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115th Congress   }                                     {        Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session     }                                     {       115-135

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



 
       VETERANS APPEALS IMPROVEMENT AND MODERNIZATION ACT OF 2017

                                _______
                                

  May 19, 2017.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

    Mr. Roe of Tennessee, from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 2288]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 2288) to amend title 38, United States Code, to 
reform the rights and processes relating to appeals of 
decisions regarding claims for benefits under the laws 
administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for 
other purposes, having considered the same, report favorably 
thereon without amendment and recommend that the bill do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Purpose and Summary..............................................     2
Background and Need for Legislation..............................     4
Hearings.........................................................     5
Subcommittee Consideration.......................................     6
Committee Consideration..........................................     6
Committee Votes..................................................     6
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     6
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............     6
New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures     6
Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits.............................     6
Committee Cost Estimate..........................................     7
Congressional Budget Office Estimate.............................     7
Federal Mandates Statement.......................................     9
Advisory Committee Statement.....................................     9
Constitutional Authority Statement...............................     9
Applicability to Legislative Branch..............................     9
Statement on Duplication of Federal Programs.....................     9
Disclosure of Directed Rulemaking................................     9
Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation...................    10
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill as Reported.............    14

                          Purpose and Summary

    H.R. 2288, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and 
Modernization Act of 2017, was introduced by Representative 
Mike Bost of Illinois on May 2, 2017. The purpose of H.R. 2288 
is to expedite VA's appeals process while protecting veterans' 
due process rights.
    Under H.R. 2288, a veteran who is dissatisfied with VA's 
decision on his or her claim for disability benefits would be 
able to appeal within one year of VA's decision. The bill gives 
veterans who file an appeal three procedural options:
          (1) Request a higher-level review by a regional 
        office (RO) in which the adjudicator would review the 
        same evidence considered by the original claims 
        processor. The veteran may request that a VA employee 
        located at another RO review the appeal, and the 
        Department may not deny such request without good 
        cause.
          (2) File a supplemental claim, which would allow the 
        veteran to submit new evidence to the RO and/or have a 
        hearing.
          (3) Transfer jurisdiction of the claim immediately to 
        the Board of Veterans' Appeals (Board). At the Board, 
        the veteran would have the opportunity to select an 
        expedited review, in which the veteran would not have a 
        hearing, but would be able to submit new evidence at 
        certain stages in the appeals process. Alternatively, 
        the veteran would have the option to submit new 
        evidence and request a Board hearing.
    The Board would maintain at least two dockets. One docket 
will be for cases in which the veteran waives a hearing and the 
ability to submit new evidence. A second docket will be for 
cases in which the veteran requests a hearing. The Board would 
have the flexibility to establish additional dockets, i.e., a 
docket for cases in which the veteran submits new evidence but 
waives a hearing. The Board would decide each case in regular 
order according to its respective place on the docket to which 
it is assigned. However, the Board may advance a case for 
earlier consideration if the veteran is seriously ill, is under 
severe financial hardship, or for other sufficient cause.
    H.R. 2288 provides that if a veteran disagrees with VA's 
determination with respect to a claim with multiple issues, the 
veteran would be allowed to appeal VA's determination on each 
issue separately. The bill also clarifies that VA may allow 
veterans who choose one appeals option, but subsequently 
determines that they would prefer to change to another option, 
to do so. For example, under the bill, if a veteran requested a 
hearing at the Board, but later decides that he or she does not 
want a hearing, VA has the authorization to develop policies 
that would allow such veterans to switch to the no hearing 
docket. However, H.R. 2288 does not mandate that VA allow 
veterans to switch from one option to another. It is expected 
that the Secretary will use their discretion to develop 
policies that are in the best interest of veterans.
    H.R. 2288 would allow a veteran to maintain the original 
effective date of their claim, regardless of the number of 
times the veteran appeals the decision, even if the veteran 
receives an adverse decision at the Court of Appeals for 
Veterans Claims (CAVC). However, to maintain the original 
effective date, veterans would be required to submit new and 
relevant evidence within a year of the most recent decision. 
New and relevant evidence is a change from the previous 
standard of new and material evidence; the intent behind the 
change is to lower the current burden. VBA and the Board would 
be required to notify the veteran if VA does not consider 
evidence that the veteran did not file timely. Such notice 
would also detail any options that may be available to the 
claimant for having VA consider such evidence.
    To streamline the process, VA's statutory duty to assist 
would terminate after VA issues the original rating decision. 
Nevertheless, if the Board or higher-level adjudicator 
discovers a duty to assist error that occurred in the rating 
decision, the claim would be sent back to the RO, unless the 
claim could be granted in full. If the claim is returned to the 
RO, the RO would have to correct any errors and readjudicate 
the claim. Additionally, H.R. 2288 would require VA to expedite 
appeals returned to the RO by a higher-level reviewer or the 
Board.
    Moreover, the bill would allow veterans to retain the 
services of attorneys and accredited agents who charge a fee 
when the agency of original jurisdiction (AOJ) provides notice 
of the original decision. Current law allows attorneys and 
accredited agent to charge a fee for services rendered after 
the veteran files a notice of disagreement.
    To help veterans better understand VA's decision on their 
claims, the bill includes a statutory requirement that VA issue 
detailed decision notification letters. Under the bill, a 
decision letter would include a summary of the evidence, a 
summary of applicable laws and regulations, an explanation of 
how the veteran may obtain a copy of the evidence used in 
making the decision, and VA's favorable findings, if any. If 
the veteran's claim is denied, the letter would also explain 
why the claim was denied, and describe the evidence VA would 
need to grant service connection or the next higher-level of 
compensation. The intent of this provision is to help better 
inform the veteran's decision regarding whether to appeal VA's 
rating decision.
    Additionally, H.R. 2288 would allow certain veterans who 
initiated an appeal prior to the bill's effective date to opt-
in to the modernized appeals system. To avoid overwhelming the 
new system, the bill limits the opt-in to claimants who receive 
a statement of the case (SOC) or a supplemental statement of 
the case (SSOC) after the effective date of the legislation. 
Claimants who receive their initial decision after the bill is 
enacted, but before the effective date of the law, may also be 
allowed to opt-in to the improved appeals system.
    To address concerns raised by the Government Accountability 
Office (GAO) with respect to VA's readiness to implement 
appeals reform,\1\ the bill would direct VA to provide a 
comprehensive plan for processing ``legacy appeals''\2\ and 
implementing the reform proposal to Congress and GAO within 90 
days after the date of enactment. GAO would then assess such 
plan and submit written findings and recommendations to 
Congress 90 days after receipt of the plan. Moreover, H.R. 2288 
would give VA the authority to test the new system prior to 
full implementation, including conducting a pilot program or 
phasing-in implementation. For example, the bill authorizes VA 
to establish a Fully Developed Appeals pilot program, but does 
not require VA to conduct such a pilot, otherwise perform 
testing of assumptions, or implement a phase-in for 
implementation.\3\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\U.S. Government Accountability Office, Additional Planning Would 
Enhance Efforts to Improve the Timeliness of Appeals Decisions (GAO-17-
234) (March 23, 2017).
    \2\Legacy appeals are those appeals that will be pending as of the 
effective date of H.R. 2288.
    \3\Fully Developed Appeals are appeals in which the veteran waives 
a hearing and does not submit additional evidence.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Before full implementation, the bill would mandate that the 
Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (Secretary), 
without delegation, certify and confirm that the Department has 
sufficient resources, personnel, office space, procedures, and 
information technology to carry out the new appeals system and 
process appeals under both the modernized system and the legacy 
system. Before making such certification, the bill would 
require VA, at a minimum, to collaborate, partner with, and 
give weight to the advice of the three veterans service 
organizations (VSOs) with the most members, and such other 
stakeholders as the Secretary considers appropriate. The VA is 
encouraged to go beyond the minimum requirement and continue to 
work will all the VSOs they have previously partnered with to 
ensure diverse opinions to inform the VA during planning and 
implementation. The VA is also encouraged to continue hosting 
in person meetings with the VSOs. The effective date of the 
bill would be the later of either 540 days after the date of 
enactment or 30 days after the Secretary's positive 
certification. Finally, the Secretary would be required to 
submit periodic reports to Congress for 10 years following 
implementation.
    The bill also contains specific reporting requirements on 
the VA to the Congressional Committees of jurisdiction to 
ensure proper oversight can be conducted and evaluations can be 
conducted on how the changes in law are affecting the current 
appeals backlog.

                  Background and Need for Legislation

    Under VA's disability compensation procedures, a veteran 
initiates a claim by filing an application for benefits with 
VA. The claim describes the current disabilities or symptoms of 
disabilities that the veteran believes were caused, or 
aggravated, by his or her military service. Filing a claim 
triggers VA's ``duty to assist'' and VA is required to help the 
veteran develop evidence (i.e. obtaining service treatment 
records, private medical records, military discharge documents, 
etc. . . .) to support the claim. VA may also schedule a 
medical examination for the veteran. After reviewing the 
evidence, VA issues a ``rating decision,'' which either grants 
or denies the claimed disabilities. If the application for 
benefits is granted, the rating decision assigns an evaluation 
of disability level of 0% to 100%, by 10% increments (i.e., 0%, 
10%, 20% . . .) based on criteria set forth in federal 
regulations; and, establishes an effective date, which is 
usually the date that the claim was submitted.
    If a veteran disagrees with VA's rating decision, he or she 
may file a notice of disagreement (NOD) with the regional 
office (RO). The RO will then review the rating decision and 
either revise or uphold the decision. The RO will also issue a 
statement of the case (SOC), which explains the new decision, 
provides a list of the evidence reviewed, and attaches a list 
of the laws and regulations applicable to the decision.
    A veteran who is dissatisfied with the SOC may file a 
substantive appeal, or VA Form 9, within 60 days from the 
issuance of the SOC. If a veteran chooses to file a substantive 
appeal, the RO subsequently certifies the claim and then send 
it to the Board of Veterans' Appeals (Board) for a de novo 
review.\4\ If the veteran disagrees with the Board decision, 
the veteran can file a Notice of Appeal (NOA) with the Court of 
Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). If the veteran does not 
appeal to the CAVC, the Board decision becomes final.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\A de novo review is a fresh look at the case.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Unfortunately, VA's current appeals process is broken. In 
the last few years, the quantity of undecided appeals at VA has 
risen significantly over the past few years. In January 2015, 
there were approximately 375,000 pending appeals at VA. This 
number increased to approximately 470,000 as of March 31, 
2017--a 20% increase in little more than 2 years.
    Furthermore, veterans currently wait an average three years 
for their appeal to be resolved at the RO level. Veterans who 
file an appeal with the Board wait an average five years for a 
final decision, inclusive of the time at both VBA and BVA. Even 
worse, VA projects that, if the current appeals process is not 
changed, claimants will wait an average ten years for a final 
appeals decision by the end of 2027.\5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\Gibson, Sloan P., Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans 
Affairs, Statement to the House of Representatives Committee on 
Veterans' Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial 
Affairs Hearing on June 24, 2015.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    To help ensure that veterans receive timely appeals 
decisions in the future, VA negotiated with VSOs and other 
veterans advocates to craft a proposal that would streamline 
VA's appeals process while protecting veterans' due process 
rights. The resulting appeals reform proposal was incorporated 
into H.R. 2288. The new appeals procedures created by this bill 
would reduce VA's appeals workload and help ensure that the 
process is both timely and fair.

                                Hearings

    There were no Subcommittee hearings on H.R. 2288.
    On May 2, 2017, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs 
conducted a legislative hearing on draft legislation entitled 
the ``Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act.'' 
Such draft legislation was revised and introduced as H.R. 2288.
    The following witnesses testified:
          Mr. David S. Spickler, Acting Vice Chairman, 
        Executive in Charge, Board of Veterans' Appeals, U.S. 
        Department of Veterans Affairs, accompanied by Mr. 
        David R. McLenachen, Director, Appeals Management 
        Office, Veterans Benefits Administration, U. S. 
        Department of Veterans Affairs; Mr. Louis J. Celli, 
        Jr., Director, National Veterans Affairs and 
        Rehabilitation Division, The American Legion; Mr. Jim 
        Marszalek, National Service Director, Disabled Veterans 
        of America; and, Mr. Ryan M. Gallucci, Director, 
        National Veterans Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars of 
        the United States.
    Statements for the record were submitted by:
          The Military Officers Association of America, the 
        National Association of State Directors of Veterans 
        Affairs, the National Organization of Veterans' 
        Advocates, the National Veterans Legal Services 
        Program, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Vietnam 
        Veterans of America, and Military-Veterans Advocacy 
        Inc.

                       Subcommittee Consideration

    H.R. 2288 was not considered before the Subcommittee.

                        Committee Consideration

    On May 17, 2017, the full Committee met in an open markup 
session, a quorum being present, and ordered H.R. 2288 reported 
favorably to the House of Representatives.

                            Committee Votes

    In compliance with clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, there were no recorded votes 
taken on amendments or in connection with ordering H.R. 2288 
reported to the House. A motion by Ranking Member Timothy J. 
Walz of Minnesota to report H.R. 2288 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 to provide the Department of Veterans 
Affairs the authority to change its current appeals process.

   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. 2288 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. 
2288 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. 2288 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, May 19, 2017.
Hon. Phil Roe, M.D.,
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. 2288, the Veterans 
Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Dwayne M. 
Wright.
            Sincerely,
                                                        Keith Hall.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 2288--Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017

    Summary: H.R. 2288 would modify the appeals process for 
benefit claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and 
would require several reports from VA and the Government 
Accountability Office (GAO). CBO estimates that implementing 
H.R. 2288 would cost about $2 million over the 2017-2022 
period; such spending would be subject to the availability of 
appropriated funds.
    Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or 
revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.
    CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2288 would not increase 
net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four 
consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.
    H.R. 2288 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal 
governments.
    Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated 
budgetary effect of H.R. 2288 is shown in the following table. 
The costs of this legislation fall within budget function 700 
(veterans benefits and services).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
                                             2017      2018      2019      2020      2021      2022    2017-2022
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                 INCREASES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION
 
Estimated Authorization Level............         0         1         *         *         *         *          2
Estimated Outlays........................         0         1         *         *         *         *          2
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: Annual amounts do not sum to total because of rounding; * = less than $500,000.

    Basis of estimate: For this estimate, CBO assumes that H.R. 
2288 will be enacted near the beginning of fiscal year 2018, 
that sufficient funds will be available each year, and that 
outlays will follow historical spending patterns for the 
affected programs.

Appeals reform

    Section 2 would direct VA to implement a new process to 
handle appeals of claims for veterans' benefits. As described 
below, the current system allows for repeated revisions and 
resubmissions of claims while maintaining an effective date for 
benefits based upon the original filing date of the claim. As a 
result, VA reports that under current law final decisions on 
appeals take an average of three years, with some appeals 
taking more than six years. The current backlog for appeals 
exceeds 470,000 claims and is growing.
    The proposed changes are intended to significantly 
streamline the appeal process, which would allow appeals to be 
finalized in a shorter period of time and require the efforts 
of fewer employees. VA reports that no additional personnel 
would be required for training, modifications to information 
technology, or outreach. VA also expects that the efficiencies 
of the new system would allow the agency to continue processing 
legacy appeals under the current system, very gradually 
reducing the existing backlog, without the need for additional 
employees. (Reducing the backlog in a more expedited manner 
would require more employees and would have a substantial 
cost.) Based on an analysis of information from VA and our 
understanding of the appeals process, CBO expects that VA could 
implement that change without an increase in workload. 
Therefore, CBO estimates that implementing section 2 would have 
no significant cost over the 2017-2022 period.

Comprehensive plan

    Section 3 would require VA to create a comprehensive plan 
to implement the new appeals process. That plan would include 
information about the existing process, including timeliness 
and the number of appeals, and would discuss how that 
information would differ under the new process. VA would be 
required to evaluate the potential costs for all facets of the 
new appeals process as well as to provide quarterly reports on 
VA's implementation of that process. The bill also would 
require GAO to conduct an assessment of VA's comprehensive 
plan. CBO estimates that implementing this provision would cost 
about $2 million to prepare the reports over the 2017-2022 
period.

Pilot program on fully developed appeals

    Section 4 would grant VA the authority to implement a pilot 
program for some appeals until the new appeals process could be 
implemented. VA indicates that it would not use this authority; 
therefore, CBO estimates that implementing section 4 would have 
no budgetary effects.

VA appeals data

    Section 5 would require VA to publish data monthly about 
the new appeals process on their website. CBO estimates that 
implementing section 5 would cost less than $500,000 over the 
2017-2022 period.
    Pay-As-You-Go considerations: None.
    Increase in long-term direct spending and deficits: CBO 
estimates that enacting H.R. 2288 would not increase net direct 
spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 
10-year periods beginning in 2028.
    Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: H.R. 2288 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in UMRA and would not affect the budgets of state, 
local, or tribal governments.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal costs: Dwayne M. Wright; 
Impact on state, local, and tribal governments: Leo Lex; impact 
on the private sector: Paige Piper/Bach.
    Estimate approved by: H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                       Federal Mandates Statement

    The Committee adopts as its own the estimate of Federal 
mandates regarding H.R. 2288 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. 
2288.

                   Constitutional Authority Statement

    Pursuant to Article I, section 8 of the United States 
Constitution, H.R. 2288 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 H.R. 2288 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 clause 3(c)(5) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee finds that no provision 
of H.R. 2288 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(i) of H. Res. 5, 115th Cong. (2017), 
the Committee estimates that H.R. 2288 contains no directed 
rule making that would require the Secretary to prescribe 
regulations.

             Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation


Sec. 1. Short title

    Section 1 would establish the short title of the Act.

Sec. 2. Reform of rights and processes relating to appeals of decisions 
        regarding claims for benefits under laws administered by 
        Secretary of Veterans Affairs

    Section 2 would:
    (a) Define ``Agency of Jurisdiction (AOJ),'' ``relevant 
evidence,'' and ``supplemental claim.''
    (b) Amend section 5103(a) to require the Secretary to 
provide notice of required information and evidence to 
claimants to submit a supplemental claim.
    (c) Specify that VA would not be required to readjudicate a 
disallowed claim unless a veteran submits new and relevant 
evidence.
    (d) Eliminate VA's duty to assist after the AOJ issues 
notice of the decision with respect to a claim or supplemental 
claim. However, clarifies that if a duty to assist error is 
discovered during the higher-level or Board review, unless the 
claim is granted in full, the claim shall be returned for 
correction of such error and readjudication.
    (e) Require that VA decision letters include certain 
information.
    (f) Establish that any finding favorable to the claimant 
shall be binding on all subsequent adjudicators, unless clear 
and convincing evidence rebuts such favorable finding.
    (g) Require VA to grant a claimant's written request for a 
review by a higher-level adjudicator within the same office 
within the RO or a different RO. Clarify that the Secretary may 
not deny a request for review by an adjudicator at a different 
RO without good cause. Require that VA notify a claimant if the 
Department did not consider submitted evidence when deciding 
the claimant's appeal and describe the claimant's option to 
have such evidence considered by the Department. Establish that 
the review of a decision by a higher-level adjudicator shall be 
de novo.
    (h) Establish that the claimant may file a request for a 
higher-level review, a supplemental claim, or a notice of 
disagreement within one year of a decision. However, a claimant 
may not take another action until such appeal is either 
adjudicated or withdrawn. Clarify that the claimant may take 
successive actions with respect to a claim. Clarify that the 
claimant may take different actions with respect to different 
claims. Establish that VA may allow claimants to withdraw a 
pending appeal before it is adjudicated and the claimant would 
then be able to take a different action. Clarify that in any 
case in which more than one year has passed in which the AOJ 
has issued a decision denying a claim, the claimant may file a 
supplemental claim. Clarify that nothing in this Act limits the 
claimant's option to request a revision of a decision based on 
Clear and Unmistakable Error.
    (i) Establish that VA would be required to readjudicate the 
claim if new and relevant evidence is presented or secured with 
respect to a supplemental claim.
    (j) Authorize the Board to remand a claim to the AOJ to 
obtain an advisory medical opinion from an independent medical 
expert if the Board finds that the AOJ should have exercised 
its discretion to obtain such an opinion. Require that the 
Board's remand instructions include questions to be posed to 
such independent medical expert.
    (k) Require the AOJ to provide expeditious treatment of any 
claim that is remanded by a higher-level adjudicator or the 
Board.
    (l) Establish the effective date of an award based on an 
initial claim or a supplemental claim is fixed in accordance 
with the facts found, but shall not be earlier than the date of 
receipt of application. Clarify that if a claimant continuously 
pursues a claim by filing an appeal within one year of a 
decision issued by the AOJ, Board, or the Court of Appeals for 
Veterans Claims, the application date shall be considered the 
date the claimant filed the initial claim.
    (m) Make a technical change.
    (n) Allow recognized agents or attorneys to charge a fee 
for services after the claimant is provided with notice of the 
AOJ's initial decision.
    (o) Make a technical change.
    (p) Make a technical change.
    (q) Establish that except in the case of simultaneously 
contested claims, a notice of disagreement (NOD) shall be filed 
within one year of the date the AOJ mailed the notice of the 
initial decision to the veteran. Clarify that the Board shall 
accept a NOD as timely filed if it is postmarked before the 
expiration of the one-year period following a decision of the 
AOJ. Clarify that the Board will decide any question as to 
timeliness or adequacy of the NOD. Establish that a NOD shall 
be in writing and include specific information. Clarify that a 
claimant may be represented by only one recognized 
organization, attorney, or agent at any one time. Authorize VA 
to develop a policy to permit a claimant to modify the 
information in the notice of disagreement after the veteran 
files such notice of disagreement. Establish that the Board may 
dismiss any appeal that fails to identify the specific 
determination with which the claimant disagrees. Clarify that 
if a veteran does not file a notice of disagreement within the 
prescribed period, the AOJ's decision becomes final.
    (r) Establish that the substance of the NOD shall be 
communicated to other party or parties in interest and allows 
such party of parties 30 days for filing a brief or argument in 
response. Specify that such notice shall be forwarded to the 
last known of record of the parties concerned and such action 
shall constitute sufficient evidence of notice.
    (s) Make a clerical amendment.
    (t) Require the Board to maintain at least two separate 
dockets. However, if the Board maintains more than two separate 
dockets, the Board must provide notice, including a 
justification for maintaining more than two dockets, to 
Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives 
and the Senate. Establish that the Board may assign such cases 
as the Board considers appropriate to each docket. Establish 
that the Board will decide each case in regular order according 
to its respective place on the docket. However, under certain 
circumstances, a case may be advanced for earlier consideration 
and determination. Clarify that a veteran requests a hearing, 
the Board will hold such hearing at its principal location or 
via videoconferencing, as requested by the appellant. Authorize 
the Board to screen cases for purposes of determining the 
adequacy of the record. Establish that VA may allow a claimant 
to move the case from one docket to another docket, however VA 
would not be required to do so. Require VA to submit a report 
describing the docket in which no hearing is requested but the 
appellant submits new evidence to the Committees on Veterans' 
Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
    (u) Repeal the Board's authority to request an independent 
medical opinion.
    (v) Establish that the Board may review decisions on the 
grounds of clear and unmistakable error (CUE) without referral 
to any adjudicative or hearing official.
    (w) Establish that in the docket for cases in which the 
veteran does not request a hearing before the Board, the notice 
of disagreement and the evidentiary record shall be limited to 
the evidence of record at the time of the decision of the AOJ, 
unless the claimant requested to submit evidence when filing 
the NOD. Establish that for cases in which the veteran requests 
a hearing, the evidentiary record before the Board shall be 
limited to the evidence of record at the time of the initial 
decision, except the Board shall consider evidence submitted by 
the appellant at the Board hearing and/or within 90 days 
following the Board hearing. Establish that the Board shall 
provide written notice to the appellant if the Board does not 
review evidence that the veteran did not submit timely; such 
written notice must include an explanation of options that may 
be available for having the evidence considered by VA.
    (x) Establish that the effective date is the later of 540 
days after the date of enactment of this act; or 30 days after 
the Secretary submits to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of 
the Senate and the House of Representatives a certification 
that the Secretary confirms, without delegation, that VA has 
the resources, personnel, office space, procedures, and 
information technology needed to carry out this Act and to 
timely address both legacy appeals and appeals processed under 
the modernized appeals system. Such certification shall include 
a description of the collaboration with the three largest 
veterans service organizations and any other stakeholders the 
Secretary deems appropriate in making such certification. 
Authorize VA to allow a certain claimants who have an appeal 
pending before the effective date of this Act to opt-in to the 
modernized appeals system. Authorize VA to phase-in 
implementation of the modernized appeals system. Require VA to 
publish in the Federal Register the date on which the 
modernized appeals system goes into effect.

Sec. 3. Comprehensive plan and reports for processing of legacy appeals 
        and implementing modernized appeals system

    Section 3 would:
    (a) Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of 
this Act, require VA to submit to the Committees on Veterans' 
Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the 
Comptroller General of the United States, a comprehensive plan 
for resolving pending legacy appeals; implementing the 
modernized appeals system; and, timely processing of appeals 
under the modernized appeals system.
    (b) Describe the elements of such report.
    (c) Require the Comptroller General of the United States to 
assess such plan and submit written findings and 
recommendations, as appropriate, to the Committees on Veterans' 
Affairs in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
    (d) Require VA to submit reports on a quarterly basis 
during the period beginning 90 days after the date on which the 
Secretary submits the comprehensive plan required under Section 
(3)(a), and on a semi-annual basis during the ten-year period 
following the date of implementation of this Act to the 
Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives 
and the Senate and to the Comptroller General.

Sec. 4. Programs to test assumptions relied on in development of 
        comprehensive plan for processing of legacy appeals and 
        supporting modernized appeals system

    Section 4 would:
    (a) Authorize VA to carry out pilot programs to test the 
modernized appeals system. Require VA to notify the Committees 
on Veterans' Affairs in the House of Representatives and the 
Senate if VA conducts such pilot program.
    (b)(1) If VA chooses to carry out a pilot program, 
authorize VA to carry out a pilot program to provide the option 
of an alternative appeals process that would more quickly 
resolve appeals.
    (b)(2) Authorize VA to carry out a pilot program that would 
allow a claimant to elect to file a fully developed appeal 
(FDA). Under such program, the claimant would be required to 
elect to file a FDA at the time the claimant files the NOD. At 
the time the claimant elects to file a FDA, the claimant would 
submit all evidence that the claimant believes is needed for 
the appeal as of the date of filing, and a statement of the 
argument in support of the claim, if any. VA must assess 
whether the FDA appeal satisfies the requirements for an appeal 
under this section and notify the claimant of the results of 
such assessment. The claimant may elect to revert to the 
standard appeals process at any time, but such reversion would 
be final. Furthermore, a claimant who is determined to be 
ineligible for the pilot program would revert to the standard 
appeals process without any penalty. During the period in which 
the pilot program is carried out, VA would be required to 
provide information to the claimant notice about the pilot 
program, including the advantages and disadvantages of such 
program, how to elect to participate in the pilot program, the 
limitation on the use of new evidence and development of 
information, and the ability of the claimant to seek advice 
from VSOs, attorneys, and claims agents. Finally, this Section 
would require VA to collaborate with and give weight to the 
advice of the three VSOs with the most members to stand up an 
online tutorial explaining the advantages and disadvantages of 
the pilot program.
    (b)(3) Transfer jurisdiction of the FDA directly to the 
Board. VA would not provide the claimant with a statement of 
the case or require the claimant to file a substantive appeal. 
Further, the bill would require the Board to: (1) maintain the 
FDA on a separate docket; (2) decide FDAs in the order 
received; (3) decide not more than one FDA for each four 
traditional appeals decided, though this ratio may be adjusted 
for fairness purposes beginning one year after the pilot 
program begins; and, (4) decide, to the extent practicable, 
each FDA within one year of a claimant's filing the NOD. The 
claimant may not submit any new evidence related to a FDA, 
unless the claimant reverts to the standard appeals process. If 
a claimant does submit or identify new evidence, such 
submission or identification would be deemed to be an election 
to make a reversion to the standard appeals process.
    If the Board determines that a FDA requires additional 
evidence, H.R. 2288 provides the Board with the authority to 
develop such evidence without remand to the AOJ. The Board 
would consider any new evidence developed by the Board in the 
first instance. Further, the Board must provide claimant and 
the representative of record, if any, with a copy of such newly 
developed evidence. Ninety days after the claimant received 
such newly developed evidence, the claimant may provide the 
Board with additional evidence, without requiring the claimant 
to make a reversion to the standard appeals process. The Board 
would be required to establish an office to develop evidence 
needed to decide a FDA. The AOJ would transfer employees who 
were responsible for processing claims remanded by the Board to 
positions within the office of the Board in a number the 
Secretary determines sufficient. The Board would be prohibited 
from providing hearings for FDAs.
    (b)(4) Establish that the Secretary shall carry out the 
pilot program during such period as the Secretary considers 
appropriate. This Section would apply only to FDAs that are 
filed during such period.
    (b)(5) Define the terms ``claimant,'' ``compensation,'' 
``fully developed appeal,'' and ``standard appeal.''

Sec. 5. Periodic publication of metrics relating to processing of 
        appeals by Department of Veterans Affairs

    Section 5 would require, on the first business day of the 
month, the Secretary to publish on certain information on VA's 
website regarding the processing of legacy appeals and appeals 
in the modernized appeals system

         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):

         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, and existing law in which no 
change is proposed is shown in roman):

                      TITLE 38, UNITED STATES CODE




           *       *       *       *       *       *       *
PART I--GENERAL PROVISIONS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                           CHAPTER 1--GENERAL


Sec. 101. Definitions

   For the purposes of this title--
  (1) The terms ``Secretary'' and ``Department'' mean the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Veterans 
Affairs, respectively.
  (2) The term ``veteran'' means a person who served in the 
active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged 
or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.
  (3) The term ``surviving spouse'' means (except for purposes 
of chapter 19 of this title) a person of the opposite sex who 
was the spouse of a veteran at the time of the veteran's death, 
and who lived with the veteran continuously from the date of 
marriage to the date of the veteran's death (except where there 
was a separation which was due to the misconduct of, or 
procured by, the veteran without the fault of the spouse) and 
who has not remarried or (in cases not involving remarriage) 
has not since the death of the veteran, and after September 19, 
1962, lived with another person and held himself or herself out 
openly to the public to be the spouse of such other person.
  (4)(A) The term ``child'' means (except for purposes of 
chapter 19 of this title (other than with respect to a child 
who is an insurable dependent under subparagraph (B) or (C) of 
section 1965(10) of such chapter)and section 8502(b) of this 
title) a person who is unmarried and--
          (i) who is under the age of eighteen years;
          (ii) who, before attaining the age of eighteen years, 
        became permanently incapable of self-support; or
          (iii) who, after attaining the age of eighteen years 
        and until completion of education or training (but not 
        after attaining the age of twenty-three years), is 
        pursuing a course of instruction at an approved 
        educational institution;
and who is a legitimate child, a legally adopted child, a 
stepchild who is a member of a veteran's household or was a 
member at the time of the veteran's death, or an illegitimate 
child but, as to the alleged father, only if acknowledged in 
writing signed by him, or if he has been judicially ordered to 
contribute to the child's support or has been, before his 
death, judicially decreed to be the father of such child, or if 
he is otherwise shown by evidence satisfactory to the Secretary 
to be the father of such child. A person shall be deemed, as of 
the date of death of a veteran, to be the legally adopted child 
of such veteran if such person was at the time of the veteran's 
death living in the veteran's household and was legally adopted 
by the veteran's surviving spouse before August 26, 1961, or 
within two years after the veteran's death; however, this 
sentence shall not apply if at the time of the veteran's death, 
such person was receiving regular contributions toward the 
person's support from some individual other than the veteran or 
the veteran's spouse, or from any public or private welfare 
organization which furnishes services or assistance for 
children. A person with respect to whom an interlocutory decree 
of adoption has been issued by an appropriate adoption 
authority shall be recognized thereafter as a legally adopted 
child, unless and until that decree is rescinded, if the child 
remains in the custody of the adopting parent or parents during 
the interlocutory period. A person who has been placed for 
adoption under an agreement entered into by the adopting parent 
or parents with any agency authorized under law to so act shall 
be recognized thereafter as a legally adopted child, unless and 
until such agreement is terminated, if the child remains in the 
custody of the adopting parent or parents during the period of 
placement for adoption under such agreement. A person described 
in clause (ii) of the first sentence of this subparagraph who 
was a member of a veteran's household at the time the person 
became 18 years of age and who is adopted by the veteran shall 
be recognized as a legally adopted child of the veteran 
regardless of the age of such person at the time of adoption.
  (B) For the purposes of subparagraph (A) of this paragraph, 
in the case of an adoption under the laws of any jurisdiction 
other than a State (as defined in section 101(20) of this title 
and including the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana 
Islands)--
          (i) a person residing outside any of the States shall 
        not be considered to be a legally adopted child of a 
        veteran during the lifetime of such veteran (including 
        for purposes of this subparagraph a Commonwealth Army 
        veteran or new Philippine Scout, as defined in section 
        3566 of this title) unless such person--
                  (I) was less than eighteen years of age at 
                the time of adoption;
                  (II) is receiving one-half or more of such 
                person's annual support from such veteran;
                  (III) is not in the custody of such person's 
                natural parent, unless such natural parent is 
                such veteran's spouse; and
                  (IV) is residing with such veteran (or in the 
                case of divorce following adoption, with the 
                divorced spouse who is also an adoptive or 
                natural parent) except for periods during which 
                such person is residing apart from such veteran 
                (or such divorced spouse) for purposes of full-
                time attendance at an educational institution 
                or during which such person or such veteran (or 
                such divorced spouse) is confined in a 
                hospital, nursing home, other health-care 
                facility, or other institution; and
          (ii) a person shall not be considered to have been a 
        legally adopted child of a veteran as of the date of 
        such veteran's death and thereafter unless--
                  (I) at any time within the one-year period 
                immediately preceding such veteran's death, 
                such veteran was entitled to and was receiving 
                a dependent's allowance or similar monetary 
                benefit under this title for such person; or
                  (II) for a period of at least one year prior 
                to such veteran's death, such person met the 
                requirements of clause (i) of this 
                subparagraph.
  (5) The term ``parent'' means (except for purposes of chapter 
19 of this title) a father, a mother, a father through 
adoption, a mother through adoption, or an individual who for a 
period of not less than one year stood in the relationship of a 
parent to a veteran at any time before the veteran's entry into 
active military, naval, or air service or if two persons stood 
in the relationship of a father or a mother for one year or 
more, the person who last stood in the relationship of father 
or mother before the veteran's last entry into active military, 
naval, or air service.
  (6) The term ``Spanish-American War'' (A) means the period 
beginning on April 21, 1898, and ending on July 4, 1902, (B) 
includes the Philippine Insurrection and the Boxer Rebellion, 
and (C) in the case of a veteran who served with the United 
States military forces engaged in hostilities in the Moro 
Province, means the period beginning on April 21, 1898, and 
ending on July 15, 1903.
  (7) The term ``World War I'' (A) means the period beginning 
on April 6, 1917, and ending on November 11, 1918, and (B) in 
the case of a veteran who served with the United States 
military forces in Russia, means the period beginning on April 
6, 1917, and ending on April 1, 1920.
  (8) The term ``World War II'' means (except for purposes of 
chapters 31 and 37 of this title) the period beginning on 
December 7, 1941, and ending on December 31, 1946.
  (9) The term ``Korean conflict'' means the period beginning 
on June 27, 1950, and ending on January 31, 1955.
  (10) The term ``Armed Forces'' means the United States Army, 
Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, including the 
reserve components thereof.
  (11) The term ``period of war'' means the Spanish-American 
War, the Mexican border period, World War I, World War II, the 
Korean conflict, the Vietnam era, the Persian Gulf War, and the 
period beginning on the date of any future declaration of war 
by the Congress and ending on the date prescribed by 
Presidential proclamation or concurrent resolution of the 
Congress.
  (12) The term ``veteran of any war'' means any veteran who 
served in the active military, naval, or air service during a 
period of war.
  (13) The term ``compensation'' means a monthly payment made 
by the Secretary to a veteran because of service-connected 
disability, or to a surviving spouse, child, or parent of a 
veteran because of the service-connected death of the veteran 
occurring before January 1, 1957.
  (14) The term ``dependency and indemnity compensation'' means 
a monthly payment made by the Secretary to a surviving spouse, 
child, or parent (A) because of a service-connected death 
occurring after December 31, 1956, or (B) pursuant to the 
election of a surviving spouse, child, or parent, in the case 
of such a death occurring before January 1, 1957.
  (15) The term ``pension'' means a monthly or other periodic 
payment made by the Secretary to a veteran because of service, 
age, or non-service-connected disability, or to a surviving 
spouse or child of a veteran because of the non-service-
connected death of the veteran.
  (16) The term ``service-connected'' means, with respect to 
disability or death, that such disability was incurred or 
aggravated, or that the death resulted from a disability 
incurred or aggravated, in line of duty in the active military, 
naval, or air service.
  (17) The term ``non-service-connected'' means, with respect 
to disability or death, that such disability was not incurred 
or aggravated, or that the death did not result from a 
disability incurred or aggravated, in line of duty in the 
active military, naval, or air service.
  (18) The term ``discharge or release'' includes (A) 
retirement from the active military, naval, or air service, and 
(B) the satisfactory completion of the period of active 
military, naval, or air service for which a person was 
obligated at the time of entry into such service in the case of 
a person who, due to enlistment or reenlistment, was not 
awarded a discharge or release from such period of service at 
the time of such completion thereof and who, at such time, 
would otherwise have been eligible for the award of a discharge 
or release under conditions other than dishonorable.
  (19) The term ``State home'' means a home established by a 
State (other than a possession) for veterans disabled by age, 
disease, or otherwise who by reason of such disability are 
incapable of earning a living. Such term also includes such a 
home which furnishes nursing home care for veterans.
  (20) The term ``State'' means each of the several States, 
Territories, and possessions of the United States, the District 
of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. For the 
purpose of section 2303 and chapters 34 and 35 of this title, 
such term also includes the Canal Zone.
  (21) The term ``active duty'' means--
          (A) full-time duty in the Armed Forces, other than 
        active duty for training;
          (B) full-time duty (other than for training purposes) 
        as a commissioned officer of the Regular or Reserve 
        Corps of the Public Health Service (i) on or after July 
        29, 1945, or (ii) before that date under circumstances 
        affording entitlement to ``full military benefits'' or 
        (iii) at any time, for the purposes of chapter 13 of 
        this title;
          (C) full-time duty as a commissioned officer of the 
        National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or its 
        predecessor organization the Coast and Geodetic Survey 
        (i) on or after July 29, 1945, or (ii) before that date 
        (I) while on transfer to one of the Armed Forces, or 
        (II) while, in time of war or national emergency 
        declared by the President, assigned to duty on a 
        project for one of the Armed Forces in an area 
        determined by the Secretary of Defense to be of 
        immediate military hazard, or (III) in the Philippine 
        Islands on December 7, 1941, and continuously in such 
        islands thereafter, or (iii) at any time, for the 
        purposes of chapter 13 of this title;
          (D) service as a cadet at the United States Military, 
        Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy, or as a midshipman 
        at the United States Naval Academy; and
          (E) authorized travel to or from such duty or 
        service.
  (22) The term ``active duty for training'' means--
          (A) full-time duty in the Armed Forces performed by 
        Reserves for training purposes;
          (B) full-time duty for training purposes performed as 
        a commissioned officer of the Reserve Corps of the 
        Public Health Service (i) on or after July 29, 1945, or 
        (ii) before that date under circumstances affording 
        entitlement to ``full military benefits'', or (iii) at 
        any time, for the purposes of chapter 13 of this title;
          (C) in the case of members of the Army National Guard 
        or Air National Guard of any State, full-time duty 
        under section 316, 502, 503, 504, or 505 of title 32, 
        or the prior corresponding provisions of law;
          (D) duty performed by a member of a Senior Reserve 
        Officers' Training Corps program when ordered to such 
        duty for the purpose of training or a practice cruise 
        under chapter 103 of title 10 for a period of not less 
        than four weeks and which must be completed by the 
        member before the member is commissioned; and
          (E) authorized travel to or from such duty.
The term does not include duty performed as a temporary member 
of the Coast Guard Reserve.
  (23) The term ``inactive duty training'' means--
          (A) duty (other than full-time duty) prescribed for 
        Reserves (including commissioned officers of the 
        Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service) by the 
        Secretary concerned under section 206 of title 37 or 
        any other provision of law;
          (B) special additional duties authorized for Reserves 
        (including commissioned officers of the Reserve Corps 
        of the Public Health Service) by an authority 
        designated by the Secretary concerned and performed by 
        them on a voluntary basis in connection with the 
        prescribed training or maintenance activities of the 
        units to which they are assigned; and
          (C) training (other than active duty for training) by 
        a member of, or applicant for membership (as defined in 
        section 8140(g) of title 5) in, the Senior Reserve 
        Officers' Training Corps prescribed under chapter 103 
        of title 10.
In the case of a member of the Army National Guard or Air 
National Guard of any State, such term means duty (other than 
full-time duty) under sections 316, 502, 503, 504, or 505 of 
title 32, or the prior corresponding provisions of law. Such 
term does not include (i) work or study performed in connection 
with correspondence courses, (ii) attendance at an educational 
institution in an inactive status, or (iii) duty performed as a 
temporary member of the Coast Guard Reserve.
  (24) The term ``active military, naval, or air service'' 
includes--
          (A) active duty;
          (B) any period of active duty for training during 
        which the individual concerned was disabled or died 
        from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in line 
        of duty; and
          (C) any period of inactive duty training during which 
        the individual concerned was disabled or died--
                  (i) from an injury incurred or aggravated in 
                line of duty; or
                  (ii) from an acute myocardial infarction, a 
                cardiac arrest, or a cerebrovascular accident 
                occurring during such training.
  (25) The term ``Secretary concerned'' means--
          (A) the Secretary of the Army, with respect to 
        matters concerning the Army;
          (B) the Secretary of the Navy, with respect to 
        matters concerning the Navy or the Marine Corps;
          (C) the Secretary of the Air Force, with respect to 
        matters concerning the Air Force;
          (D) the Secretary of Homeland Security, with respect 
        to matters concerning the Coast Guard;
          (E) the Secretary of Health and Human Services, with 
        respect to matters concerning the Public Health 
        Service; and
          (F) the Secretary of Commerce, with respect to 
        matters concerning the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
        Administration or its predecessor organization the 
        Coast and Geodetic Survey.
  (26) The term ``Reserve'' means a member of a reserve 
component of one of the Armed Forces.
  (27) The term ``reserve component'' means, with respect to 
the Armed Forces--
          (A) the Army Reserve;
          (B) the Navy Reserve;
          (C) the Marine Corps Reserve;
          (D) the Air Force Reserve;
          (E) the Coast Guard Reserve;
          (F) the Army National Guard of the United States; and
          (G) the Air National Guard of the United States.
  (28) The term ``nursing home care'' means the accommodation 
of convalescents or other persons who are not acutely ill and 
not in need of hospital care, but who require nursing care and 
related medical services, if such nursing care and medical 
services are prescribed by, or are performed under the general 
direction of, persons duly licensed to provide such care. Such 
term includes services furnished in skilled nursing care 
facilities, in intermediate care facilities, and in combined 
facilities. It does not include domiciliary care.
  (29) The term ``Vietnam era'' means the following:
          (A) The period beginning on February 28, 1961, and 
        ending on May 7, 1975, in the case of a veteran who 
        served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period.
          (B) The period beginning on August 5, 1964, and 
        ending on May 7, 1975, in all other cases.
  (30) The term ``Mexican border period'' means the period 
beginning on May 9, 1916, and ending on April 5, 1917, in the 
case of a veteran who during such period served in Mexico, on 
the borders thereof, or in the waters adjacent thereto.
  (31) The term ``spouse'' means a person of the opposite sex 
who is a wife or husband.
  (32) The term ``former prisoner of war'' means a person who, 
while serving in the active military, naval or air service, was 
forcibly detained or interned in line of duty--
          (A) by an enemy government or its agents, or a 
        hostile force, during a period of war; or
          (B) by a foreign government or its agents, or a 
        hostile force, under circumstances which the Secretary 
        finds to have been comparable to the circumstances 
        under which persons have generally been forcibly 
        detained or interned by enemy governments during 
        periods of war.
  (33) The term ``Persian Gulf War'' means the period beginning 
on August 2, 1990, and ending on the date thereafter prescribed 
by Presidential proclamation or by law.
  (34) The term ``agency of original jurisdiction'' means the 
activity which entered the original determination with regard 
to a claim for benefits under laws administered by the 
Secretary.
  (35) The term ``relevant evidence'' means evidence that tends 
to prove or disprove a matter in issue.
  (36) The term ``supplemental claim'' means any claim for 
benefits under laws administered by the Secretary filed by a 
claimant who had previously filed a claim for the same or 
similar benefits on the same or similar basis.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


PART IV--GENERAL ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


           CHAPTER 51--CLAIMS, EFFECTIVE DATES, AND PAYMENTS

                          SUBCHAPTER I--CLAIMS

Sec.
5100. Definition of ``claimant''.
     * * * * * * *
5104A. Binding nature of favorable findings.
5104B. Higher-level review by the agency of original jurisdiction.
5104C. Options following decision by agency of original jurisdiction.
     * * * * * * *
[5108. Reopening disallowed claims.]
5108. Supplemental claims.

SUBCHAPTER I--CLAIMS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 5103. Notice to claimants of required information and evidence

  (a) Required Information and Evidence.--(1) [The] Except as 
provided in paragraph (3), the Secretary shall provide to the 
claimant and the claimant's representative, if any, by the most 
effective means available, including electronic communication 
or notification in writing, notice of any information, and any 
medical or lay evidence, not previously provided to the 
Secretary that is necessary to substantiate the claim. As part 
of that notice, the Secretary shall indicate which portion of 
that information and evidence, if any, is to be provided by the 
claimant and which portion, if any, the Secretary, in 
accordance with section 5103A of this title and any other 
applicable provisions of law, will attempt to obtain on behalf 
of the claimant.
  (2)(A) The Secretary shall prescribe in regulations 
requirements relating to the contents of notice to be provided 
under this subsection.
  (B) The regulations required by this paragraph--
          (i) shall specify different contents for notice based 
        on whether the claim concerned is an original claim[, a 
        claim for reopening a prior decision on a claim, or a 
        claim for an increase in benefits;] or a supplemental 
        claim;
          (ii) shall provide that the contents for such notice 
        be appropriate to the type of benefits or services 
        sought under the claim;
          (iii) shall specify for each type of claim for 
        benefits the general information and evidence required 
        to substantiate the basic elements of such type of 
        claim; and
          (iv) shall specify the time period limitations 
        required pursuant to subsection (b).
  (3) The requirement to provide notice under paragraph (1) 
shall not apply with respect to a supplemental claim that is 
filed within the timeframe set forth in subparagraphs (B) and 
(D) of section 5110(a)(2) of this title.
  (b) Time Limitation.--(1) In the case of information or 
evidence that the claimant is notified under subsection (a) is 
to be provided by the claimant, such information or evidence 
must be received by the Secretary within one year from the date 
such notice is sent.
  (2) This subsection shall not apply to any application or 
claim for Government life insurance benefits.
  (3) Nothing in paragraph (1) shall be construed to prohibit 
the Secretary from making a decision on a claim before the 
expiration of the period referred to in that subsection.
  (4) Nothing in this section shall require the Secretary to 
provide notice for a subsequent claim that is filed while a 
previous claim is pending if the notice previously provided for 
such pending claim--
          (A) provides sufficient notice of the information and 
        evidence necessary to substantiate such subsequent 
        claim; and
          (B) was sent within one year of the date on which the 
        subsequent claim was filed.
  (5)(A) This section shall not apply to any claim or issue 
where the Secretary may award the maximum benefit in accordance 
with this title based on the evidence of record.
  (B) For purposes of this paragraph, the term ``maximum 
benefit'' means the highest evaluation assignable in accordance 
with the evidence of record, as long as such evidence is 
adequate for rating purposes and sufficient to grant the 
earliest possible effective date in accordance with section 
5110 of this title.

Sec. 5103A. Duty to assist claimants

  (a) Duty To Assist.--(1) The Secretary shall make reasonable 
efforts to assist a claimant in obtaining evidence necessary to 
substantiate the claimant's claim for a benefit under a law 
administered by the Secretary.
  (2) The Secretary is not required to provide assistance to a 
claimant under this section if no reasonable possibility exists 
that such assistance would aid in substantiating the claim.
  (3) The Secretary may defer providing assistance under this 
section pending the submission by the claimant of essential 
information missing from the claimant's application.
  (b) Assistance in Obtaining Private Records.--(1) As part of 
the assistance provided under subsection (a), the Secretary 
shall make reasonable efforts to obtain relevant private 
records that the claimant adequately identifies to the 
Secretary.
  (2)(A) Whenever the Secretary, after making such reasonable 
efforts, is unable to obtain all of the relevant records 
sought, the Secretary shall notify the claimant that the 
Secretary is unable to obtain records with respect to the 
claim. Such a notification shall--
          (i) identify the records the Secretary is unable to 
        obtain;
          (ii) briefly explain the efforts that the Secretary 
        made to obtain such records; and
          (iii) explain that the Secretary will decide the 
        claim based on the evidence of record but that this 
        section does not prohibit the submission of records at 
        a later date if such submission is otherwise allowed.
  (B) The Secretary shall make not less than two requests to a 
custodian of a private record in order for an effort to obtain 
relevant private records to be treated as reasonable under this 
section, unless it is made evident by the first request that a 
second request would be futile in obtaining such records.
  (3)(A) This section shall not apply if the evidence of record 
allows for the Secretary to award the maximum benefit in 
accordance with this title based on the evidence of record.
  (B) For purposes of this paragraph, the term ``maximum 
benefit'' means the highest evaluation assignable in accordance 
with the evidence of record, as long as such evidence is 
adequate for rating purposes and sufficient to grant the 
earliest possible effective date in accordance with section 
5110 of this title.
  (4) Under regulations prescribed by the Secretary, the 
Secretary--
          (A) shall encourage claimants to submit relevant 
        private medical records of the claimant to the 
        Secretary if such submission does not burden the 
        claimant; and
          (B) in obtaining relevant private records under 
        paragraph (1), may require the claimant to authorize 
        the Secretary to obtain such records if such 
        authorization is required to comply with Federal, 
        State, or local law.
  (c) Obtaining Records for Compensation Claims.--(1) In the 
case of a claim for disability compensation, the assistance 
provided by the Secretary under this section shall include 
obtaining the following records if relevant to the claim:
          (A) The claimant's service medical records and, if 
        the claimant has furnished the Secretary information 
        sufficient to locate such records, other relevant 
        records pertaining to the claimant's active military, 
        naval, or air service that are held or maintained by a 
        governmental entity.
          (B) Records of relevant medical treatment or 
        examination of the claimant at Department health-care 
        facilities or at the expense of the Department, if the 
        claimant furnishes information sufficient to locate 
        those records.
          (C) Any other relevant records held by any Federal 
        department or agency that the claimant adequately 
        identifies and authorizes the Secretary to obtain.
  (2) Whenever the Secretary attempts to obtain records from a 
Federal department or agency under this subsection, the efforts 
to obtain those records shall continue until the records are 
obtained unless it is reasonably certain that such records do 
not exist or that further efforts to obtain those records would 
be futile.
  (d) Medical Examinations for Compensation Claims.--(1) In the 
case of a claim for disability compensation, the assistance 
provided by the Secretary under subsection (a) shall include 
providing a medical examination or obtaining a medical opinion 
when such an examination or opinion is necessary to make a 
decision on the claim.
  (2) The Secretary shall treat an examination or opinion as 
being necessary to make a decision on a claim for purposes of 
paragraph (1) if the evidence of record before the Secretary, 
taking into consideration all information and lay or medical 
evidence (including statements of the claimant)--
          (A) contains competent evidence that the claimant has 
        a current disability, or persistent or recurrent 
        symptoms of disability; and
          (B) indicates that the disability or symptoms may be 
        associated with the claimant's active military, naval, 
        or air service; but
          (C) does not contain sufficient medical evidence for 
        the Secretary to make a decision on the claim.
  (e) Applicability of Duty To Assist.--(1) The Secretary's 
duty to assist under this section shall apply only to a claim, 
or supplemental claim, for a benefit under a law administered 
by the Secretary until the time that a claimant is provided 
notice of the agency of original jurisdiction's decision with 
respect to such claim, or supplemental claim, under section 
5104 of this title.
  (2) The Secretary's duty to assist under this section shall 
not apply to higher-level review by the agency of original 
jurisdiction, pursuant to section 5104B of this title, or to 
review on appeal by the Board of Veterans' Appeals.
  (f) Correction of Duty To Assist Errors.--(1) If, during 
review of the agency of original jurisdiction decision under 
section 5104B of this title, the higher-level adjudicator 
identifies or learns of an error on the part of the agency of 
original jurisdiction to satisfy its duties under this section, 
and that error occurred prior to the agency of original 
jurisdiction decision being reviewed, unless the claim can be 
granted in full, the higher-level adjudicator shall return the 
claim for correction of such error and readjudication.
  (2)(A) If the Board of Veterans' Appeals, during review on 
appeal of an agency of original jurisdiction decision, 
identifies or learns of an error on the part of the agency of 
original jurisdiction to satisfy its duties under this section, 
and that error occurred prior to the agency of original 
jurisdiction decision on appeal, unless the claim can be 
granted in full, the Board shall remand the claim to the agency 
of original jurisdiction for correction of such error and 
readjudication.
  (B) Remand for correction of such error may include directing 
the agency of original jurisdiction to obtain an advisory 
medical opinion under section 5109 of this title.
  (3) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to imply 
that the Secretary, during the consideration of a claim, does 
not have a duty to correct an error described in paragraph (1) 
or (2) that was erroneously not identified during higher-level 
review or during review on appeal with respect to the claim.
  [(e)] (g) Regulations.--The Secretary shall prescribe 
regulations to carry out this section.
  [(f)] (h) Rule With Respect to Disallowed Claims.--Nothing in 
this section shall be construed to require the Secretary to 
[reopen] readjudicate a claim that has been disallowed except 
when new and [material] relevant evidence is presented or 
secured, as described in section 5108 of this title.
  [(g)] (i) Other Assistance Not Precluded.--Nothing in this 
section shall be construed as precluding the Secretary from 
providing such other assistance under subsection (a) to a 
claimant in substantiating a claim as the Secretary considers 
appropriate.

Sec. 5104. Decisions and notices of decisions

  (a) In the case of a decision by the Secretary under section 
511 of this title affecting the provision of benefits to a 
claimant, the Secretary shall, on a timely basis, provide to 
the claimant (and to the claimant's representative) notice of 
such decision. The notice shall include an explanation of the 
procedure for obtaining review of the decision.
  [(b) In any case where the Secretary denies a benefit sought, 
the notice required by subsection (a) shall also include (1) a 
statement of the reasons for the decision, and (2) a summary of 
the evidence considered by the Secretary.]
  (b) Each notice provided under subsection (a) shall also 
include all of the following:
          (1) Identification of the issues adjudicated.
          (2) A summary of the evidence considered by the 
        Secretary.
          (3) A summary of the applicable laws and regulations.
          (4) Identification of findings favorable to the 
        claimant.
          (5) In the case of a denial of a claim, 
        identification of elements not satisfied leading to the 
        denial.
          (6) An explanation of how to obtain or access 
        evidence used in making the decision.
          (7) If applicable, identification of the criteria 
        that must be satisfied to grant service connection or 
        the next higher level of compensation.

Sec. 5104A. Binding nature of favorable findings

  Any finding favorable to the claimant as described in section 
5104(b)(4) of this title shall be binding on all subsequent 
adjudicators within the Department, unless clear and convincing 
evidence is shown to the contrary to rebut such favorable 
finding.

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

  (a) In General.--(1) A claimant may request a review of the 
decision of the agency of original jurisdiction by a higher-
level adjudicator within the agency of original jurisdiction.
  (2) The Secretary shall approve each request for review under 
paragraph (1).
  (b) Time and Manner of Request.--(1) A request for higher-
level review by the agency of original jurisdiction shall be--
          (A) in writing in such form as the Secretary may 
        prescribe; and
          (B) made within one year of the notice of the agency 
        of original jurisdiction's decision.
  (2) Such request may specifically indicate whether such 
review is requested by a higher-level adjudicator at the same 
office within the agency of original jurisdiction or by an 
adjudicator at a different office of the agency of original 
jurisdiction. The Secretary shall not deny such a request for 
review by an adjudicator at a different office of the agency of 
original jurisdiction without good cause.
  (c) Decision.--Notice of a higher-level review decision under 
this section shall be provided in writing and shall include a 
general statement--
          (1) reflecting whether evidence was not considered 
        pursuant to subsection (d); and
          (2) noting the options available to the claimant to 
        have the evidence described in paragraph (1), if any, 
        considered by the Department.
  (d) Evidentiary Record for Review.--The evidentiary record 
before the higher-level adjudicator shall be limited to the 
evidence of record in the agency of original jurisdiction 
decision being reviewed.
  (e) De Novo Review.--A review of the decision of the agency 
of original jurisdiction by a higher-level adjudicator within 
the agency of original jurisdiction shall be de novo.

Sec. 5104C. Options following decision by agency of original 
                    jurisdiction

  (a) Within One Year of Decision.--(1) Subject to paragraph 
(2), in any case in which the Secretary renders a decision on a 
claim, the claimant may take any of the following actions on or 
before the date that is one year after the date on which the 
agency of original jurisdiction issues a decision with respect 
to that claim:
          (A) File a request for higher-level review under 
        section 5104B of this title.
          (B) File a supplemental claim under section 5108 of 
        this title.
          (C) File a notice of disagreement under section 7105 
        of this title.
  (2)(A) Once a claimant takes an action set forth in paragraph 
(1), the claimant may not take another action set forth in that 
paragraph with respect to such claim until--
          (i) the higher-level review, supplemental claim, or 
        notice of disagreement is adjudicated; or
          (ii) the request for higher-level review, 
        supplemental claim, or notice of disagreement is 
        withdrawn.
  (B) Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a claimant from 
taking any of the actions set forth in paragraph (1) in 
succession with respect to a claim.
  (C) Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a claimant from 
taking different actions set forth in paragraph (1) with 
respect to different claims.
  (D) The Secretary may, as the Secretary considers 
appropriate, develop and implement a policy for claimants who--
          (i) take an action under paragraph (1);
          (ii) wish to withdraw the action before the higher-
        level review, supplemental claim, or notice of 
        disagreement is adjudicated; and
          (iii) in lieu of such action take a different action 
        under paragraph (1).
  (b) More Than One Year After Decision.--In any case in which 
the Secretary renders a decision on a claim and more than one 
year has passed since the date on which the agency of original 
jurisdiction issues a decision with respect to that claim, the 
claimant may file a supplemental claim under section 5108 of 
this title.
  (c) BVA and CAVC.--Nothing in subsection (a) or (b) may be 
construed to limit the options available to a claimant pursuant 
to chapters 71 or 72 of this title.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


[Sec. 5108. Reopening disallowed claims

  [If new and material evidence is presented or secured with 
respect to a claim which has been disallowed, the Secretary 
shall reopen the claim and review the former disposition of the 
claim.]

Sec. 5108. Supplemental claims

  If new and relevant evidence is presented or secured with 
respect to a supplemental claim, the Secretary shall 
readjudicate the claim taking into consideration any evidence 
added to the record prior to the former disposition of the 
claim.

Sec. 5109. Independent medical opinions

  (a) When, in the judgment of the Secretary, expert medical 
opinion, in addition to that available within the Department, 
is warranted by the medical complexity or controversy involved 
in a case being considered by the Department, the Secretary may 
secure an advisory medical opinion from one or more independent 
medical experts who are not employees of the Department.
  (b) The Secretary shall make necessary arrangements with 
recognized medical schools, universities, or clinics to furnish 
such advisory medical opinions. Any such arrangement shall 
provide that the actual selection of the expert or experts to 
give the advisory opinion in an individual case shall be made 
by an appropriate official of such institution.
  (c) The Secretary shall furnish a claimant with notice that 
an advisory medical opinion has been requested under this 
section with respect to the claimant's case and shall furnish 
the claimant with a copy of such opinion when it is received by 
the Secretary.
  (d)(1) The Board of Veterans' Appeals shall remand a claim to 
direct the agency of original jurisdiction to obtain an 
advisory medical opinion from an independent medical expert 
under this section if the Board finds that the Veterans 
Benefits Administration should have exercised its discretion to 
obtain such an opinion.
  (2) The Board's remand instructions shall include the 
questions to be posed to the independent medical expert 
providing the advisory medical opinion.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


[Sec. 5109B. Expedited treatment of remanded claims

  [The Secretary shall take such actions as may be necessary to 
provide for the expeditious treatment by the appropriate 
regional office of the Veterans Benefits Administration of any 
claim that is remanded to a regional office of the Veterans 
Benefits Administration by the Board of Veterans' Appeals.]

Sec. 5109B. Expedited treatment of remanded claims

  The Secretary shall take such actions as may be necessary to 
provide for the expeditious treatment by the Veterans Benefits 
Administration of any claim that is returned by a higher level 
adjudicator under section 5104B of this title or remanded by 
the Board of Veterans' Appeals.

                     SUBCHAPTER II--EFFECTIVE DATES

Sec. 5110. Effective dates of awards

  [(a) Unless specifically provided otherwise in this chapter, 
the effective date of an award based on an original claim, a 
claim reopened after final adjudication, or a claim for 
increase, of compensation, dependency and indemnity 
compensation, or pension, shall be fixed in accordance with the 
facts found, but shall not be earlier than the date of receipt 
of application therefor.]
  (a)(1) Unless specifically provided otherwise in this 
chapter, the effective date of an award based on an initial 
claim, or a supplemental claim, of compensation, dependency and 
indemnity compensation, or pension, shall be fixed in 
accordance with the facts found, but shall not be earlier than 
the date of receipt of application therefor.
  (2) For purposes of determining the effective date of an 
award under this section, the date of application shall be 
considered the date of the filing of the initial application 
for a benefit if the claim is continuously pursued by filing 
any of the following, either alone or in succession:
          (A) A request for higher-level review under section 
        5104B of this title on or before the date that is one 
        year after the date on which the agency of original 
        jurisdiction issues a decision.
          (B) A supplemental claim under section 5108 of this 
        title on or before the date that is one year after the 
        date on which the agency of original jurisdiction 
        issues a decision.
          (C) A notice of disagreement on or before the date 
        that is one year after the date on which the agency of 
        original jurisdiction issues a decision.
          (D) A supplemental claim under section 5108 of this 
        title on or before the date that is one year after the 
        date on which the Board of Veterans' Appeals issues a 
        decision.
          (E) A supplemental claim under section 5108 of this 
        title on or before the date that is one year after the 
        date on which the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims 
        issues a decision.
  (3) Except as otherwise provided in this section, for 
supplemental claims received more than one year after the date 
on which the agency of original jurisdiction issued a decision 
or the Board of Veterans' Appeals issued a decision, the 
effective date shall be fixed in accordance with the facts 
found, but shall not be earlier than the date of receipt of the 
supplemental claim.
  (b)(1) The effective date of an award of disability 
compensation to a veteran shall be the day following the date 
of the veteran's discharge or release if application therefor 
is received within one year from such date of discharge or 
release.
  (2)(A) The effective date of an award of disability 
compensation to a veteran who submits an application therefor 
that sets forth an original claim that is fully-developed (as 
determined by the Secretary) as of the date of submittal shall 
be fixed in accordance with the facts found, but shall not be 
earlier than the date that is one year before the date of 
receipt of the application.
  (B) For purposes of this paragraph, an original claim is an 
initial claim filed by a veteran for disability compensation.
  (C) This paragraph shall take effect on the date that is one 
year after the date of the enactment of the Honoring America's 
Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 and 
shall not apply with respect to claims filed after the date 
that is three years after the date of the enactment of such 
Act.
  (3) The effective date of an award of increased compensation 
shall be the earliest date as of which it is ascertainable that 
an increase in disability had occurred, if application is 
received within one year from such date.
  (4)(A) The effective date of an award of disability pension 
to a veteran described in subparagraph (B) of this paragraph 
shall be the date of application or the date on which the 
veteran became permanently and totally disabled, if the veteran 
applies for a retroactive award within one year from such date, 
whichever is to the advantage of the veteran.
  (B) A veteran referred to in subparagraph (A) of this 
paragraph is a veteran who is permanently and totally disabled 
and who is prevented by a disability from applying for 
disability pension for a period of at least 30 days beginning 
on the date on which the veteran became permanently and totally 
disabled.
  (c) The effective date of an award of disability compensation 
by reason of section 1151 of this title shall be the date such 
injury or aggravation was suffered if an application therefor 
is received within one year from such date.
  (d) The effective date of an award of death compensation, 
dependency and indemnity compensation, or death pension for 
which application is received within one year from the date of 
death shall be the first day of the month in which the death 
occurred.
  (e)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this 
subsection, the effective date of an award of dependency and 
indemnity compensation to a child shall be the first day of the 
month in which the child's entitlement arose if application 
therefor is received within one year from such date.
  (2) In the case of a child who is eighteen years of age or 
over and who immediately before becoming eighteen years of age 
was counted under section 1311(b) of this title in determining 
the amount of the dependency and indemnity compensation of a 
surviving spouse, the effective date of an award of dependency 
and indemnity compensation to such child shall be the date the 
child attains the age of eighteen years if application therefor 
is received within one year from such date.
  (f) An award of additional compensation on account of 
dependents based on the establishment of a disability rating in 
the percentage evaluation specified by law for the purpose 
shall be payable from the effective date of such rating; but 
only if proof of dependents is received within one year from 
the date of notification of such rating action.
  (g) Subject to the provisions of section 5101 of this title, 
where compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, or 
pension is awarded or increased pursuant to any Act or 
administrative issue, the effective date of such award or 
increase shall be fixed in accordance with the facts found but 
shall not be earlier than the effective date of the Act or 
administrative issue. In no event shall such award or increase 
be retroactive for more than one year from the date of 
application therefor or the date of administrative 
determination of entitlement, whichever is earlier.
  (h) Where an award of pension has been deferred or pension 
has been awarded at a rate based on anticipated income for a 
year and the claimant later establishes that income for that 
year was at a rate warranting entitlement or increased 
entitlement, the effective date of such entitlement or increase 
shall be fixed in accordance with the facts found if 
satisfactory evidence is received before the expiration of the 
next calendar year.
  (i) Whenever any disallowed claim is [reopened] readjudicated 
and thereafter allowed on the basis of new and [material] 
relevant evidence resulting from the correction of the military 
records of the proper service department under section 1552 of 
title 10, or the change, correction, or modification of a 
discharge or dismissal under section 1553 of title 10, or from 
other corrective action by competent authority, the effective 
date of commencement of the benefits so awarded shall be the 
date on which an application was filed for correction of the 
military record or for the change, modification, or correction 
of a discharge or dismissal, as the case may be, or the date 
such disallowed claim was filed, whichever date is the later, 
but in no event shall such award of benefits be retroactive for 
more than one year from the date of [reopening] readjudication 
of such disallowed claim. This subsection shall not apply to 
any application or claim for Government life insurance 
benefits.
  (j) Where a report or a finding of death of any person in the 
active military, naval, or air service has been made by the 
Secretary concerned, the effective date of an award of death 
compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, or death 
pension, as applicable, shall be the first day of the month 
fixed by that Secretary as the month of death in such report or 
finding, if application therefor is received within one year 
from the date such report or finding has been made; however, 
such benefits shall not be payable to any person for any period 
for which such person has received, or was entitled to receive, 
an allowance, allotment, or service pay of the deceased.
  (k) The effective date of the award of benefits to a 
surviving spouse or of an award or increase of benefits based 
on recognition of a child, upon annulment of a marriage shall 
be the date the judicial decree of annulment becomes final if a 
claim therefor is filed within one year from the date the 
judicial decree of annulment becomes final; in all other cases 
the effective date shall be the date the claim is filed.
  (l) The effective date of an award of benefits to a surviving 
spouse based upon a termination of a remarriage by death or 
divorce, or of an award or increase of benefits based on 
recognition of a child upon termination of the child's marriage 
by death or divorce, shall be the date of death or the date the 
judicial decree or divorce becomes final, if an application 
therefor is received within one year from such termination.
  (n) The effective date of the award of any benefit or any 
increase therein by reason of marriage or the birth or adoption 
of a child shall be the date of such event if proof of such 
event is received by the Secretary within one year from the 
date of the marriage, birth, or adoption.

Sec. 5111. Commencement of period of payment

  (a)(1) Notwithstanding section 5110 of this title or any 
other provision of law and except as provided in paragraph (2) 
and subsection (c), payment of monetary benefits based on an 
award or an increased award of compensation, dependency and 
indemnity compensation, or pension may not be made to an 
individual for any period before the first day of the calendar 
month following the month in which the award or increased award 
became effective as provided under section 5110 of this title 
or such other provision of law.
  (2)(A) In the case of a veteran who is retired or separated 
from the active military, naval, or air service for a 
catastrophic disability or disabilities, payment of monetary 
benefits based on an award of compensation based on an original 
claim shall be made as of the date on which such award becomes 
effective as provided under section 5110 of this title or 
another applicable provision of law.
  (B) For the purposes of this paragraph, the term 
``catastrophic disability'', with respect to a veteran, means a 
permanent, severely disabling injury, disorder, or disease that 
compromises the ability of the veteran to carry out the 
activities of daily living to such a degree that the veteran 
requires personal or mechanical assistance to leave home or 
bed, or requires constant supervision to avoid physical harm to 
self or others.
  (b)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this 
subsection, during the period between the effective date of an 
award or increased award as provided under section 5110 of this 
title or other provision of law and the commencement of the 
period of payment based on such award as provided under 
subsection (a) of this section, an individual entitled to 
receive monetary benefits shall be deemed to be in receipt of 
such benefits for the purpose of all laws administered by the 
Secretary.
  (2) If any person who is in receipt of retired or retirement 
pay would also be eligible to receive compensation or pension 
upon the filing of a waiver of such pay in accordance with 
section 5305 of this title, such waiver shall not become 
effective until the first day of the month following the month 
in which such waiver is filed, and nothing in this section 
shall prohibit the receipt of retired or retirement pay for any 
period before such effective date.
  (c)(1) This section shall not apply to payments made pursuant 
to section 5310 of this title.
  (2) In the case of a temporary increase in compensation for 
hospitalization or treatment where such hospitalization or 
treatment commences and terminates within the same calendar 
month, the period of payment shall commence on the first day of 
such month.
  (d) For the purposes of this section, the term ``award or 
increased award'' means--
          (1) an original [or reopened award] award or award 
        based on a supplemental claim; or
          (2) an award that is increased because of an added 
        dependent, increase in disability or disability rating, 
        or reduction in income.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                 CHAPTER 57--RECORDS AND INVESTIGATIONS

                         SUBCHAPTER I--RECORDS

Sec. 5701. Confidential nature of claims

  (a) All files, records, reports, and other papers and 
documents pertaining to any claim under any of the laws 
administered by the Secretary and the names and addresses of 
present or former members of the Armed Forces, and their 
dependents, in the possession of the Department shall be 
confidential and privileged, and no disclosure thereof shall be 
made except as provided in this section.
  (b) The Secretary shall make disclosure of such files, 
records, reports, and other papers and documents as are 
described in subsection (a) of this section as follows:
          (1) To a claimant or duly authorized agent or 
        representative of a claimant as to matters concerning 
        the claimant alone when, in the judgment of the 
        Secretary, such disclosure would not be injurious to 
        the physical or mental health of the claimant and to an 
        independent medical expert or experts for an advisory 
        opinion pursuant to section 5109 [or 7109] of this 
        title.
          (2) When required by process of a United States court 
        to be produced in any suit or proceeding therein 
        pending.
          (3) When required by any department or other agency 
        of the United States Government.
          (4) In all proceedings in the nature of an inquest 
        into the mental competency of a claimant.
          (5) In any suit or other judicial proceeding when in 
        the judgment of the Secretary such disclosure is deemed 
        necessary and proper.
          (6) In connection with any proceeding for the 
        collection of an amount owed to the United States by 
        virtue of a person's participation in any benefit 
        program administered by the Secretary when in the 
        judgment of the Secretary such disclosure is deemed 
        necessary and proper.
  (c)(1) The amount of any payment made by the Secretary to any 
person receiving benefits under a program administered by the 
Secretary shall be made known to any person who applies for 
such information.
  (2) Any appraisal report or certificate of reasonable value 
submitted to or prepared by the Secretary in connection with 
any loan guaranteed, insured, or made under chapter 37 of this 
title shall be made available to any person who applies for 
such report or certificate.
  (3) Subject to the approval of the President, the Secretary 
may publish at any time and in any manner any or all 
information of record pertaining to any claim filed with the 
Secretary if the Secretary determines that the public interest 
warrants or requires such publication.
  (d) The Secretary as a matter of discretion may authorize an 
inspection of Department records by duly authorized 
representatives of recognized organizations.
  (e) Except as otherwise specifically provided in this section 
with respect to certain information, the Secretary may release 
information, statistics, or reports to individuals or 
organizations when in the Secretary's judgment such release 
would serve a useful purpose.
  (f) The Secretary may, pursuant to regulations the Secretary 
shall prescribe, release the name or address, or both, of any 
present or former member of the Armed Forces, or a dependent of 
a present or former member of the Armed Forces, (1) to any 
nonprofit organization if the release is directly connected 
with the conduct of programs and the utilization of benefits 
under this title, or (2) to any criminal or civil law 
enforcement governmental agency or instrumentality charged 
under applicable law with the protection of the public health 
or safety if a qualified representative of such agency or 
instrumentality has made a written request that such name or 
address be provided for a purpose authorized by law. Any 
organization or member thereof or other person who, knowing 
that the use of any name or address released by the Secretary 
pursuant to the preceding sentence is limited to the purpose 
specified in such sentence, willfully uses such name or address 
for a purpose other than those so specified, shall be guilty of 
a misdemeanor and be fined not more than $5,000 in the case of 
a first offense and not more than $20,000 in the case of any 
subsequent offense.
  (g)(1) Subject to the provisions of this subsection, and 
under regulations which the Secretary shall prescribe, the 
Secretary may release the name or address, or both, of any 
person who is a present or former member of the Armed Forces, 
or who is a dependent of a present or former member of the 
Armed Forces, to a consumer reporting agency if the release of 
such information is necessary for a purpose described in 
paragraph (2) of this subsection.
  (2) A release of information under paragraph (1) of this 
subsection concerning a person described in such paragraph may 
be made for the purpose of--
          (A) locating such a person--
                  (i) who has been administratively determined 
                to be indebted to the United States by virtue 
                of the person's participation in a benefits 
                program administered by the Secretary; or
                  (ii) if the Secretary has determined under 
                such regulations that (I) it is necessary to 
                locate such person in order to conduct a study 
                pursuant to section 527 of this title or a 
                study required by any other provision of law, 
                and (II) all reasonable steps have been taken 
                to assure that the release of such information 
                to such reporting agency will not have an 
                adverse effect on such person; or
          (B) Obtaining a consumer report in order to assess 
        the ability of a person described in subparagraph 
        (A)(i) of this paragraph to repay the indebtedness of 
        such person to the United States, but the Secretary may 
        release the name or address of such person for the 
        purpose stated in this clause only if the Secretary 
        determines under such regulations that such person has 
        failed to respond appropriately to administrative 
        efforts to collect such indebtedness.
  (3) The Secretary may also release to a consumer reporting 
agency, for the purposes specified in subparagraph (A) or (B) 
of paragraph (2) of this subsection, such other information as 
the Secretary determines under such regulations is reasonably 
necessary to identify a person described in such paragraph, 
except that the Secretary may not release to a consumer 
reporting agency any information which indicates any 
indebtedness on the part of such person to the United States or 
any information which reflects adversely on such person. Before 
releasing any information under this paragraph, the Secretary 
shall, under such regulations, take reasonable steps to provide 
for the protection of the personal privacy of persons about 
whom information is proposed to be released under this 
paragraph.
  (4)(A) If the Secretary determines, under regulations which 
the Secretary shall prescribe, that a person described in 
paragraph (1) of this subsection has failed to respond 
appropriately to reasonable administrative efforts to collect 
an indebtedness of such person described in paragraph (2)(A)(i) 
of this subsection, the Secretary may release information 
concerning the indebtedness, including the name and address of 
such person, to a consumer reporting agency for the purpose of 
making such information available for inclusion in consumer 
reports regarding such person and, if necessary, for the 
purpose of locating such person, if--
          (i) the Secretary has (I) made reasonable efforts to 
        notify such person of such person's right to dispute 
        through prescribed administrative processes the 
        existence or amount of such indebtedness and of such 
        person's right to request a waiver of such indebtedness 
        under section 5302 of this title, (II) afforded such 
        person a reasonable opportunity to exercise such 
        rights, and (III) made a determination with respect to 
        any such dispute or request; and
          (ii) thirty calendar days have elapsed after the day 
        on which the Secretary has made a determination that 
        reasonable efforts have been made to notify such person 
        (I) that the Secretary intends to release such 
        information for such purpose or purposes, and (II) 
        that, upon the request of such person, the Secretary 
        shall inform such person of whether such information 
        has been so released and of the name and address of 
        each consumer reporting agency to which such 
        information was released by the Secretary and of the 
        specific information so released.
  (B) After release of any information under subparagraph (A) 
of this paragraph concerning the indebtedness of any person, 
the Secretary shall promptly notify--
          (i) each consumer reporting agency to which such 
        information has been released by the Secretary; and
          (ii) each consumer reporting agency described in 
        subsection (i)(3)(B)(i) of this section to which such 
        information has been transmitted by the Secretary 
        through a consumer reporting agency described in 
        subsection (i)(3)(B)(ii)(I) of this section,
of any substantial change in the status or amount of such 
indebtedness and, upon the request of any such consumer 
reporting agency for verification of any or all information so 
released, promptly verify or correct, as appropriate, such 
information. The Secretary shall also, after the release of 
such information, inform such person, upon the request of such 
person, of the name and address of each consumer reporting 
agency described in clause (i) or (ii) of this subparagraph to 
which such information was released or transmitted by the 
Secretary and of the specific information so released or 
transmitted.
  (h)(1) Under regulations which the Secretary shall prescribe, 
the Secretary may release the name or address, or both, of any 
person who is a present or former member of the Armed Forces, 
or who is a dependent of a present or former member of the 
Armed Forces (and other information relating to the identity of 
such person), to any person in a category of persons described 
in such regulations and specified in such regulations as a 
category of persons to whom such information may be released, 
if the release of such information is necessary for a purpose 
described in paragraph (2) of this subsection.
  (2) A release of information under paragraph (1) of this 
subsection may be made for the purpose of--
          (A) determining the creditworthiness, credit 
        capacity, income, or financial resources of a person 
        who has (i) applied for any benefit under chapter 37 of 
        this title, or (ii) submitted an offer to the Secretary 
        for the purchase of property acquired by the Secretary 
        under section 3720(a)(5) of this title;
          (B) verifying, either before or after the Secretary 
        has approved a person's application for assistance in 
        the form of a loan guaranty or loan insurance under 
        chapter 37 of this title, information submitted by a 
        lender to the Secretary regarding the creditworthiness, 
        credit capacity, income, or financial resources of such 
        person;
          (C) offering for sale or other disposition by the 
        Secretary, pursuant to section 3720 of this title, any 
        loan or installment sale contract owned or held by the 
        Secretary; or
          (D) providing assistance to any applicant for 
        benefits under chapter 37 of this title or 
        administering such benefits if the Secretary promptly 
        records the fact of such release in appropriate records 
        pertaining to the person concerning whom such release 
        was made.
  (i)(1) No contract entered into for any of the purposes of 
subsection (g) or (h) of this section, and no action taken 
pursuant to any such contract or either such subsection, shall 
result in the application of section 552a of title 5 to any 
consumer reporting agency or any employee of a consumer 
reporting agency.
  (2) The Secretary shall take reasonable steps to provide for 
the protection of the personal privacy of persons about whom 
information is disclosed under subsection (g) or (h) of this 
section.
  (3) For the purposes of this subsection and of subsection (g) 
of this section--
          (A) The term ``consumer report'' has the meaning 
        provided such term in subsection (d) of section 603 of 
        the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 1681a(d)).
          (B) The term ``consumer reporting agency'' means--
                  (i) a consumer reporting agency as such term 
                is defined in subsection (f) of section 603 of 
                the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 
                1681a(f)), or
                  (ii) any person who, for monetary fees, dues, 
                or on a cooperative nonprofit basis, regularly 
                engages in whole or in part in the practice of 
                (I) obtaining credit or other information on 
                consumers for the purpose of furnishing such 
                information to consumer reporting agencies (as 
                defined in clause (i) of this paragraph), or 
                (II) serving as a marketing agent under 
                arrangements enabling third parties to obtain 
                such information from such reporting agencies.
  (j) Except as provided in subsection (i)(1) of this section, 
any disclosure made pursuant to this section shall be made in 
accordance with the provisions of section 552a of title 5.
  (k)(1)(A) Under regulations that the Secretary shall 
prescribe, the Secretary may disclose the name and address of 
any individual described in subparagraph (C) to an entity 
described in subparagraph (B) in order to facilitate the 
determination by such entity whether the individual is, or 
after death will be, a suitable organ, tissue, or eye donor 
if--
          (i) the individual is near death (as determined by 
        the Secretary) or is deceased; and
          (ii) the disclosure is permitted under regulations 
        promulgated pursuant to section 264 of the Health 
        Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 
        (42 U.S.C. 1320d-2 note).
  (B) An entity described in this subparagraph is--
          (i) an organ procurement organization, including eye 
        and tissue banks; or
          (ii) an entity that the Secretary has determined--
                  (I) is substantially similar in function, 
                professionalism, and reliability to an organ 
                procurement organization; and
                  (II) should be treated for purposes of this 
                subsection in the same manner as an organ 
                procurement organization.
  (C) An individual described in this subparagraph is--
          (i) a veteran; or
          (ii) a dependent of veteran.
  (2) In this subsection, the term ``organ procurement 
organization'' has the meaning given the term ``qualified organ 
procurement organization'' in section 371(b) of the Public 
Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 273(b)).
  (l) Under regulations the Secretary shall prescribe, the 
Secretary shall disclose information about a veteran or the 
dependent of a veteran to a State controlled substance 
monitoring program, including a program approved by the 
Secretary of Health and Human Services under section 399O of 
the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 280g-3), to the extent 
necessary to prevent misuse and diversion of prescription 
medicines.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


CHAPTER 59--AGENTS AND ATTORNEYS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 5904. Recognition of agents and attorneys generally

  (a) Recognition.--(1) Except as provided in paragraph (4), 
the Secretary may recognize any individual as an agent or 
attorney for the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of 
claims under laws administered by the Secretary.
  (2) The Secretary shall prescribe in regulations (consistent 
with the Model Rules of Professional Conduct of the American 
Bar Association) qualifications and standards of conduct for 
individuals recognized under this section, including a 
requirement that, as a condition of being so recognized, an 
individual must--
          (A) show that such individual is of good moral 
        character and in good repute, is qualified to render 
        claimants valuable service, and is otherwise competent 
        to assist claimants in presenting claims;
          (B) have such level of experience or specialized 
        training as the Secretary shall specify; and
          (C) certify to the Secretary that the individual has 
        satisfied any qualifications and standards prescribed 
        by the Secretary under this section.
  (3) The Secretary shall prescribe in regulations requirements 
that each agent or attorney recognized under this section 
provide annually to the Secretary information about any court, 
bar, or Federal or State agency to which such agent or attorney 
is admitted to practice or otherwise authorized to appear, any 
relevant identification number or numbers, and a certification 
by such agent or attorney that such agent or attorney is in 
good standing in every jurisdiction where the agent or attorney 
is admitted to practice or otherwise authorized to appear.
  (4) The Secretary may not recognize an individual as an agent 
or attorney under paragraph (1) if such individual has been 
suspended or disbarred by any court, bar, or Federal or State 
agency to which the individual was previously admitted to 
practice and has not been subsequently reinstated.
  (5) The Secretary may prescribe in regulations reasonable 
restrictions on the amount of fees that an agent or attorney 
may charge a claimant for services rendered in the preparation, 
presentation, and prosecution of a claim before the Department. 
A fee that does not exceed 20 percent of the past due amount of 
benefits awarded on a claim shall be presumed to be reasonable.
  (6)(A) The Secretary may charge and collect an assessment 
from an individual recognized as an agent or attorney under 
this section in any case in which the Secretary pays to the 
agent or attorney, from past- due benefits owed to a claimant 
represented by the agent or attorney, an amount as a fee in 
accordance with a fee arrangement between the claimant and the 
agent or attorney.
  (B) The amount of an assessment under subparagraph (A) shall 
be equal to five percent of the amount of the fee required to 
be paid to the agent or attorney, except that the amount of 
such an assessment may not exceed $100.
  (C) The Secretary may collect an assessment under 
subparagraph (A) by offsetting the amount of the fee otherwise 
required to be paid to the agent or attorney from the past-due 
benefits owed to the claimant represented by the agent or 
attorney.
  (D) An agent or attorney who is charged an assessment under 
subparagraph (A) may not, directly or indirectly, request, 
receive, or obtain reimbursement for such assessment from the 
claimant represented by the agent or attorney.
  (E) Amounts collected under this paragraph shall be deposited 
in the account available for administrative expenses for 
veterans' benefits programs. Amounts so deposited shall be 
merged with amounts in such account and shall be available for 
the same purpose, and subject to the same conditions and 
limitations, as amounts otherwise in such account.
  (b) Suspension of Agents and Attorneys.--The Secretary, after 
notice and opportunity for a hearing, may suspend or exclude 
from further practice before the Department any agent or 
attorney recognized under this section if the Secretary finds 
that such agent or attorney--
          (1) has engaged in any unlawful, unprofessional, or 
        dishonest practice;
          (2) has been guilty of disreputable conduct;
          (3) is incompetent;
          (4) has violated or refused to comply with any of the 
        laws administered by the Secretary, or with any of the 
        regulations or instructions governing practice before 
        the Department;
          (5) has in any manner deceived, misled, or threatened 
        any actual or prospective claimant;
          (6) has presented to the Secretary a frivolous claim, 
        issue, or argument, involving conduct inconsistent with 
        ethical standards for the practice of law;
          (7) has been suspended or disbarred by any court or 
        bar to which such agent or attorney was previously 
        admitted to practice, or has been disqualified from 
        participating in or appearing before any Federal 
        agency, and has not been subsequently reinstated;
          (8) has charged excessive or unreasonable fees, as 
        determined by the Secretary in accordance with 
        subsection (c)(3)(A); or
          (9) has failed to comply with any other condition 
        specified in regulations prescribed by the Secretary 
        for purposes of this subsection.
  (c)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (4), in connection 
with a proceeding before the Department with respect to 
benefits under laws administered by the Secretary, a fee may 
not be charged, allowed, or paid for services of agents and 
attorneys with respect to services provided before the date on 
which a [notice of disagreement is filed] claimant is provided 
notice of the agency of original jurisdiction's initial 
decision under section 5104 of this title with respect to the 
case. The limitation in the preceding sentence does not apply 
to fees charged, allowed, or paid for services provided with 
respect to proceedings before a court.
  (2) A person who, acting as agent or attorney in a case 
referred to in paragraph (1) of this subsection, represents a 
person before the Department or the Board of Veterans' Appeals 
after a [notice of disagreement is filed] claimant is provided 
notice of the agency of original jurisdiction's initial 
decision under section 5104 of this title with respect to the 
case shall file a copy of any fee agreement between them with 
the Secretary pursuant to regulations prescribed by the 
Secretary.
  (3)(A) The Secretary may, upon the Secretary's own motion or 
at the request of the claimant, review a fee agreement filed 
pursuant to paragraph (2) and may order a reduction in the fee 
called for in the agreement if the Secretary finds that the fee 
is excessive or unreasonable.
  (B) A finding or order of the Secretary under subparagraph 
(A) may be reviewed by the Board of Veterans' Appeals under 
section 7104 of this title.
  (C) If the Secretary under subsection (b) suspends or 
excludes from further practice before the Department any agent 
or attorney who collects or receives a fee in excess of the 
amount authorized under this section, the suspension shall 
continue until the agent or attorney makes full restitution to 
each claimant from whom the agent or attorney collected or 
received an excessive fee. If the agent or attorney makes such 
restitution, the Secretary may reinstate such agent or attorney 
under such rules as the Secretary may prescribe.
  (4) A reasonable fee may be charged or paid in connection 
with any proceeding before the Department in a case arising out 
of a loan made, guaranteed, or insured under chapter 37 of this 
title. A person who charges a fee under this paragraph shall 
enter into a written agreement with the person represented and 
shall file a copy of the fee agreement with the Secretary at 
such time, and in such manner, as may be specified by the 
Secretary.
  (d) Payment of Fees Out of Past-Due Benefits.--(1) When a 
claimant and an agent or attorney have entered into a fee 
agreement described in paragraph (2), the total fee payable to 
the agent or attorney may not exceed 20 percent of the total 
amount of any past-due benefits awarded on the basis of the 
claim.
  (2)(A) A fee agreement referred to in paragraph (1) is one 
under which the total amount of the fee payable to the agent or 
attorney--
          (i) is to be paid to the agent or attorney by the 
        Secretary directly from any past-due benefits awarded 
        on the basis of the claim; and
          (ii) is contingent on whether or not the matter is 
        resolved in a manner favorable to the claimant.
  (B) For purposes of subparagraph (A), a claim shall be 
considered to have been resolved in a manner favorable to the 
claimant if all or any part of the relief sought is granted.
  (3) To the extent that past-due benefits are awarded in any 
proceeding before the Secretary, the Board of Veterans' 
Appeals, or the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans 
Claims, the Secretary may direct that payment of any fee to an 
agent or attorney under a fee arrangement described in 
paragraph (1) be made out of such past-due benefits. In no 
event may the Secretary withhold for the purpose of such 
payment any portion of benefits payable for a period after the 
date of the final decision of the Secretary, the Board of 
Veterans' Appeals, or Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims 
making (or ordering the making of) the award.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


PART V--BOARDS, ADMINISTRATIONS, AND SERVICES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                 CHAPTER 71--BOARD OF VETERANS' APPEALS

Sec.
7101. Composition of Board of Veterans' Appeals.
     * * * * * * *
[7105. Filing of notice of disagreement and appeal.]
7105. Filing of appeal.
     * * * * * * *
[7106. Administrative appeals.]
     * * * * * * *
[7109. Independent medical opinions.]
     * * * * * * *
7113. Evidentiary record before the Board of Veterans' Appeals.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 7103. Reconsideration; correction of obvious errors

  (a) The decision of the Board determining a matter under 
section 7102 of this title is final unless the Chairman orders 
reconsideration of the decision in accordance with subsection 
(b). Such an order may be made on the Chairman's initiative or 
upon motion of the claimant.
  (b)(1) Upon the order of the Chairman for reconsideration of 
the decision in a case, the case shall be referred--
          (A) in the case of a matter originally [heard] 
        decided by a single member of the Board, to a panel of 
        not less than three members of the Board; or
          (B) in the case of a matter originally [heard] 
        decided by a panel of members of the Board, to an 
        enlarged panel of the Board.
  (2) A panel referred to in paragraph (1) may not include the 
member, or any member of the panel, that made the decision 
subject to reconsideration.
  (3) A panel reconsidering a case under this subsection shall 
render its decision after reviewing the entire record before 
the Board. The decision of the panel shall be made by a 
majority vote of the members of the panel. The decision of the 
panel shall constitute the final decision of the Board.
  (c) The Board on its own motion may correct an obvious error 
in the record, without regard to whether there has been a 
motion or order for reconsideration.

Sec. 7104. Jurisdiction of the Board

  (a) All questions in a matter which under section 511(a) of 
this title is subject to decision by the Secretary shall be 
subject to one review on appeal to the Secretary. Final 
decisions on such appeals shall be made by the Board. Decisions 
of the Board shall be based on the entire record in the 
proceeding and upon consideration of all evidence and material 
of record and applicable provisions of law and regulation.
  (b) Except as provided in section 5108 of this title, when a 
claim is disallowed by the Board, the claim may not thereafter 
be [reopened] readjudicated and allowed and a claim based upon 
the same factual basis may not be considered.
  (c) The Board shall be bound in its decisions by the 
regulations of the Department, instructions of the Secretary, 
and the precedent opinions of the chief legal officer of the 
Department.
  (d) Each decision of the Board shall include--
          (1) a written statement of the Board's findings and 
        conclusions, and the reasons or bases for those 
        findings and conclusions, on all material issues of 
        fact and law presented on the record[; and];
          (2) a general statement--
                  (A) reflecting whether evidence was not 
                considered in making the decision because the 
                evidence was received at a time when not 
                permitted under section 7113 of this title; and
                  (B) noting such options as may be available 
                for having the evidence considered by the 
                Department; and
          [(2)] (3) an order granting appropriate relief or 
        denying relief.
  (e)(1) After reaching a decision on a case, the Board shall 
promptly mail a copy of its written decision to the claimant at 
the last known address of the claimant.
  (2) If the claimant has an authorized representative, the 
Board shall--
          (A) mail a copy of its written decision to the 
        authorized representative at the last known address of 
        the authorized representative; or
          (B) send a copy of its written decision to the 
        authorized representative by any means reasonably 
        likely to provide the authorized representative with a 
        copy of the decision within the same time a copy would 
        be expected to reach the authorized representative if 
        sent by first-class mail.

Sec. 7105. Filing of [notice of disagreement and] appeal

  (a) [Appellate review will be initiated by a notice of 
disagreement and completed by a substantive appeal after a 
statement of the case is furnished as prescribed in this 
section.] Appellate review shall be initiated by the filing of 
a notice of disagreement in the form prescribed by the 
Secretary. Each appellant will be accorded hearing and 
representation rights pursuant to the provisions of this 
chapter and regulations of the Secretary.
  [(b)(1) Except in the case of simultaneously contested 
claims, notice of disagreement shall be filed within one year 
from the date of mailing of notice of the result of initial 
review or determination. Such notice, and appeals, must be in 
writing and be filed with the activity which entered the 
determination with which disagreement is expressed (hereinafter 
referred to as the ``agency of original jurisdiction''). A 
notice of disagreement postmarked before the expiration of the 
one-year period will be accepted as timely filed.
  [(2) Notices of disagreement, and appeals, must be in writing 
and may be filed by the claimant, the claimant's legal 
guardian, or such accredited representative, attorney, or 
authorized agent as may be selected by the claimant or legal 
guardian. Not more than one recognized organization, attorney, 
or agent will be recognized at any one time in the prosecution 
of a claim.
  [(c) If no notice of disagreement is filed in accordance with 
this chapter within the prescribed period, the action or 
determination shall become final and the claim will not 
thereafter be reopened or allowed, except as may otherwise be 
provided by regulations not inconsistent with this title.
  [(d)(1) Where the claimant, or the claimant's representative, 
within the time specified in this chapter, files a notice of 
disagreement with the decision of the agency of original 
jurisdiction, such agency will take such development or review 
action as it deems proper under the provisions of regulations 
not inconsistent with this title. If such action does not 
resolve the disagreement either by granting the benefit sought 
or through withdrawal of the notice of disagreement, such 
agency shall prepare a statement of the case. A statement of 
the case shall include the following:
          [(A) A summary of the evidence in the case pertinent 
        to the issue or issues with which disagreement has been 
        expressed.
          [(B) A citation to pertinent laws and regulations and 
        a discussion of how such laws and regulations affect 
        the agency's decision.
          [(C) The decision on each issue and a summary of the 
        reasons for such decision.
  [(2) A statement of the case, as required by this subsection, 
will not disclose matters that would be contrary to section 
5701 of this title or otherwise contrary to the public 
interest. Such matters may be disclosed to a designated 
representative unless the relationship between the claimant and 
the representative is such that disclosure to the 
representative would be as harmful as if made to the claimant.
  [(3) Copies of the ``statement of the case'' prescribed in 
paragraph (1) of this subsection will be submitted to the 
claimant and to the claimant's representative, if there is one. 
The claimant will be afforded a period of sixty days from the 
date the statement of the case is mailed to file the formal 
appeal. This may be extended for a reasonable period on request 
for good cause shown. The appeal should set out specific 
allegations of error of fact or law, such allegations related 
to specific items in the statement of the case. The benefits 
sought on appeal must be clearly identified. The agency of 
original jurisdiction may close the case for failure to respond 
after receipt of the statement of the case, but questions as to 
timeliness or adequacy of response shall be determined by the 
Board of Veterans' Appeals.
  [(4) The claimant in any case may not be presumed to agree 
with any statement of fact contained in the statement of the 
case to which the claimant does not specifically express 
agreement.
  [(5) The Board of Veterans' Appeals may dismiss any appeal 
which fails to allege specific error of fact or law in the 
determination being appealed.
  [(e)(1) If, either at the time or after the agency of 
original jurisdiction receives a substantive appeal, the 
claimant or the claimant's representative, if any, submits 
evidence to either the agency of original jurisdiction or the 
Board of Veterans' Appeals for consideration in connection with 
the issue or issues with which disagreement has been expressed, 
such evidence shall be subject to initial review by the Board 
unless the claimant or the claimant's representative, as the 
case may be, requests in writing that the agency of original 
jurisdiction initially review such evidence.
  [(2) A request for review of evidence under paragraph (1) 
shall accompany the submittal of the evidence.]
  (b)(1)(A) Except in the case of simultaneously contested 
claims, notice of disagreement shall be filed within one year 
from the date of the mailing of notice of the decision of the 
agency of original jurisdiction pursuant to section 5104, 
5104B, or 5108 of this title.
  (B) A notice of disagreement postmarked before the expiration 
of the 1-year period shall be accepted as timely filed.
  (C) A question as to timeliness or adequacy of the notice of 
disagreement shall be decided by the Board.
  (2)(A) Notices of disagreement shall be in writing, shall 
identify the specific determination with which the claimant 
disagrees, and may be filed by the claimant, the claimant's 
legal guardian, or such accredited representative, attorney, or 
authorized agent as may be selected by the claimant or legal 
guardian.
  (B) Not more than one recognized organization, attorney, or 
agent may be recognized at any one time in the prosecution of a 
claim.
  (C) Notices of disagreement shall be filed with the Board.
  (3) The notice of disagreement shall indicate whether the 
claimant requests--
          (A) a hearing before the Board, which shall include 
        an opportunity to submit evidence in accordance with 
        section 7113(b) of this title;
          (B) an opportunity to submit additional evidence 
        without a hearing before the Board, which shall include 
        an opportunity to submit evidence in accordance with 
        section 7113(c) of this title; or
          (C) a review by the Board without a hearing or the 
        submittal of additional evidence.
  (4) The Secretary may develop a policy to permit a claimant 
to modify the information identified in the notice of 
disagreement after the notice of disagreement has been filed 
under this section pursuant to such requirements as the 
Secretary may prescribe.
  (c) If no notice of disagreement is filed in accordance with 
this chapter within the prescribed period, the action or 
decision of the agency of original jurisdiction shall become 
final and the claim shall not thereafter be readjudicated or 
allowed, except as may otherwise be provided by section 5104B 
or 5108 of this title or such regulations as are consistent 
with this title.
  (d) The Board of Veterans' Appeals may dismiss any appeal 
which fails to identify the specific determination with which 
the claimant disagrees.

Sec. 7105A. Simultaneously contested claims

  (a) In simultaneously contested claims where one is allowed 
and one rejected, the time allowed for the filing of a notice 
of disagreement shall be sixty days from the date notice of the 
adverse action is mailed. In such cases the agency of original 
jurisdiction shall promptly notify all parties in interest at 
the last known address of the action taken, expressly inviting 
attention to the fact that notice of disagreement will not be 
entertained unless filed within the sixty-day period prescribed 
by this subsection.
  [(b) Upon the filing of a notice of disagreement, all parties 
in interest will be furnished with a statement of the case in 
the same manner as is prescribed in section 7105. The party in 
interest who filed a notice of disagreement will be allowed 
thirty days from the date of mailing of such statement of the 
case in which to file a formal appeal. Extension of time may be 
granted for good cause shown but with consideration to the 
interests of the other parties involved. The substance of the 
appeal will be communicated to the other party or parties in 
interest and a period of thirty days will be allowed for filing 
a brief or argument in answer thereto. Such notice shall be 
forwarded to the last known address of record of the parties 
concerned, and such action shall constitute sufficient evidence 
of notice.]
  (b)(1) The substance of the notice of disagreement shall be 
communicated to the other party or parties in interest and a 
period of thirty days shall be allowed for filing a brief or 
argument in response thereto.
  (2) Such notice shall be forwarded to the last known address 
of record of the parties concerned, and such action shall 
constitute sufficient evidence of notice.

[Sec. 7106. Administrative appeals

  [Application for review on appeal may be made within the one-
year period prescribed in section 7105 of this title by such 
officials of the Department as may be designated by the 
Secretary. An application entered under this paragraph shall 
not operate to deprive the claimant of the right of review on 
appeal as provided in this chapter.

[Sec. 7107. Appeals: dockets; hearings

  [(a)(1) Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) and in 
subsection (f), each case received pursuant to application for 
review on appeal shall be considered and decided in regular 
order according to its place upon the docket.
  [(2) A case referred to in paragraph (1) may, for cause 
shown, be advanced on motion for earlier consideration and 
determination. Any such motion shall set forth succinctly the 
grounds upon which the motion is based. Such a motion may be 
granted only--
          [(A) if the case involves interpretation of law of 
        general application affecting other claims;
          [(B) if the appellant is seriously ill or is under 
        severe financial hardship; or
          [(C) for other sufficient cause shown.
  [(3) A case referred to in paragraph (1) may be postponed for 
later consideration and determination if such postponement is 
necessary to afford the appellant a hearing.
  [(b) The Board shall decide any appeal only after affording 
the appellant an opportunity for a hearing.
  [(c) A hearing docket shall be maintained and formal recorded 
hearings shall be held by such member or members of the Board 
as the Chairman may designate. Such member or members 
designated by the Chairman to conduct the hearing shall, except 
in the case of a reconsideration of a decision under section 
7103 of this title, participate in making the final 
determination of the claim.
  [(d)(1)(A)(i) Upon request for a hearing, the Board shall 
determine, for purposes of scheduling the hearing for the 
earliest possible date, whether a hearing before the Board will 
be held at its principal location or at a facility of the 
Department or other appropriate Federal facility located within 
the area served by a regional office of the Department.
  [(ii) The Board shall also determine whether to provide a 
hearing through the use of the facilities and equipment 
described in subsection (e)(1) or by the appellant personally 
appearing before a Board member or panel.
  [(B)(i) The Board shall notify the appellant of the 
determinations of the location and type of hearing made under 
subparagraph (A).
  [(ii) Upon notification, the appellant may request a 
different location or type of hearing as described in such 
subparagraph.
  [(iii) If so requested, the Board shall grant such request 
and ensure that the hearing is scheduled at the earliest 
possible date without any undue delay or other prejudice to the 
appellant.
  [(2) A hearing to be held within an area served by a regional 
office of the Department shall (except as provided in paragraph 
(3)) be scheduled to be held in accordance with the place of 
the case on the docket under subsection (a) relative to other 
cases on the docket for which hearings are scheduled to be held 
within that area.
  [(3) A hearing to be held within an area served by a regional 
office of the Department may, for cause shown, be advanced on 
motion for an earlier hearing. Any such motion shall set forth 
succinctly the grounds upon which the motion is based. Such a 
motion may be granted only--
          [(A) if the case involves interpretation of law of 
        general application affecting other claims;
          [(B) if the appellant is seriously ill or is under 
        severe financial hardship; or
          [(C) for other sufficient cause shown.
  [(e)(1) At the request of the Chairman, the Secretary may 
provide suitable facilities and equipment to the Board or other 
components of the Department to enable an appellant located at 
a facility within the area served by a regional office to 
participate, through voice transmission or through picture and 
voice transmission, by electronic or other means, in a hearing 
with a Board member or members sitting at the Board's principal 
location.
  [(2) Any hearing provided through the use of the facilities 
and equipment described in paragraph (1) shall be conducted in 
the same manner as, and shall be considered the equivalent of, 
a personal hearing.
  [(f) Nothing in this section shall preclude the screening of 
cases for purposes of--
          [(1) determining the adequacy of the record for 
        decisional purposes; or
          [(2) the development, or attempted development, of a 
        record found to be inadequate for decisional purposes.]

Sec. 7107. Appeals: dockets; hearings

  (a) Dockets.--(1) Subject to paragraph (2), the Board shall 
maintain at least two separate dockets.
  (2) The Board may not maintain more than two separate dockets 
unless the Board notifies the Committee on Veterans' Affairs of 
the Senate and the Committee on Veterans' Affairs of the House 
of Representatives of any additional docket, including a 
justification for maintaining such additional docket.
  (3)(A) The Board may assign to each docket maintained under 
paragraph (1) such cases as the Board considers appropriate, 
except that cases described in clause (i) of subparagraph (B) 
may not be assigned to any docket to which cases described in 
clause (ii) of such paragraph are assigned.
  (B) Cases described in this subparagraph are the following:
          (i) Cases in which no Board hearing is requested and 
        no additional evidence will be submitted.
          (ii) Cases in which a Board hearing is requested in 
        the notice of disagreement.
  (4) Except as provided in subsection (b), each case before 
the Board will be decided in regular order according to its 
respective place on the docket to which it is assigned by the 
Board.
  (b) Advancement on the Docket.--(1) A case on one of the 
dockets of the Board maintained under subsection (a) may, for 
cause shown, be advanced on motion for earlier consideration 
and determination.
  (2) Any such motion shall set forth succinctly the grounds 
upon which the motion is based.
  (3) Such a motion may be granted only--
          (A) if the case involves interpretation of law of 
        general application affecting other claims;
          (B) if the appellant is seriously ill or is under 
        severe financial hardship; or
          (C) for other sufficient cause shown.
  (c) Manner and Scheduling of Hearings for Cases on Docket 
That May Include Hearing.--(1) For cases on a docket maintained 
by the Board under subsection (a) that may include a hearing, 
in which a hearing is requested in the notice of disagreement, 
the Board shall notify the appellant whether a Board hearing 
will be held--
          (A) at its principal location; or
          (B) by picture and voice transmission at a facility 
        of the Department where the Secretary has provided 
        suitable facilities and equipment to conduct such 
        hearings.
  (2)(A) Upon notification of a Board hearing at the Board's 
principal location as described in subparagraph (A) of 
paragraph (1), the appellant may alternatively request a 
hearing as described in subparagraph (B) of such paragraph. If 
so requested, the Board shall grant such request.
  (B) Upon notification of a Board hearing by picture and voice 
transmission as described in subparagraph (B) of paragraph (1), 
the appellant may alternatively request a hearing as described 
in subparagraph (A) of such paragraph. If so requested, the 
Board shall grant such request.
  (d) Screening of Cases.--Nothing in this section shall be 
construed to preclude the screening of cases for purposes of--
          (1) determining the adequacy of the record for 
        decisional purposes; or
          (2) the development, or attempted development, of a 
        record found to be inadequate for decisional purposes.
  (e) Policy on Changing Dockets.--The Secretary may develop 
and implement a policy allowing a claimant to move the 
claimant's case from one docket to another docket.

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[Sec. 7109. Independent medical opinions

  [(a) When, in the judgment of the Board, expert medical 
opinion, in addition to that available within the Department, 
is warranted by the medical complexity or controversy involved 
in an appeal case, the Board may secure an advisory medical 
opinion from one or more independent medical experts who are 
not employees of the Department.
  [(b) The Secretary shall make necessary arrangements with 
recognized medical schools, universities, or clinics to furnish 
such advisory medical opinions at the request of the Chairman 
of the Board. Any such arrangement shall provide that the 
actual selection of the expert or experts to give the advisory 
opinion in an individual case shall be made by an appropriate 
official of such institution.
  [(c) The Board shall furnish a claimant with notice that an 
advisory medical opinion has been requested under this section 
with respect to the claimant's case and shall furnish the 
claimant with a copy of such opinion when it is received by the 
Board.]

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Sec. 7111. Revision of decisions on grounds of clear and unmistakable 
                    error

  (a) A decision by the Board is subject to revision on the 
grounds of clear and unmistakable error. If evidence 
establishes the error, the prior decision shall be reversed or 
revised.
  (b) For the purposes of authorizing benefits, a rating or 
other adjudicative decision of the Board that constitutes a 
reversal or revision of a prior decision of the Board on the 
grounds of clear and unmistakable error has the same effect as 
if the decision had been made on the date of the prior 
decision.
  (c) Review to determine whether clear and unmistakable error 
exists in a case may be instituted by the Board on the Board's 
own motion or upon request of the claimant.
  (d) A request for revision of a decision of the Board based 
on clear and unmistakable error may be made at any time after 
that decision is made.
  (e) Such a request shall be submitted directly to the Board 
and shall be decided by the Board on the merits[, without 
referral to any adjudicative or hearing official acting on 
behalf of the Secretary].
  (f) A claim filed with the Secretary that requests reversal 
or revision of a previous Board decision due to clear and 
unmistakable error shall be considered to be a request to the 
Board under this section, and the Secretary shall promptly 
transmit any such request to the Board for its consideration 
under this section.

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

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

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