skip to main content

S. 1064 (110th): Restoring Disability Benefits for Injured and Wounded Warriors Act of 2007


The text of the bill below is as of Mar 29, 2007 (Introduced). The bill was not enacted into law.


II

110th CONGRESS

1st Session

S. 1064

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

March 29, 2007

introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services

A BILL

To provide for the improvement of the physical evaluation processes applicable to members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Restoring Disability Benefits for Injured and Wounded Warriors Act of 2007.

2.

Review and action on certain determinations of the Physical Evaluation Board

(a)

Panel for reviews

Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall appoint, from among individuals in the private sector who are qualified for such purpose, a panel of individuals to conduct the reviews required by subsection (b).

(b)

Reviews

(1)

In general

The panel appointed under subsection (a) shall—

(A)

review—

(i)

each case before the Physical Evaluation Board of the Department of Defense in which such board determined to discharge, separate, or release a member of the Armed Forces without assigning a rating of disability to the member; and

(ii)

each case before the Physical Evaluation Board in which a member of the Armed Forces appealed the determination of such board regarding the rating of disability assigned to the member;

(B)

for each case so reviewed—

(i)

determine whether or not a liaison officer was assigned to the member of the Armed Forces concerned for such case; and

(ii)

determine whether or not an attorney was assigned to the member of the Armed Forces concerned for such case; and

(C)

for each case so reviewed, determine whether or not the facts of the case warrant the re-opening of the case for purposes of assigning a rating of disability to the member of the Armed Forces concerned, or increasing a rating of disability previously assigned the member, as applicable, for purposes of the receipt of disability benefits.

(2)

Covered cases

The review required by paragraph (1) shall be performed for each case described in that paragraph in which a final determination was made by a board referred to in that paragraph during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on the date of the enactment of this Act.

(3)

Availability of information

The Secretary shall make available to the panel appointed under subsection (a) such information as the panel shall require in order to conduct the reviews required by paragraph (1), including the case files of the Physical Evaluation Board.

(4)

Reports

Not later than 60 days after the date of the appointment of the panel required by subsection (a), and every 60 days thereafter until the completion of the reviews required by paragraph (1), the panel shall submit to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the military department concerned a report on each case reviewed under paragraph (1) during the preceding 60 days, including the results of each such review and the determinations required with respect to such case under subparagraphs (B) and (C) of paragraph (1).

(c)

Re-Evaluation of cases

(1)

In general

The Secretary of the military department concerned shall provide for a re-evaluation by the Physical Evaluation Board of each case covered by a report under subsection (b)(4) in which the panel appointed under subsection (a) determined, as specified in subsection (b)(1)(C), that the fact of such case warrant the re-opening of such case for purposes of assigning a rating of disability to the member of the Armed Forces concerned, or increasing a rating of disability previously assigned the member, as applicable, for purposes of the receipt of disability benefits.

(2)

Prohibition on reduction of rating of disability

A rating of disability subject to re-evaluation under paragraph (1) may not be reduced as a result of the re-evaluation under that paragraph.

(3)

Guidelines and procedures

The re-evaluation of cases under paragraph (1) shall be governed by such guidelines, and follow such procedures, as the Secretary of Defense shall prescribe for purposes of that paragraph. Such guidelines shall prohibit a reduction of rating of disability pursuant to a re-evaluation under that paragraph. Such guidelines and procedures shall, to the extent practicable, apply uniformly across the military departments.

(4)

Deadline

The re-evaluation of a case under paragraph (1) shall be completed not later than 180 days after the date of the receipt of a report on such case under subsection (b)(4).

(d)

Correction of records

If a result of the re-evaluation of a case under subsection (c), the Physical Evaluation Board determines to assign a rating of disability to a member of the Armed Forces, or increase the rating previously assigned the member, as applicable, the Secretary of the military department concerned shall correct the record of the member, with the effective date of such correction to be the date of the original determination under the case by the Physical Evaluation Board regarding the disability of the member.

3.

Review and action on determinations on benefits under Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance

(a)

Panel

Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall appoint, from among individuals in the private sector who are qualified for such purpose, a panel of individuals to carry out the actions required by subsection (b).

(b)

Review and assessment of determinations

(1)

In general

The panel appointed under subsection (a) shall—

(A)

review—

(i)

each case in which a member of the Armed Forces was denied traumatic injury protection under section 1980A of title 38, United States Code, for a qualifying loss claimed by the member; and

(ii)

each case in which a member of the Armed Forces appealed a determination of the amount of traumatic injury protection awarded the member under that section for a qualifying loss claimed by the member; and

(B)

for each case so reviewed, determine whether or not the facts of the case warrant the re-opening of the case for purposes of paying traumatic injury protection to the member of the Armed Forces concerned, or increasing the amount of traumatic injury protection previously paid the member, as applicable, under that section for a qualifying loss claimed by the member.

(2)

Covered cases

The review required by paragraph (1) shall be performed for each case described in that paragraph in which a final determination on a claim for a qualifying loss under section 1980A of title 38, United States Code, was made during the period beginning on May 11, 2005, and ending on the date of the enactment of this Act.

(3)

Availability of information

The Secretary of Defense shall make available to the panel appointed under subsection (a) such information as the panel shall require in order to conduct the reviews required by paragraph (1).

(4)

Reports

Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 60 days thereafter until the completion of the reviews required by paragraph (1), the panel appointed under subsection (a) shall submit to the Secretary of Defense a report on each case reviewed under paragraph (1) during the preceding 60 days, including the results of each such review and the determination required with respect to such case under paragraph (1)(B).

(c)

Re-Evaluation of cases

(1)

In general

The Secretary of Defense shall re-evaluate each case covered by a report under subsection (b)(4) in which the panel appointed under subsection (a) determines, as specified in subsection (b)(1)(B), that the facts of such case warrant the re-opening of such case for purposes of paying traumatic injury protection for the member of the Armed Forces concerned, or increasing the amount of traumatic injury protection previously paid the member, as applicable, under section 1980A of title 38, United States Code, for a qualifying loss claimed by the member.

(2)

Prohibition on reduction of insurance award

The amount of insurance awarded under section 1980A of title 38, United States Code, in any case subject to re-evaluation under paragraph (1) may not be reduced as a result of the re-evaluation under that paragraph.

(3)

Guidelines and procedures

The re-evaluation of cases under paragraph (1) shall be governed by such guidelines, and follow such procedures, as the Secretary of Defense shall prescribe for purposes of that paragraph. Such guidelines and procedures shall, to the extent practicable, apply uniformly across the military departments.

(4)

Deadline

The reconsideration of a case under paragraph (1) shall be completed not later than 180 days after the date of the receipt of a report on such case under subsection (b)(4).

(d)

Correction of records

If a result of the reconsideration of a case under subsection (c), the Secretary of Defense determines to pay traumatic injury protection to a member of the Armed Forces, or increase the amount of traumatic injury protection previously paid the member, as applicable, under section 1980A of title 38, United States Code, for a qualifying loss claimed by the member, the Secretary shall correct the record of the member, with the effective date of such correction to be the date of the original determination under the case on the qualifying loss claimed by the member.

4.

Adequacy of assignment of judge advocates to Physical Evaluation Board cases

(a)

Report

Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to Congress a report that includes the following:

(1)

An assessment whether or not the number of judge advocates assigned to cases before the Physical Evaluation Board is adequate to ensure that—

(A)

the judge advocates assigned such cases bear a reasonable caseload of such cases; and

(B)

the judge advocates assigned such cases contribute to the efficient and timely disposition of such cases by the board.

(2)

A recommendation of the number judge advocates to be assigned to such cases in order to best achieve each of the objectives set forth under paragraph (1).

(b)

Judge advocate defined

In this section, the term judge advocate has the meaning given that term in section 801 of title 10, United States Code (article 1 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice).

5.

Comptroller General reports on disability claims processes

(a)

Report on efforts To address certain deficiencies in disability evaluation systems of the military departments

(1)

Report required

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to Congress a report setting forth the assessment of the Comptroller of the efforts of the Department of Defense to address the deficiencies identified in the report of the Comptroller General entitled Military Disability System: Improved Oversight Needed to Ensure Consistent and Timely Outcomes for Reserve and Active Duty Service Members (GAO–06–362; March 2006).

(2)

Elements

The report required by paragraph (1) shall address the efforts of the Department regarding the following:

(A)

Harmonizing the procedures and practices of the military departments under their disability evaluation systems.

(B)

Monitoring the compliance of such disability evaluation systems with the policies and guidelines applicable to such systems.

(C)

Improving oversight of such disability systems by the Disability Advisory Council, including—

(i)

whether the council has reviewed the standardized disability rating system to classify the severity of medical impairments; and

(ii)

whether the council has proposed improvements to or recertification of such systems.

(D)

Improving the collection and processing of information under such systems.

(E)

Improving data entry under such systems, including decreasing reported error rates and enhancing training programs for Army data processors.

(F)

Improving oversight of the training for staff of such systems.

(G)

Improving the availability of and access to liaison officers to the Physical Evaluation Board of each military department.

(H)

Improving utilization of line-of-duty determinations for members of the Armed Forces, including members of the regular Armed Forces and members of the National Guard and Reserve.

(I)

Improving the quality of care and services for wounded or injured members of the National Guard and Reserve who are in medical holdover status and receiving medical treatment away from their homes and families.

(J)

Improving quality assurance mechanisms to ensure that disability determination under such systems are consistent.

(b)

Report on adequacy of schedule for rating disabilities of Department of Veterans Affairs

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to Congress a report setting forth the assessment of the Comptroller General of the adequacy of the schedule for rating disabilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs in recognizing, and providing for appropriate compensation for, disabilities incurred or aggravated in the Global War on Terror, including the following:

(1)

Traumatic brain injuries.

(2)

Amputations.

(3)

Spinal injuries.

(4)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

(5)

Hearing loss.

(c)

Report on standards and procedures of Physical Evaluation Board

(1)

Report required

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to Congress a report setting forth the review and assessment of the Comptroller General of the standards and procedures of the Physical Evaluation Board of the Department of Defense.

(2)

Elements

The report required by paragraph (1) shall include the following:

(A)

A description and assessment of the standards and procedures of the Physical Evaluation Board of the Department of Defense, including standards and procedures relating to—

(i)

the qualification and selection of members of the board;

(ii)

the timeliness of proceedings;

(iii)

witness participation in proceedings;

(iv)

the participation of liaison officers in proceedings;

(v)

the availability of legal assistance for members of the Armed Forces seeking to appeal determinations of the board; and

(vi)

other appropriate board matters.

(B)

Recommendations for such improvements to such standards and procedures as the Comptroller General considers appropriate to enhance and improve the activities of the Physical Evaluation Board.