the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998. 
However, these laws have not incorporated the entirety of those 
who served in the Merchant Marine during World War II, and have 
placed onerous criteria on these individuals to prove their 
service.
    Most documentation required to prove service no longer 
exists or can be difficult to find. Currently, a certificate of 
shipping and discharge forms, continuous deck or engine 
logbooks, and shipping company records that indicate the vessel 
names and dates of voyages are the only documents that are 
considered acceptable to determine an individual's service in 
the Merchant Marine. Additionally, deck or engine logbooks were 
turned over to the War Shipping Administration and were ordered 
destroyed because they were too ``voluminous to maintain, 
costly to keep, and rarely used for research.'' Shipping 
company records that indicate the vessel names and dates of 
voyages likely did not exist because written communication 
relating to the movement of supplies and troops were forbidden 
by U.S. military commanders.
    This section would expand the acceptable forms of 
documentation used to determine eligible service in the 
Merchant Marines, and would allow acceptance of Social Security 
Administration records, validated testimony by the applicant or 
closest living relative, and other official records that 
provide sufficient proof of service.

Sec. 303. Designation of American World War II Cities

    Section 303 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would mandate that 
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs designate one city in the 
United States each year as an ``American World War II City'' 
based on a set of criteria that includes: contributions to the 
war effort, efforts to preserve the history of the city's 
contributions, and the presence of military facilities within 
the city. The Committee believes that American cities provided 
critical and distinguished contributions to the World War II 
effort and should be honored and celebrated. This section would 
set in place a procedure for other cities to receive this 
designation.

Sec. 304. Observance of Veterans Day

    When Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, was 
first observed in 1919, the concept for the observance was to 
suspend business for a two minute period beginning at 11 A.M. 
Today, observance of a moment of silence varies from community 
to community and business to business around the United States.
    Section 304 of H.R. 2189, as amended, would amend title 36, 
United States Code, to encourage the nationwide observance of 
two minutes of silence each Veterans Day.
    Specifically, this section would direct the President to 
issue an annual proclamation calling on the people of the 
United States to observe two minutes of silence on Veterans 
Day, beginning at 2:11 P.M. eastern time, in honor of the 
service and sacrifice of veterans throughout the history of the 
nation.
    This section would call for Americans across the nation to 
officially hold a uniform moment of silence for our nation's 
servicemen and women on Veterans Day. The Committee believes 
this section would refocus the American public upon the Day's 
true and original meaning.

                                Hearings

    On June 28, 2013, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance 
and Memorial Affairs conducted a legislative hearing on various 
bills introduced during the 113th Congress, including H.R. 2189 
(from which section 101 of H.R. 2189, as amended, is derived), 
H.R. 2138 (from which sections 102, 103, 104, and 105 of H.R. 
2189, as amended, are derived), H.R. 2382 (from which section 
106 of H.R. 2189, as amended, is derived), H.R. 1623 (from 
which section 107 of H.R. 2189, as amended, is derived), H.R. 
1809 (from which section 109 of H.R. 2189, as amended, is 
derived), H.R. 2423 (from which section 201 of H.R. 2189, as 
amended, is derived), H.R. 2341 (from which section 202 of H.R. 
2189, as amended, is derived), H.R. 2086 (from which section 
203 of H.R. 2189, as amended, is derived), H.R. 1494 (from 
which section 301 of H.R. 2189, as amended, is derived), and 
H.R. 1288 (from which section 302 of H.R. 2189, as amended, is 
derived). The following witnesses testified:
    The Honorable G.K. Butterfield, U.S. House of 
Representatives; The Honorable Christopher Gibson, U.S. House 
of Representatives; The Honorable Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House of 
Representatives; Verna Jones, Director, Veterans Affairs and 
Rehabilitation Commission, The American Legion; Mr. Alexander 
Nicholson, Legislative Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans 
of America; Heather Ansley, Esq., MSW, Vice President of 
Veterans Policy VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal 
Association; Thomas Murphy, Director, Compensation Service U.S. 
Department of Veterans Affairs, accompanied by Richard Hipolit, 
Assistant General Counsel, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 
The following groups or individuals submitted statements for 
the record: Disabled American Veterans; Paralyzed Veterans of 
America; J. Don Horton.

                       Subcommittee Consideration

    On July 17, 2013, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance 
and Memorial Affairs met in an open markup session, a quorum 
being present, and favorably forwarded to the full Committee 
H.R. 2086, as amended, H.R. 2189, as amended, and H.R. 2423, as 
amended, by voice vote.
    During consideration of H.R. 2086, the following amendment 
was considered and agreed to by voice vote:
    An amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Ms. 
Titus of Nevada that modifies the original text to terminate 
the bifurcated payment system at eight years from enactment, 
and that incorporates provisions from H.R. 1288, H.R. 1623, 
with technical amendment to ensure VA metrics provided pursuant 
to this measure be for each Regional Office and for VA as a 
whole, and H.R. 1809. Additionally, the amendment in the nature 
of a substitute incorporated the text of H.R. 2185, originally 
offered by Representative Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts, to 
provide for a moment of silence on Veterans' Day.
    During consideration of H.R. 2189, the following amendments 
were considered and agreed to by voice vote:
    An amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Mr. 
Runyan of New Jersey that incorporates provisions from H.R. 
2138, with amendment clarifying that work performed pursuant to 
this measure to implement VA's Strategic Plan to Eliminate the 
Compensation Claims Backlog shall be in addition to, and 
consistent with, any actions taken pursuant to the work of the 
commission or task force, and amendment that changed the 
reporting period of the Comptroller General of the United 
States to one year from enactment.
    An amendment to the amendment in the nature of a substitute 
offered by Ms. Titus of Nevada, which would provide for a 
subcommittee of the commission or task force that would focus 
upon the appeals backlog and process.
    During consideration of H.R. 2423, the following amendment 
was considered and agreed to by voice vote:
    An amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Mr. 
Runyan of New Jersey that incorporates provisions from H.R. 
1494, H.R. 2341, and H.R. 2382, with amendment to add priority 
for homeless veterans, recipients of Medal of Honor, Prisoners 
of War, seriously and very seriously injured, and claims being 
reviewed again in relation to a previously denied claim of 
military sexual trauma. Additionally, the amendment in the 
nature of a substitute incorporated the text of H.R. 864, 
originally offered by Representative Mike McIntyre of North 
Carolina, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
designate at least one city in the United States each year as 
an ``American World War II City.''

                        Committee Consideration

    On August 1, 2013, the Full Committee met in an open markup 
session, a quorum being present, and ordered H.R. 2189, as 
amended, reported favorably to the House of Representatives by 
voice vote.
    During consideration of H.R. 2189, as amended, the 
following amendment was considered and agreed to by voice vote:
    An amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Mr. 
Runyan of New Jersey that modifies the text so as to 
restructure the commission or task force as a single entity 
with two subcommittees that would focus respectively upon the 
backlog of claims and the backlog of appeals, as well as to 
clarify the commission or task force scope, membership, 
advisors, and defined terms. The amendment also alters the 
claims processor training program from three years to two 
years, to comport with VA's input on training requirements, and 
modifies the text to provide that VA shall report upon its 
implementation of the Strategic Plan to Eliminate the 
Compensation Claims Backlog. This amendment also incorporates 
provisions from H.R. 2086, as amended, with amendment to 
clarify that payments made are bifurcated, rather than interim, 
and to alter the effective dates of certain provisions. 
Additionally, this amendment incorporates provisions from H.R. 
2423, as amended, with amendment to exempt certain transfers to 
special needs trusts from the transfers of assets prohibited 
within three years of seeking pension benefits under title 38, 
United States Code. The provisions contained in H.R. 2423, as 
amended, were also amended to clarify the time period in 
relation to Vietnam conflict, and to permit the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs additional considerations when determining 
which regional offices would be selected within the group of 15 
to allow contract physicians to conduct compensation and 
pension examinations.

                            Committee Votes

    Clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires the Committee to list the recorded 
votes on the motion to report the legislation and amendments 
thereto. There were no recorded votes taken on amendments or in 
connection with ordering H.R. 2189, as amended, reported to the 
House. A motion by Ranking Member Michael H. Michaud of Maine 
to report H.R. 2189, as amended, favorably to the House of 
Representatives was agreed to by voice vote.

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

         Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives

    In accordance with clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee's performance 
goals and objectives are reflected in the descriptive portions 
of this report.

   New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee adopts as its 
own the estimate of new budget authority, entitlement 
authority, or tax expenditures or revenues contained in the 
cost estimate prepared by the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional 
Budget Act of 1974.

                  Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits

    H.R. 2189, as amended, does not contain any congressional 
earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as 
defined in clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives.

                        Committee Cost Estimate

    The Committee adopts as its own the cost estimate on H.R. 
2189, as amended, prepared by the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional 
Budget Act of 1974.

               Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    Pursuant to clause 3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the following is the cost estimate 
for H.R. 2189, as amended, provided by the Congressional Budget 
Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act 
of 1974:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                Washington, DC, September 26, 2013.
Hon. Jeff Miller,
Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 2189, a bill to 
improve the processing of disability claims by the Department 
of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Dwayne M. 
Wright.
            Sincerely,
                                              Douglas W. Elmendorf.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 2189--A bill to improve the processing of disability claims by the 
        Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes

    Summary: H.R. 2189 would modify several programs 
administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 
including those providing disability compensation and pensions 
to veterans. Also, the bill would require VA to establish a 
commission to review the backlog of claims for disability 
compensation and the process for appealing the denial of such 
claims, and would require the commission to submit a number of 
reports to the Congress.
    CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2189 would decrease net 
direct spending by $412 million over the 2014-2018 period and 
by $471 million over the 2014-2023 period. Because enacting the 
legislation would affect direct spending, pay-as-you-go 
procedures apply. CBO also estimates that implementing H.R. 
2189 would have a discretionary cost of $126 million over the 
2014-2018 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary 
amounts.
    H.R. 2189 would impose an intergovernmental mandate as 
defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) by 
preempting state licensing laws governing health care 
professionals in some circumstances. CBO estimates that the 
costs of the intergovernmental mandate would be small and would 
not exceed the threshold established in UMRA ($75 million in 
2013, adjusted annually for inflation). The bill contains no 
private-sector mandates as defined in UMRA.
    Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated 
budgetary impact of H.R. 2189 is shown in the following table. 
The costs of this legislation fall within budget functions 700 
(veterans benefits and services) and 550 (health).

                                TABLE 1--ESTIMATED BUDGETARY EFFECTS OF H.R. 2189
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                 By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                                         -------------------------------------------------------
                                                            2014     2015     2016     2017     2018   2014-2018
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          CHANGES IN DIRECT SPENDING\a\

Estimated Budget Authority..............................        0       12       -3     -199     -243      -432
Estimated Outlays.......................................        0       12       -3     -199     -223      -412

                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION

Estimated Authorization Level...........................        4       44       51       19        8       126
Estimated Outlays.......................................        4       44       51       19        8      126
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: Components may not sum to totals because of rounding.
* = less than $500,000.
a. In addition to the changes in direct spending shown above, enacting H.R. 2189 would have effects beyond 2018
  (see Table 2). CBO estimates that over the 2014-2023 period, H.R. 2189 would decrease net direct spending by
  $471 million.

    Basis of estimate: For this estimate, CBO assumes H.R. 2189 
will be enacted near the start of fiscal year 2014, that the 
estimated authorizations will be appropriated near the start of 
each fiscal year, and that outlays will follow historical 
spending patterns for similar and existing programs.

Direct spending

    H.R. 2189 would make several changes to programs 
administered by VA including disability compensation and 
pensions. CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2189 would decrease 
net direct spending by $471 million over the 2014-2023 period 
(see Table 2).

                                                                  TABLE 2--ESTIMATED EFFECTS ON DIRECT SPENDING UNDER H.R. 2189
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                          Outlays, in millions of dollars, by fiscal year--
                                                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                        2014      2015   2016      2017         2018         2019      2020   2021   2022      2023      2014-2018    2014-2023
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                   CHANGES IN DIRECT SPENDING
Pensions for Veterans in Medicaid-Approved Nursing Homes..........            0      0      0         -195         -218          -20      0      0      0            0         -413         -433
Asset Look-Back for Disability Pensions...........................            0     -1     -3           -4           -5           -5     -5     -5     -5           -5          -13          -38
Immediate Payments of Adjudicated Claims..........................            0     13      *            *            *            *      *      *      *          -16           14            0
                                                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total Changes.................................................            0     12     -3         -199         -223          -25     -5     -5     -5          -21         -412        -471
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: Components may not sum to totals because of rounding.
* = less than $500,000.

    Pensions for Veterans in Medicaid-Approved Nursing Homes. 
Section 204 would extend the expiration date of a provision of 
current law that sets a $90 per month limit on pensions paid to 
any veteran who does not have a spouse or child and who is 
receiving Medicaid benefits in a Medicaid-approved nursing 
home; that provision also applies to any survivor of a veteran 
who is receiving such coverage. That limit on pension benefits 
would be extended through September 30, 2018, and would reduce 
such benefits for 22 months, with the last affected payment 
being disbursed in October 2018.
    Using data provided by VA, CBO estimates that about 15,000 
veterans and 19,000 survivors would be affected by this 
provision and that the average monthly savings to VA would be 
about $1,825 per veteran and $1,140 per survivor. (Those 
projections account for inflation, mortality rates, and new 
nursing home patients.) On that basis, CBO estimates that 
enacting the provision would reduce VA spending by $490 million 
in 2017 and about $1.1 billion over the 2017-2019 period. 
Higher Medicaid payments to nursing homes would offset some of 
those savings. We estimate that those costs would total $654 
million. The net reduction in direct spending resulting from 
this provision would total $195 million in 2017 and $433 
million over the 2017-2019 period, with no effects after 2019.
    Asset Look-Back for Disability Pensions. Section 202 would 
authorize VA to conduct a review of the financial records of 
individuals applying for veterans' or survivors' pension 
benefits in 2015 or later. The review would cover the three 
years preceding each application. This look-back would 
determine if applicants disposed of any assets or resources for 
less than fair market value to become eligible for pension 
benefits. Based on information from VA and the Government 
Accountability Office about the income and resources of most 
pension applicants, CBO expects that less than 1 percent of all 
eligible veterans or survivors would have disposed of assets 
that would disqualify them from eligibility within the three-
year window. Therefore, CBO estimates that in 2015, about 100 
veterans and 70 survivors who will apply over the course of 
that year would be disqualified from eligibility because of the 
review and that a similar trend would continue in subsequent 
years. Such individuals would be disqualified, on average, for 
three years.
    CBO estimates an average veteran's pension rate will be 
about $9,800 in 2015 and an average survivor's pension rate 
will be about $6,300 in that year. After accounting for 
inflation and mortality, CBO estimates that enacting section 
202 would decrease direct spending by $38 million over the 
2015-2023 period. The administrative costs to conduct these 
reviews are discussed below in the ``Spending Subject to 
Appropriation'' section of the estimate.
    Immediate Payments of Adjudicated Claims. Section 203 would 
require VA to pay a disability benefit to a veteran as claims 
are decided if the veteran files claims for more than one 
disability at the same time. That requirement to make partial 
payments would be in force during the eight-year period from 
2015 through 2022. Under current law, VA has the authority to 
make such partial payments for multiple claims should it be 
able to quickly decide one of the claims, but that authority is 
rarely used.
    Once adjudicated, VA benefits are paid retroactively from 
the date of the initial application. That is, veterans usually 
receive an initial lump-sum payment that covers the months 
since their application was submitted. Thus, section 203 would 
have the effect of shifting some payments to an earlier fiscal 
year by paying some veterans a part of their benefit earlier 
than they would otherwise receive it. However, those early 
payments would be fully offset by savings in the following year 
when the retroactive payments would normally be made.
    Based on information from VA, and assuming trends similar 
to those observed in previous years, CBO expects about 260,000 
veterans will apply for disability benefits for the first time 
in 2015. CBO assumes that veterans who begin receiving payments 
at a disability rating of 50 percent or greater (about 90,000 
veterans) would probably have applied to be compensated for 
more than one disability. Of those, CBO estimates that about 20 
percent would have a claim that could be adjudicated quickly, 
and that two-thirds of those--about 12,300--would then be paid 
one year earlier than under current law. Assuming an average 
rating of 10 percent ($134 per month) for the quickly 
adjudicated claims, and an average of eight months of benefits, 
CBO estimates that enacting section 203 would increase direct 
spending by $13 million in 2015. However, that new spending in 
2015 would be offset by an equal reduction in spending in 2016. 
In each subsequent year, a similar effect would be seen--
increased spending in one year followed by decreased spending 
in the following year. CBO adjusts the amount of the 
accelerated spending each year to account for inflation and 
population growth.
    The requirement under section 203 would end in 2022. Paying 
some claims early in 2022 would yield about $16 million in 
savings in 2023. Therefore, CBO estimates that enacting section 
203 would cost $14 million over the 2015-2018 period, but would 
have a net direct spending effect of zero over the 2015-2023 
period.
    Benefits for Coastwise Merchant Mariners. Section 302 would 
extend eligibility for burial benefits and medals, ribbons, or 
decorations to merchant mariners who have the documents to 
prove they served off of the coast of the United States between 
December 7, 1941, and December 31, 1946.
    Based on information from VA and the U.S. Coastwise 
Merchant Seamen's Association, CBO estimates that the survivors 
of roughly 300 eligible merchant mariners would apply for a 
burial marker and a ribbon or medallion in 2014 at a cost of 
about $200 per request. Because most of the eligible population 
is deceased, CBO expects the number of applications would 
decline steadily in subsequent years. Thus, CBO estimates that 
section 302 would have an insignificant impact on direct 
spending.

Spending subject to appropriation

    H.R. 2189 would extend VA's authority to contract with non-
VA physicians to conduct disability exams and require VA to 
provide several reports to the Congress regarding the 
disability claims process. CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 
2189 would cost $126 million over the 2014-2018 period, subject 
to appropriation of the necessary amounts (see Table 3).
    Disability Examinations by Contract Physicians. Section 201 
would extend the pilot program that allows VA to use contract 
physicians to perform medical disability examinations to 
December 31, 2016, and would expand the pilot program to 
include five additional facilities. Under current law, that 
authority will expire on December 31, 2013, and is permitted at 
10 facilities. However, the provision would not take effect 
until October 1, 2014 (the beginning of fiscal year 2015). 
Based on information from VA, CBO estimates that, in 2012, VA 
used the current authority to have about 36,000 exams completed 
by contract physicians at a cost of about $800 per exam. Under 
section 201, we expect VA would complete 54,000 exams each year 
over the 2015-2017 period.
    In the absence of such authority, VA physicians who would 
otherwise be providing other types of health care to veterans 
will perform the exams, at no additional cost to VA. Thus, 
taking inflation into account, CBO estimates that implementing 
section 201 would cost $97 million over the 2015-2018 period, 
assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts.
    Asset Look-Back for Disability Pensions. Section 202 would 
authorize VA to conduct a review of the financial records of 
all applicants for pensions. The review would cover the three 
years preceding each application. This look-back would 
determine if applicants disposed of any assets or resources for 
less than fair market value in order to become eligible for 
pension benefits. Individuals who were found to have disposed 
of such assets would be ineligible to receive pensions for up 
to three years, depending on the value of the assets involved. 
This provision would only affect those individuals applying for 
veterans' or survivors' pension benefits starting in 2015.

                 TABLE 3--ESTIMATED EFFECTS ON SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION UNDER H.R. 2189
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                                                   ---------------------------------------------
                                                                     2014   2015   2016   2017   2018  2014-2018
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Disability Exams by Contract Physicians:
    Estimated Authorization Level.................................      0     43     43     11      0        97
    Estimated Outlays.............................................      0     43     43     11      0        97
Asset Look-Back for Disability Pensions:
    Estimated Authorization Level.................................      0      0      7      7      7        21
    Estimated Outlays.............................................      0      0      7      7      7        21
Evaluation of Disability Claims Backlog:
    Estimated Authorization Level.................................      2      0      0      0      0         2
    Estimated Outlays.............................................      2      0      0      0      0         2
Reports:
    Estimated Authorization Level.................................      1      *      *      *      *         2
    Estimated Outlays.............................................      1      *      *      *      *         2
Other Provisions:
    Estimated Authorization Level.................................      1      1      1      1      1         4
    Estimated Outlays.............................................      1      1      1      1      1         4
    Total Changes:
        Estimated Authorization Level.............................      4     44     51     19      8       126
        Estimated Outlays.........................................      4     44     51     19      8      126
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: Components may not sum to totals because of rounding.
* = less than $500,000.

    Based on information from VA on the time needed to process 
a pension claim, CBO estimates that VA would eventually hire 
about 70 employees to maintain the current processing times. VA 
reports that under this provision, most of the additional 
employees would be hired at the beginning of fiscal year 2016. 
At an average cost of about $100,000 per employee, CBO 
estimates that implementing section 501 would cost $21 million 
over the 2015-2018 period. The savings from reduced spending 
for pension benefits are discussed in the ``Direct Spending'' 
section of this estimate.
    Evaluation of the Disability Claims Backlog. Section 101 
would establish a commission tasked with creating a plan to 
eliminate the disability claims backlog, improve the disability 
claims process, and reduce the number of appeals filed for 
disapproved claims. The commission would have 21 members plus a 
paid staff and would exist for about seven months. The 
commission would be required to submit interim reports and a 
final report within 180 days of the commission's first meeting. 
Based on the costs of similar commissions, CBO estimates that 
implementing section 101 would cost about $2 million over the 
2014-2018 period, subject to appropriation of the necessary 
amounts.
    Reports. H.R. 2189 would require VA to complete several 
reports by various deadlines. CBO estimates that those 
provisions, collectively, would cost about $2 million over the 
2014-2018 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary 
amounts.
    Other provisions. H.R. 2189 also contains numerous 
provisions that individually would have an insignificant impact 
on spending subject to appropriation. However, CBO estimates 
that those provisions, collectively, would cost about $4 
million over the 2014-2018 period, mostly for additional 
administrative activities, assuming availability of the 
necessary amounts.
    
 Section 103 would require VA to enter into 
agreements with the Social Security Administration and 
Department of Defense to ensure that the transfer of requested 
disability or medical records that VA uses to make disability 
determinations would occur within 30 days of the VA's request 
for such records.
    
 Section 104 would require VA to establish a 
training process for newly hired claims processors. According 
to VA, it has already begun the process of establishing new 
claims processor training programs. Most of the requirements of 
section 104 would align with VA's new training program.
    
 Section 106 would require VA to establish a system 
of priorities for processing claims.
    
 Section 107 would require VA to include a page on 
the agency's website listing information about pending and 
completed claims.
    
 Section 109 would require VA to post information 
at its regional facilities and on its website about the average 
processing times for various types of claims submitted by 
veterans.
    
 Section 203 would require VA to begin paying 
certain adjudicated claims upon completion if the veteran files 
a claim for more than one claim.
    
 Section 302 would require VA to process claims for 
coastwise merchant mariners for burial benefits.
    Pay-As-You-Go considerations: The Statutory Pay-As-You-Go 
Act of 2010 establishes budget-reporting and enforcement 
procedures for legislation affecting direct spending or 
revenues. The net changes in outlays that are subject to those 
pay-as-you-go procedures are shown in the following table.

                              CBO ESTIMATE OF PAY-AS-YOU-GO EFFECTS FOR H.R. 2189 AS ORDERED REPORTED BY THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS ON AUGUST 1, 2013
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                           By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                                            ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                              2013   2014   2015   2016      2017         2018         2019      2020   2021      2022         2023      2013-2018    2013-2023
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                           NET INCREASE OR DECREASE (-) IN THE DEFICIT

Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Impact.............................      0      0     12     -3         -199         -223          -25     -5     -5           -5          -21         -412         -471
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Estimated impact on state, local, and tribal governments: 
The bill would authorize physicians, under a contract with the 
Department of Veterans Affairs, to perform medical exams in any 
location and in any state as long as the physician is licensed 
by another state to practice medicine. That provision would 
preempt state licensing laws and impose an intergovernmental 
mandate as defined in UMRA. While states could lose a small 
amount of revenue from fewer license fees, the bill would 
impose no other duty that would result in additional spending. 
CBO estimates that the cost of complying with the mandate would 
be well below the threshold established in UMRA ($75 million in 
2013, adjusted annually for inflation).
    Estimated impact on the private sector: H.R. 2189 contains 
no private-sector mandates as defined in UMRA.
    Previous CBO estimate: On May 16, 2013, CBO transmitted a 
cost estimate for H.R. 1412, the Improving Job Opportunities 
for Veterans Act of 2013, as ordered reported by the House 
Committee on Veterans' Affairs on May 8, 2013. Section 204 of 
H.R. 2189 would extend a provision from November 30, 2016, to 
September 30, 2018, whereas section 4 of H.R. 1412 would extend 
the provision for a month to December 31, 2016. The differences 
in estimated savings reflect the differences in the expiration 
dates.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal Costs: Dwayne M. Wright; 
Impact on State, Local, and Tribal Governments: Lisa Ramirez-
Branum; Impact on the Private Sector: Elizabeth Bass.
    Estimate approved by: Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                       Federal Mandates Statement

    The Committee adopts as its own the estimate of Federal 
mandates regarding H.R. 2189, as amended, prepared by the 
Director of the Congressional Budget Office pursuant to section 
423 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

                      Advisory Committee Statement

    No advisory committees within the meaning of section 5(b) 
of the Federal Advisory Committee Act would be created by H.R. 
2189, as amended.

                 Statement of Constitutional Authority

    Pursuant to Article I, section 8 of the United States 
Constitution, the reported bill is authorized by Congress' 
power to ``provide for the common Defense and general Welfare 
of the United States.''

                  Applicability to Legislative Branch

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not relate to 
the terms and conditions of employment or access to public 
services or accommodations within the meaning of section 
102(b)(3) of the Congressional Accountability Act.

              Statement on Duplication of Federal Programs

    Pursuant to section 3(j) of H. Res. 5, 113th Cong. (2013), 
the Committee finds that no provision of H.R. 2189, as amended, 
establishes or reauthorizes a program of the Federal Government 
known to be duplicative of another Federal program, a program 
that was included in any report from the Government 
Accountability Office to Congress pursuant to section 21 of 
Public Law 111-139, or a program related to a program 
identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal Domestic 
Assistance.

                   Disclosure of Directed Rulemaking

    Pursuant to section 3(k) of H. Res. 5, 113th Cong. (2013), 
the Committee estimates that H.R. 2189, as amended, does not 
require any directed rulemakings.

             Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation


Section 1--Table of Contents

    Section 1 contains a table of contents.

Section 2--Scoring of budgetary effects

    Section 2 contains budgetary information regarding 
compliance with the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010.

                                TITLE I

Section 101--Evaluation of backlog of disability claims and appeals of 
        claims of Department of Veterans Affairs

    Section 101(a) would establish a commission or task force 
to evaluate the backlog of disability claims of the Department 
of Veterans Affairs, and the appeals process of claims.
    Section 101(b) would provide for the considerations to be 
made by the commission or task force, matters included within 
the backlog of claims study and the backlog of appeals study, 
and would set forth the role of the Secretary, Chairman of the 
Board of Veterans' Appeals, and Chief Judge of the United 
States Court of Veterans Claims.
    Section 101(c) would provide for initial, interim, and 
final comprehensive reporting on the studies conducted of the 
backlog of claims and appeals.
    Section 101(d) would provide for the membership of the 
commission or task force, as well as the structure of the 
subcommittees, qualifications, advisors, and chairman's role. 
This subsection would also provide the period of appointment of 
members, vacancy considerations, and appointment deadline.
    Section 101(e) would provide for the timeline of commission 
or task force meetings, as well as rules on quorum.
    Section 101(f) would provide the powers of the commission 
or task force as regards holding hearings, obtaining 
information from federal agencies, use of postal services, and 
disposition of gifts.
    Section 101(g) would provide for compensation of commission 
or task force members, travel expenses, and would guide staff 
appointment and compensation, and permit detailing of federal 
government employees to the commission or task force to assist 
in carrying out its duties and procurement of temporary and 
intermittent services.
    Section 101(h) would provide for the termination of the 
commission or task force sixty days after submission of its 
final comprehensive report.
    Section 101(i) would provide that the Secretary shall, upon 
request, provide funding as required by the commission or task 
force, which funding would remain available without fiscal year 
limitations.
    Section 101(j) provides defined terms.

Section 102--Supplemental reports to the Strategic Plan to Eliminate 
        the Compensation Claims Backlog

    Section 102 would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
to provide a supplemental report to the Strategic Plan to 
Eliminate the Compensation Claims Backlog within 60 days of 
enactment, and every 120 days thereafter until May 25, 2015.

Section 103--Expedition of transfer of certain records

    Section 103(a) would direct the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to enter into an agreement with the Commissioner of the 
Social Security Administration within 60 days of enactment, to 
provide for expedited transfer of records.
    Section 103(b) would direct the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to enter into an agreement with the Secretary of 
Defense within 60 days of enactment, to provide for expedited 
transfer of records.
    Section 103(c) would require the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs and the Secretary of Defense to jointly form, provide, 
and implement a plan to reduce to 30 days the amount of time 
needed to provide records of members of the National Guard.

Section 104--Claims processors training

    Section 104(a) would require the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to establish a two year training program for newly 
hired claims processors.
    Section 104(b) would require VA to execute the training 
program for newly hired claims processors without increasing 
the amount of time in which claims are processed.
    Section 104(c) would set the effective date of this section 
one year after the enactment of the Act.

Section 105--Report by Comptroller General of the United States

    Section 105 would require the Comptroller General to submit 
to Congress a report on the progress of the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs in implementing the Strategic Plan to 
Eliminate the Compensation Claims Backlog within one year of 
enactment of the Act.

Section 106--Priority for processing claims of the Department of 
        Veterans Affairs

    Section 106(a) would add a new section to subchapter I of 
chapter 51 of title 38, United States Code, which would require 
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to prioritize disability 
benefits claims submitted by veterans who have attained the age 
of 70, who are terminally ill, have life-threatening illnesses, 
are homeless, have received the Medal of Honor, were prisoners 
of war, were seriously or very seriously injured, and those 
whose claims are being reviewed again in relation to a 
previously denied claim relating to military sexual trauma. 
Additionally, this section allows prioritization for good cause 
shown at the discretion of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on 
a case by case basis.
    Section 106(b) provides a clerical amendment.

Section 107--Public availability of certain information about pending 
        and completed claims for compensation under the laws 
        administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

    Section 107(a) would add a new section to subchapter I of 
chapter 51 of title 38, United States Code, which would require 
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to maintain certain 
enumerated information on pending and completed claims, as well 
as medical issue determinations, upon the VA website, which 
would be updated at least once per week.
    Section 107(b) provides a clerical amendment.

Sec. 108. Annual report on processing of claims

    Section 108(a) would require the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to include, within VA's annual report to Congress as 
required by section 529 of title 38, United States Code, 
information on the automatic processing of claims for 
compensation, the performance of any regional office that fails 
to meet the administrative goals of the regional office with 
respect to timeliness and accuracy in processing claims, and 
the timeliness of receiving information pursuant to a request 
by the Secretary to the head of another department or agency of 
the United States for information required by VA in 
adjudicating a claim for compensation.
    Section 108(b) provides a clerical amendment.

Sec. 109. Department of Veterans Affairs notice of average times for 
        processing claims and percentage of claims approved

    Section 109(a) would provide for public notice of the 
information that is required to be collected by this section to 
be posted in each regional office and claims intake facility of 
VA and on the VA website.
    Section 109(b) would require the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to provide notice to claimants of the information that 
is required to be collected by this section, pursuant to 
subsection (c), as well as notice that for the period ending on 
August 6, 2015, claimants are eligible to receive up to an 
extra year of benefits payments if filing a claim that is fully 
developed. This subsection would also require claimants to 
include a signed form with their application acknowledging that 
the claimant received the notice provided by this subsection.
    Section 109(c) would require VA to collect information on 
the average processing times of specific types of enumerated 
claims, including fully developed electronic claims, fully 
developed paper claims, not fully developed electronic claims, 
not fully developed standard paper format, and not fully 
developed non-standard paper format, as well as information on 
the percentage of each such submitted claim for which benefits 
are awarded. This subsection would also require VA to collect 
information on the percentage of claims that are awarded 
benefits based upon the type of representation received by the 
veteran in the claims process.
    Section 109(d) would set the effective date of this section 
one year after the enactment of the Act.

Sec. 110. Claim defined

    Section 110 defines the term ``claim,'' for the purposes of 
Title I, as a claim for disability compensation under the laws 
administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

                  TITLE II--COMPENSATION AND PENSIONS

Sec. 201. Improvements to authority for performance of medical 
        disabilities examinations by contract physicians

    Section 201(a) would extend from December 31, 2013, through 
December 31, 2016, VA's authority under the Veterans Benefits 
Act of 2003 to provide for medical examinations by contract 
physicians in claims for VA disability benefits.
    Section 201(b) would address physician licensure issues for 
contract physicians, as it would permit physicians who possess 
a license to practice the health care profession of the 
physician to perform compensation and pension examinations 
under the authority of VA at any location in any State, the 
District of Columbia, or a Commonwealth, territory, or 
possession of the United States, so long as the examination is 
within the scope of the authorized duties under such contract.
    Section 201(c) would grant authority to VA to extend the 
pilot program with contract physicians, established within the 
Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 1996, to five additional 
Regional Offices, thus permitting VA to increase from 10 
Regional Office to 15 Regional Offices.
    Section 201(d) would set the effective date of this section 
one year after the enactment of the Act.

Sec. 202. Consideration by Secretary of Veterans Affairs of resources 
        disposed of for less than fair market value by individuals 
        applying for pension

    Section 202(a) would amend section 1522 of title 38, United 
States Code, and would create a three-year look-back period for 
disposal of covered resources for less than fair market value, 
in order to determine veteran eligibility for the VA pension 
program.
    Section 202(b) would amend section 1543 of title 38, United 
States Code, and would create a three-year look-back period for 
disposal of covered resources for less than fair market value, 
in order to determine surviving spouse and children's 
eligibility for the VA pension program.
    Section 202(c) would set the effective date of this section 
one year after the enactment of the Act.
    Section 202(d) would require VA to submit to the 
appropriate committees of Congress a report on the 
administration of this section during the most recent 12-month 
period, no later than two years after the date of enactment, 
and at least once per year thereafter through 2018.

Sec. 203. Bifurcated payments of compensation benefits under laws 
        administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

    Section 203(a) would add a new section to subchapter III of 
chapter 51 of title 38, United States Code, which would require 
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in claims in which 
adjudication requires decision making with respect to two or 
more disabilities, to pay the claimant any monetary benefits 
awarded to the claimant for individual conditions as other 
conditions are further developed.
    Section 203(b) provides a clerical amendment.
    Section 203(c) would set the effective date of this section 
one year after the enactment of the Act.

Sec. 204. Pension for certain veterans covered by Medicaid plans for 
        services furnished by nursing facilities

    Section 204 would extend the limitation on pension for 
certain veterans covered by Medicaid plans for services 
furnished by nursing facilities from November 30, 2016 to 
September 30, 2018.

                        TITLE III--OTHER MATTERS

Sec. 301. Review of operation of certain ships during the Vietnam Era

    Section 301(a) would require, within one year of enactment, 
the Secretary of Defense to review the logs of each ship under 
the authority of the Secretary of the Navy that is known to 
have operated in the waters near Vietnam during the period 
January 9, 1962 through May 7, 1975, and determine which ships 
operated in the territorial waters of the Republic of Vietnam, 
and for what period of time.
    Section 301(b) would require the Secretary of Defense to 
notify the Secretary of Veterans Affairs of its findings on 
Vietnam ships.
    Section 301(c) would require the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to make the all unclassified information, provided by 
the Secretary of Defense under this section, publicly 
available.

Sec. 302. Methods for validating certain service considered to be 
        active service by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

    Section 302(a) makes findings of Congress on merchant 
mariners.
    Section 302(b) would direct the Secretary of Homeland 
Security to accept additional documentation when considering 
the application for veterans' status of an individual who 
performed service as a coastwise merchant seaman during World 
War II. This section would also provide that qualified merchant 
mariners shall be honored as a veteran and shall be entitled to 
veteran designation, burial benefits, and military decoration, 
that they shall not be entitled by reason of such recognized 
service to any benefit that is not described in this 
subsection.

Sec. 303. Designation of American World War II Cities

    Section 303(a) would require the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to designate at least one city in the United States 
each year as an ``American World War II City.''
    Section 303(b) would provide criteria for consideration of 
the designation as an ``American World War II City.''

Sec. 304. Observance of Veterans Day

    Section 304(a) would provide for a codified two minute 
moment of silence on Veterans Day in honor of the service and 
sacrifice of veterans throughout history.
    Section 304(b) would provide a clerical amendment.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italic, existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

                      TITLE 38, UNITED STATES CODE



           *       *       *       *       *       *       *
PART II--GENERAL BENEFITS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


 CHAPTER 15--PENSION FOR NON-SERVICE-CONNECTED DISABILITY OR DEATH OR 
FOR SERVICE

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBCHAPTER II--VETERANS' PENSIONS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 1522. Net worth limitation

  (a)(1) The Secretary shall deny or discontinue the payment of 
pension to a veteran under section 1513 or 1521 of this title 
when the corpus of the estate of the veteran or, if the veteran 
has a spouse, the corpus of the estates of the veteran and of 
the veteran's spouse is such that under all the circumstances, 
including consideration of the annual income of the veteran, 
the veteran's spouse, and the veteran's children, it is 
reasonable that some part of the corpus of such estates be 
consumed for the veteran's maintenance.
  (2)(A) If a veteran otherwise eligible for payment of pension 
under section 1513 or 1521 of this title or the spouse of such 
veteran disposes of covered resources for less than fair market 
value on or after the look-back date described in subparagraph 
(C)(i), the Secretary shall deny or discontinue the payment of 
pension to such veteran under section 1513 or 1521 of this 
title, as the case may be, for months during the period 
beginning on the date described in subparagraph (D) and equal 
to the number of months calculated as provided in subparagraph 
(E).
  (B)(i) For purposes of this paragraph, a covered resource is 
any resource that was a part of the corpus of the estate of the 
veteran or, if the veteran has a spouse, the corpus of the 
estates of the veteran and of the veteran's spouse, that the 
Secretary considers that under all the circumstances, if the 
veteran or spouse had not disposed of such resource, it would 
be reasonable that the resource (or some portion of the 
resource) be consumed for the veteran's maintenance.
  (ii) For purposes of this paragraph, the Secretary may 
consider, in accordance with regulations the Secretary shall 
prescribe, a transfer of an asset (including a transfer of an 
asset to an annuity, trust, or other financial instrument or 
investment) a disposal of a covered resource for less than fair 
market value if such transfer reduces the amount in the corpus 
of the estate of the veteran or, if the veteran has a spouse, 
the corpus of the estates of the veteran and of the veteran's 
spouse, that the Secretary considers, under all the 
circumstances, would be reasonable to be consumed for the 
veteran's maintenance.
  (C)(i) The look-back date described in this clause is a date 
that is 36 months before the date described in clause (ii).
  (ii) The date described in this clause is the date on which 
the veteran applies for pension under section 1513 or 1521 of 
this title or, if later, the date on which the veteran (or the 
spouse of the veteran) disposes of covered resources for less 
than fair market value.
  (D) The date described in this subparagraph is the first day 
of the first month in or after which covered resources were 
disposed of for less than fair market value and which does not 
occur in any other period of ineligibility under this 
paragraph.
  (E) The number of months calculated under this subparagraph 
shall be equal to--
          (i) the total, cumulative uncompensated value of the 
        portion of covered resources so disposed of by the 
        veteran (or the spouse of the veteran) on or after the 
        look-back date described in subparagraph (C)(i) that 
        the Secretary determines would reasonably have been 
        consumed for the veteran's maintenance; divided by
          (ii) the maximum amount of monthly pension that is 
        payable to a veteran under section 1513 or 1521 of this 
        title, including the maximum amount of increased 
        pension payable under such sections on account of 
        family members, but not including any amount of pension 
        payable under such sections because a veteran is in 
        need of regular aid and attendance or is permanently 
        housebound,
rounded, in the case of any fraction, to the nearest whole 
number, but shall not in any case exceed 36 months.
  (b)(1) The Secretary shall deny or discontinue the payment of 
increased pension under subsection (c), (d), (e), or (f) of 
section 1521 of this title on account of a child when the 
corpus of such child's estate is such that under all the 
circumstances, including consideration of the veteran's and 
spouse's income, and the income of the veteran's children, it 
is reasonable that some part of the corpus of such child's 
estate be consumed for the child's maintenance. During the 
period such denial or discontinuance remains in effect, such 
child shall not be considered as the veteran's child for 
purposes of this chapter.
  (2)(A) If a veteran otherwise eligible for payment of 
increased pension under subsection (c), (d), (e), or (f) of 
section 1521 of this title on account of a child, the spouse of 
the veteran, or the child disposes of covered resources for 
less than fair market value on or after the look-back date 
described in subparagraph (C)(i), the Secretary shall deny or 
discontinue payment of such increased pension for months during 
the period beginning on the date described in subparagraph (D) 
and equal to the number of months calculated as provided in 
subparagraph (E).
  (B)(i) For purposes of this paragraph, a covered resource is 
any resource that was a part of the corpus of the estate of the 
child that the Secretary considers that under all the 
circumstances, if the veteran, the spouse of the veteran, or 
the child had not disposed of such resource, it would be 
reasonable that the resource (or some portion of the resource) 
be consumed for the child's maintenance.
  (ii) For purposes of this paragraph, the Secretary may 
consider, in accordance with regulations the Secretary shall 
prescribe, a transfer of an asset (including a transfer of an 
asset to an annuity, trust, or other financial instrument or 
investment) a disposal of a covered resource for less than fair 
market value if such transfer reduces the amount in the corpus 
of the estate of the child that the Secretary considers, under 
all the circumstances, would be reasonable to be consumed for 
the child's maintenance.
  (C)(i) The look-back date described in this clause is a date 
that is 36 months before the date described in clause (ii).
  (ii) The date described in this clause is the date on which 
the veteran applies for payment of increased pension under 
subsection (c), (d), (e), or (f) of section 1521 of this title 
on account of a child or, if later, the date on which the 
veteran, the spouse of the veteran, or the child disposes of 
covered resources for less than fair market value.
  (D) The date described in this subparagraph is the first day 
of the first month in or after which covered resources were 
disposed of for less than fair market value and which does not 
occur in any other period of ineligibility under this 
paragraph.
  (E) The number of months calculated under this subparagraph 
shall be equal to--
          (i) the total, cumulative uncompensated value of the 
        portion of covered resources so disposed of by the 
        veteran, the spouse of the veteran, or the child on or 
        after the look-back date described in subparagraph 
        (C)(i) that the Secretary determines would reasonably 
        have been consumed for the child's maintenance; divided 
        by
          (ii) the maximum amount of increased monthly pension 
        that is payable to a veteran under subsection (c), (d), 
        (e), or (f) of section 1521 of this title on account of 
        a child,
rounded, in the case of any fraction, to the nearest whole 
number, but shall not in any case exceed 36 months.
  (c)(1) The Secretary shall not deny or discontinue payment of 
pension under section 1513 or 1521 of this title or payment of 
increased pension under subsection (c), (d), (e), or (f) of 
section 1521 of this title on account of a child by reason of 
the application of subsection (a)(2) or (b)(2) of this section 
to the disposal of resources by an individual to the extent 
that--
          (A) a satisfactory showing is made to the Secretary 
        (in accordance with regulations promulgated by the 
        Secretary) that all resources disposed of for less than 
        fair market value have been returned to the individual 
        who disposed of the resources; or
          (B) the Secretary determines, under procedures 
        established by the Secretary, that the denial or 
        discontinuance of payment would work an undue hardship 
        as determined on the basis of criteria established by 
        the Secretary.
  (2) At the time a veteran applies for pension under section 
1513 or 1521 of this title or increased pension under 
subsection (c), (d), (e), or (f) of section 1521 of this title 
on account of a child, and at such other times as the Secretary 
considers appropriate, the Secretary shall--
          (A) inform such veteran of the provisions of 
        subsections (a)(2) and (b)(2) providing for a period of 
        ineligibility for payment of pension under such 
        sections for individuals who make certain dispositions 
        of resources for less than fair market value; and
          (B) obtain from such veteran information which may be 
        used in determining whether or not a period of 
        ineligibility for such payments would be required by 
        reason of such subsections.
  (d) Subsections (a)(2) and (b)(2) shall not apply with 
respect to the disposal of resources or the transfer of an 
asset if such disposal or transfer is to a trust described in 
section 1917(d)(4) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 
1396p(d)(4)) that is established for the benefit of a child of 
the veteran.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBCHAPTER III--PENSIONS TO SURVIVING SPOUSES AND CHILDREN

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 1543. Net worth limitation

  (a)(1) * * *
  (2)(A) If a surviving spouse otherwise eligible for payment 
of pension under section 1541 of this title disposes of covered 
resources for less than fair market value on or after the look-
back date described in subparagraph (C)(i), the Secretary shall 
deny or discontinue the payment of pension to such surviving 
spouse under section 1541 of this title for months during the 
period beginning on the date described in subparagraph (D) and 
equal to the number of months calculated as provided in 
subparagraph (E).
  (B)(i) For purposes of this paragraph, a covered resource is 
any resource that was a part of the corpus of the estate of the 
surviving spouse that the Secretary considers that under all 
the circumstances, if the surviving spouse had not disposed of 
such resource, it would be reasonable that the resource (or 
some portion of the resource) be consumed for the surviving 
spouse's maintenance.
  (ii) For purposes of this paragraph, the Secretary may 
consider, in accordance with regulations the Secretary shall 
prescribe, a transfer of an asset (including a transfer of an 
asset to an annuity, trust, or other financial instrument or 
investment) a disposal of a covered resource for less than fair 
market value if such transfer reduces the amount in the corpus 
of the estate of the surviving spouse that the Secretary 
considers, under all the circumstances, would be reasonable to 
be consumed for the surviving spouse's maintenance.
  (C)(i) The look-back date described in this clause is a date 
that is 36 months before the date described in clause (ii).
  (ii) The date described in this clause is the date on which 
the surviving spouse applies for pension under section 1541 of 
this title or, if later, the date on which the surviving spouse 
disposes of covered resources for less than fair market value.
  (D) The date described in this subparagraph is the first day 
of the first month in or after which covered resources were 
disposed of for less than fair market value and which does not 
occur in any other period of ineligibility under this 
paragraph.
  (E) The number of months calculated under this subparagraph 
shall be equal to--
          (i) the total, cumulative uncompensated value of the 
        portion of covered resources so disposed of by the 
        surviving spouse on or after the look-back date 
        described in subparagraph (C)(i) that the Secretary 
        determines would reasonably have been consumed for the 
        surviving spouse's maintenance; divided by
          (ii) the maximum amount of monthly pension that is 
        payable to a surviving spouse under section 1541 of 
        this title, including the maximum amount of increased 
        pension payable under such section on account of a 
        child, but not including any amount of pension payable 
        under such section because a surviving spouse is in 
        need of regular aid and attendance or is permanently 
        housebound,
rounded, in the case of any fraction, to the nearest whole 
number, but shall not in any case exceed 36 months.
  (F) In the case of a transfer by the surviving spouse during 
the veteran's lifetime that resulted in a period of 
ineligibility for the veteran under section 1522 of this title, 
the Secretary shall apply to the surviving spouse any remaining 
ineligibility for that period.
  [(2)] (3) The Secretary shall deny or discontinue the payment 
of increased pension under subsection (c), (d), or (e) of 
section 1541 of this title on account of a child when the 
corpus of such child's estate is such that under all the 
circumstances, including consideration of the income of the 
surviving spouse and such child and the income of any other 
child for whom the surviving spouse is receiving increased 
pension, it is reasonable that some part of the corpus of the 
child's estate be consumed for the child's maintenance. During 
the period such denial or discontinuance remains in effect, 
such child shall not be considered as the surviving spouse's 
child for purposes of this chapter.
  (4)(A) If a surviving spouse otherwise eligible for payment 
of increased pension under subsection (c), (d), or (e) of 
section 1541 of this title on account of a child or the child 
disposes of covered resources for less than fair market value 
on or after the look-back date described in subparagraph 
(C)(i), the Secretary shall deny or discontinue payment of such 
increased pension for months during the period beginning on the 
date described in subparagraph (D) and equal to the number of 
months calculated as provided in subparagraph (E).
  (B)(i) For purposes of this paragraph, a covered resource is 
any resource that was a part of the corpus of the estate of the 
child that the Secretary considers that under all the 
circumstances, if the surviving spouse or the child had not 
disposed of such resource, it would be reasonable that the 
resource (or some portion of the resource) be consumed for the 
child's maintenance.
  (ii) For purposes of this paragraph, the Secretary may 
consider, in accordance with regulations the Secretary shall 
prescribe, a transfer of an asset (including a transfer of an 
asset to an annuity, trust, or other financial instrument or 
investment) a disposal of a covered resource for less than fair 
market value if such transfer reduces the amount in the corpus 
of the estate of the child that the Secretary considers, under 
all the circumstances, would be reasonable to be consumed for 
the child's maintenance.
  (C)(i) The look-back date described in this clause is a date 
that is 36 months before the date described in clause (ii).
  (ii) The date described in this clause is the date on which 
the surviving spouse applies for payment of increased pension 
under subsection (c), (d), or (e) of section 1541 of this title 
on account of a child or, if later, the date on which the 
surviving spouse (or the child) disposes of covered resources 
for less than fair market value.
  (D) The date described in this subparagraph is the first day 
of the first month in or after which covered resources were 
disposed of for less than fair market value and which does not 
occur in any other period of ineligibility under this 
paragraph.
  (E) The number of months calculated under this clause shall 
be equal to--
          (i) the total, cumulative uncompensated value of the 
        portion of covered resources so disposed of by 
        surviving spouse (or the child) on or after the look-
        back date described in subparagraph (C)(i) that the 
        Secretary determines would reasonably have been 
        consumed for the child's maintenance; divided by
          (ii) the maximum amount of increased monthly pension 
        that is payable to a surviving spouse under subsection 
        (c), (d), or (e) of section 1541 of this title on 
        account of a child,
rounded, in the case of any fraction, to the nearest whole 
number, but shall not in any case exceed 36 months.
  (b)(1) The Secretary shall deny or discontinue payment of 
pension to a child under section 1542 of this title when the 
corpus of the estate of the child is such that under all the 
circumstances, including consideration of the income of the 
child, the income of any person with whom such child is 
residing who is legally responsible for such child's support, 
and the corpus of the estate of such person, it is reasonable 
that some part of the corpus of such estates be consumed for 
the child's maintenance.
  (2)(A) If a child otherwise eligible for payment of pension 
under section 1542 of this title or any person with whom such 
child is residing who is legally responsible for such child's 
support disposes of covered resources for less than fair market 
value on or after the look-back date described in subparagraph 
(C)(i), the Secretary shall deny or discontinue the payment of 
pension to such child under section 1542 of this title for 
months during the period beginning on the date described in 
subparagraph (D) and equal to the number of months calculated 
as provided in subparagraph (E).
  (B)(i) For purposes of this paragraph, a covered resource is 
any resource that was a part of the corpus of the estate of the 
child or the corpus of the estate of any person with whom such 
child is residing who is legally responsible for such child's 
support that the Secretary considers that under all the 
circumstances, if the child or person had not disposed of such 
resource, it would be reasonable that the resource (or some 
portion of the resource) be consumed for the child's 
maintenance.
  (ii) For purposes of this paragraph, the Secretary may 
consider, in accordance with regulations the Secretary shall 
prescribe, a transfer of an asset (including a transfer of an 
asset to an annuity, trust, or other financial instrument or 
investment) a disposal of a covered resource for less than fair 
market value if such transfer reduces the amount in the corpus 
of the estate described in clause (i) that the Secretary 
considers, under all the circumstances, would be reasonable to 
be consumed for the child's maintenance.
  (C)(i) The look-back date described in this clause is a date 
that is 36 months before the date described in clause (ii).
  (ii) The date described in this clause is the date on which 
the child applies for pension under section 1542 of this title 
or, if later, the date on which the child (or person described 
in subparagraph (B)) disposes of covered resources for less 
than fair market value.
  (D) The date described in this clause is the first day of the 
first month in or after which covered resources were disposed 
of for less than fair market value and which does not occur in 
any other period of ineligibility under this paragraph.
  (E) The number of months calculated under this clause shall 
be equal to--
          (i) the total, cumulative uncompensated value of the 
        portion of covered resources so disposed of by the 
        child (or person described in subparagraph (B)) on or 
        after the look-back date described in subparagraph 
        (C)(i) that the Secretary determines would reasonably 
        have been consumed for the child's maintenance; divided 
        by
          (ii) the maximum amount of monthly pension that is 
        payable to a child under section 1542 of this title,
rounded, in the case of any fraction, to the nearest whole 
number, but shall not in any case exceed 36 months.
  (c)(1) The Secretary shall not deny or discontinue payment of 
pension under section 1541 or 1542 of this title or payment of 
increased pension under subsection (c), (d), or (e) of section 
1541 of this title on account of a child by reason of the 
application of subsection (a)(2), (a)(4), or (b)(2) of this 
section to the disposal of resources by an individual to the 
extent that--
          (A) a satisfactory showing is made to the Secretary 
        (in accordance with regulations promulgated by the 
        Secretary) that all resources disposed of for less than 
        fair market value have been returned to the individual 
        who disposed of the resources; or
          (B) the Secretary determines, under procedures 
        established by the Secretary, that the denial or 
        discontinuance of payment would work an undue hardship 
        as determined on the basis of criteria established by 
        the Secretary.
  (2) At the time a surviving spouse or child applies for 
pension under section 1541 or 1542 of this title or increased 
pension under subsection (c), (d), or (e) of section 1541 of 
this title on account of a child, and at such other times as 
the Secretary considers appropriate, the Secretary shall--
          (A) inform such surviving spouse or child of the 
        provisions of subsections (a)(2), (a)(4), and (b)(2), 
        as applicable, providing for a period of ineligibility 
        for payment of pension or increased pension under such 
        sections for individuals who make certain dispositions 
        of resources for less than fair market value; and
          (B) obtain from such surviving spouse or child 
        information which may be used in determining whether or 
        not a period of ineligibility for such payments would 
        be required by reason of such subsections.
  (d) Paragraphs (2) and (4) of subsection (a) and subsection 
(b)(2) shall not apply with respect to the disposal of 
resources or the transfer of an asset if such disposal or 
transfer is to a trust described in section 1917(d)(4) of the 
Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1396p(d)(4)) that is established 
for the benefit of a child of the veteran or surviving spouse.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


PART IV--GENERAL ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONS

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           CHAPTER 51--CLAIMS, EFFECTIVE DATES, AND PAYMENTS

                          SUBCHAPTER I--CLAIMS

Sec.
5100. Definition of ``claimant''.
     * * * * * * *
5109C. Priority for processing claims.
5109D. Information about pending and completed claims.
5109E. Annual report on processing of claims.
     * * * * * * *

                   SUBCHAPTER III--PAYMENT OF BENEFITS

     * * * * * * *
5127. Bifurcated payments of compensation benefits.

SUBCHAPTER I--CLAIMS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 5109C. Priority for processing claims

  (a) Priority.--In processing claims for compensation under 
this chapter, the Secretary shall provide the following 
claimants with priority over other claimants:
          (1) Veterans who have attained the age of 70.
          (2) Veterans who are terminally ill.
          (3) Veterans with life-threatening illnesses.
          (4) Homeless veterans (as defined in section 2002 of 
        this title).
          (5) Veterans who were awarded the Medal of Honor.
          (6) Veterans who are former prisoners of war.
          (7) Veterans whose claims are being reviewed again in 
        relation to a previously denied claim relating to 
        military sexual trauma.
          (8) Veterans whom the Secretary determines, on a 
        case-by-case basis, are seriously or very seriously 
        injured.
          (9) Veterans whom the Secretary determines, on a 
        case-by-case basis, should be given priority under this 
        section based on an application for good cause 
        established by the Secretary.
  (b) Regulations.--The Secretary shall prescribe regulations 
to carry out subsection (a).

Sec. 5109D. Information about pending and completed claims

  (a) Availability of Information.--The Secretary shall 
maintain on the Internet website of the Department publicly 
accessible information about pending and completed claims for 
compensation under chapter 11 of this title. Such information 
shall include each of the following:
          (1) For each regional office and for the Department 
        as a whole--
                  (A) the average number of days between the 
                date of the submittal of a claim and the date 
                of the decision with respect to the claim for 
                each of the preceding three-month and one-year 
                period;
                  (B) the average number of days such a claim 
                is pending during the preceding three-month and 
                one-year periods;
                  (C) the quality and accuracy rating of the 
                claims adjudication process during the 
                preceding three-month and one-year periods;
                  (D) the number of claims pending;
                  (E) the number of pending claims that have 
                been pending for more than 125 days; and
                  (F) the number of claims completed during--
                          (i) the current month, to date;
                          (ii) the month preceding the current 
                        month;
                          (iii) the current calendar year, to 
                        date; and
                          (iv) the calendar year preceding the 
                        current calendar year.
          (2) For each medical condition for which a claim for 
        compensation is submitted, for each regional office and 
        for the Department as a whole--
                  (A) the average number of days between the 
                date of the submittal of a claim relating to 
                such medical condition and the date of the 
                decision with respect to the claim for each of 
                the preceding three-month and one-year period;
                  (B) the average number of days such a claim 
                is pending during the preceding three-month and 
                one-year periods;
                  (C) the quality and accuracy rating of the 
                claims adjudication process as applied to 
                claims relating to such medical condition 
                during the preceding three-month and one-year 
                periods;
                  (D) the number of pending claims relating to 
                such condition;
                  (E) the number of such pending claims that 
                have been pending for more than 125 days; and
                  (F) the number of claims relating to such 
                medical condition completed during--
                          (i) the current month, to date;
                          (ii) the month preceding current 
                        month;
                          (iii) the current calendar year, to 
                        date; and
                          (iv) the calendar year preceding the 
                        current calendar year.
  (b) Updates.--The Secretary shall update the information on 
the website under subsection (a) not less frequently than once 
every seven days.

Sec. 5109E. Annual report on processing of claims

  (a) Annual Report.--The Secretary shall include in the annual 
report to Congress required under section 529 of this title 
information on the following:
          (1) The automatic processing of claims for 
        compensation.
          (2) The performance of any regional office that fails 
        to meet the administrative goals of the regional office 
        with respect to timeliness and accuracy in processing 
        claims for compensation.
          (3) The timeliness of receiving information pursuant 
        to a request by the Secretary to the head of another 
        department or agency of the United States for 
        information required by the Secretary in adjudicating a 
        claim for compensation under chapter 11 of this title.
  (b) Matters Included.--In carrying out subsection (a) to 
include information in the report required under section 529 of 
this title, the Secretary shall include the following:
          (1) With respect to the information required by 
        subsection (a)(1)--
                  (A) each medical condition for which claims 
                relating to such condition were processed in an 
                electronic automated fashion during the fiscal 
                year covered by the report;
                  (B) the feasibility of processing any 
                additional medical conditions in an electronic 
                automated fashion and any barriers to such 
                processing, including any such barriers 
                relating to the schedule for rating 
                disabilities under section 1155 of this title;
                  (C) the number of claims for compensation 
                relating to each medical condition submitted 
                during such fiscal year; and
                  (D) for each medical condition, the 
                percentage of claims denied and the percentage 
                of claims approved during such fiscal year.
          (2) With respect to the information required by 
        subsection (a)(2), in the case of any regional office 
        that, for the fiscal year covered by the report, did 
        not meet the administrative goal of having no claim 
        pending for more than 125 days and achieving an 
        accuracy rating of 98 percent--
                  (A) a signed statement prepared by the 
                individual serving as director of the regional 
                office as of the date of the submittal of the 
                report containing--
                          (i) an explanation for why the 
                        regional office did not meet the goal;
                          (ii) a description of the additional 
                        resources needed to enable the regional 
                        office to reach the goal; and
                          (iii) a description of any additional 
                        actions planned for the subsequent 
                        fiscal year that are proposed to enable 
                        the regional office to meet the goal; 
                        and
                  (B) a statement prepared by the Under 
                Secretary for Benefits explaining how the 
                failure of the regional office to meet the goal 
                affected the performance evaluation of the 
                director of the regional office.
          (3) With respect to the information required by 
        subsection (a)(3)--
                  (A) the number of requests described in such 
                paragraph made during the fiscal year covered 
                by the report; and
                  (B) the average response time for such 
                requests made during each month of such fiscal 
                year, as determined based on the period 
                beginning on the date on which the Secretary 
                made the request and ending on the date on 
                which the Secretary determines that the request 
                is completed.

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SUBCHAPTER III--PAYMENT OF BENEFITS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 5127. Bifurcated payments of compensation benefits

  (a) In General.--During the eight-year period beginning on 
the date of the enactment of this section, in the case of a 
claim described in subsection (b), prior to adjudicating the 
claim, the Secretary shall make payments of monetary benefits 
to the claimant based on any disability for which the Secretary 
has made a decision. Upon the adjudication of the claim, the 
Secretary shall pay to the claimant any monetary benefits 
awarded to the claimant for the period of payment under section 
5111 of this title less the amount of such benefits paid to the 
claimant under this section.
  (b) Claim Described.--A claim described in this subsection is 
a claim for disability compensation under chapter 11 of this 
title--
          (1) the adjudication of which requires the Secretary 
        to make decisions with respect to two or more 
        disabilities; and
          (2) for which, before completing the adjudication of 
        the claim, the Secretary makes a decision with respect 
        to a disability that would result in the payment of 
        monetary benefits to the claimant upon the adjudication 
        of the claim.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


CHAPTER 55--MINORS, INCOMPETENTS, AND OTHER WARDS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 5503. Hospitalized veterans and estates of incompetent 
                    institutionalized veterans

  (a) * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

  (d)(1) * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

  (7) This subsection expires on [November 30, 2016] September 
30, 2018.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

                              ----------                              


                     VETERANS BENEFITS ACT OF 2003



           *       *       *       *       *       *       *
TITLE VII--OTHER MATTERS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SEC. 704. TEMPORARY AUTHORITY FOR PERFORMANCE OF MEDICAL DISABILITIES 
                    EXAMINATIONS BY CONTRACT PHYSICIANS.

  (a) * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

  (c) Expiration.--The authority in subsection (a) shall expire 
on [December 31, 2013] December 31, 2016. No examination may be 
carried out under the authority provided in that subsection 
after that date.
  (d) Licensure of Contract Physicians.--
          (1) In general.--Notwithstanding any law regarding 
        the licensure of physicians, a physician described in 
        paragraph (2) may conduct an examination pursuant to a 
        contract entered into under subsection (b) at any 
        location in any State, the District of Columbia, or a 
        Commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United 
        States, so long as the examination is within the scope 
        of the authorized duties under such contract.
          (2) Physician described.--A physician described in 
        this paragraph is a physician who--
                  (A) has a current license to practice the 
                health care profession of the physician; and
                  (B) is performing authorized duties for the 
                Department of Veterans Affairs pursuant to a 
                contract entered into under subsection (b).
  [(d)] (e) Report.--Not later than four years after the date 
of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to 
Congress a report on the use of the authority provided in 
subsection (a). The Secretary shall include in the report an 
assessment of the effect of examinations under that authority 
on the cost, timeliness, and thoroughness of examinations with 
respect to the medical disabilities of applicants for benefits 
under laws administered by the Secretary.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

                              ----------                              


     SECTION 504 OF THE VETERANS' BENEFITS IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1996

SEC. 504. PILOT PROGRAM FOR USE OF CONTRACT PHYSICIANS FOR DISABILITY 
                    EXAMINATIONS.

  (a) * * *
  [(b) Limitation.--The Secretary may carry out the pilot 
program under this section through not more than 10 regional 
offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs.]
  (b) Locations.--
          (1) Number.--The Secretary may carry out the pilot 
        program under this section through not more than 15 
        regional offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
          (2) Selection.--The Secretary shall select the 
        regional offices under paragraph (1) by analyzing 
        appropriate data to determine the regional offices that 
        require support. Such appropriate data shall include--
                  (A) the number of backlogged claims;
                  (B) the total pending case workload;
                  (C) the length of time cases have been 
                pending;
                  (D) the accuracy of completed cases;
                  (E) the overall timeliness of completed 
                cases;
                  (F) the availability and workload of the 
                examination units and physicians of the medical 
                centers in the regional office; and
                  (G) any other data the Secretary determines 
                appropriate.
          (3) Annual analysis.--The Secretary shall carry out 
        the data analysis of the regional offices under 
        paragraph (2) during each year in which the program 
        under this section is carried out to determine the 
        regional offices selected under paragraph (1) for such 
        year.
  (c) Licensure of Contract Physicians.--
          (1) In general.--Notwithstanding any law regarding 
        the licensure of physicians, a physician described in 
        paragraph (2) may conduct an examination pursuant to a 
        contract entered into under subsection (a) at any 
        location in any State, the District of Columbia, or a 
        Commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United 
        States, so long as the examination is within the scope 
        of the authorized duties under such contract.
          (2) Physician described.--A physician described in 
        this paragraph is a physician who--
                  (A) has a current license to practice the 
                health care profession of the physician; and
                  (B) is performing authorized duties for the 
                Department of Veterans Affairs pursuant to a 
                contract entered into under subsection (a).
  [(c)] (d) Source of Funds.--Payments for contracts under the 
pilot program under this section shall be made from amounts 
available to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for payment of 
compensation and pensions.
  [(d)] (e) Report to Congress.--Not later than three years 
after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary 
shall submit to the Congress a report on the effect of the use 
of the authority provided by subsection (a) on the cost, 
timeliness, and thoroughness of medical disability 
examinations.
                              ----------                              


                      TITLE 36, UNITED STATES CODE



           *       *       *       *       *       *       *
SUBTITLE I--PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES AND CEREMONIES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


PART A--OBSERVANCES AND CEREMONIES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


             CHAPTER 1--PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES

Sec.
101. American Heart Month.
     * * * * * * *
145. Veterans Day.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 145. Veterans Day

  The President shall issue each year a proclamation calling on 
the people of the United States to observe two minutes of 
silence on Veterans Day in honor of the service and sacrifice 
of veterans throughout the history of the Nation, beginning 
at--
          (1) 3:11 p.m. Atlantic standard time;
          (2) 2:11 p.m. eastern standard time;
          (3) 1:11 p.m. central standard time;
          (4) 12:11 p.m. mountain standard time;
          (5) 11:11 a.m. Pacific standard time;
          (6) 10:11 a.m. Alaska standard time; and
          (7) 9:11 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian standard time.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *