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H.R. 1682 (ih) To provide the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Education with increased authority with respect to asthma programs, and to provide for increased funding for such programs. [Introduced in House] ...


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108th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                H. R. 1681

  To amend title 38, United States Code, to allow for substitution of 
parties in the case of a claim for benefits provided by the Department 
of Veterans Affairs when the applicant for such benefits dies while the 
               claim is pending, and for other purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________


                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                             April 9, 2003

Mr. Evans (for himself and Mr. Michaud) introduced the following bill; 
        which was referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
  To amend title 38, United States Code, to allow for substitution of 
parties in the case of a claim for benefits provided by the Department 
of Veterans Affairs when the applicant for such benefits dies while the 
               claim is pending, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Veterans Claims Continuation Act''.

SEC. 2. CONTINUATION OF CLAIM AND SUBSTITUTION OF PARTIES UPON DEATH OF 
              APPLICANT FOR BENEFITS.

    (a) In General.--Chapter 51 of title 38, United States Code, is 
amended by adding at the end the following new section:
``Sec. 5127. Deaths of applicants for benefits: continuation of claims 
              and substitution of parties
    ``(a) In the case of a claim for compensation, dependency and 
indemnity compensation, or pension that was submitted to the Secretary 
by a claimant who dies on or after the date of the enactment of the 
Veterans Claims Continuation Act and before a decision on that claim 
becomes final in accordance with section 7291 of this title, the claim 
shall not be extinguished if, within the time period prescribed in 
subsection (c)(2), an eligible person submits an application to the 
Secretary, or submits a motion to a court with jurisdiction over the 
claim, to be substituted as the claimant in order to continue 
prosecution of that claim. The Secretary or the court, as the case may 
be, shall approve any such application submitted by an eligible person.
    ``(b)(1) For purposes of this section and section 7270 of this 
title, and subject to paragraphs (2) and (3), the term `eligible 
person' means any of the following individuals:
            ``(A) The surviving spouse.
            ``(B) Surviving children who have attained the age of 21.
            ``(C) A surviving parent.
            ``(D) The executor, administrator or other legal 
        representative of the deceased claimant's estate.
            ``(E) The heirs of the veteran.
    ``(2) In a case where more than one individual referred to in 
paragraph (1) submits an application or motion under subsection (a) to 
be substituted as a claimant, the eligible person shall be determined 
in the order listed in subparagraphs (A) through (E) of paragraph (1). 
In the case of individuals submitting an application or motion under 
subsection (a) who are specified in the same subparagraph of paragraph 
(1), the eligible person shall be the first in time to submit such 
application or motion.
    ``(3) The Secretary may determine that an individual who otherwise 
would be the `eligible person' for purposes of substitution for a 
deceased claimant under this section is not competent or otherwise is 
not a proper representative of the estate. In such a case, the 
Secretary shall notify the applicant of such determination in writing 
and shall substitute another eligible person to represent the interests 
of the deceased claimant.
    ``(c)(1) Upon being notified of the death of a claimant, the 
Secretary shall send a notice to the estate of the decedent at the 
decedent's last know address and to the authorized representative of 
the decedent, if any, informing the estate and the representative that 
the claim will be dismissed unless an application for substitution as 
the claimant is received by the Secretary within one year of the 
claimant's death.
    ``(2) An application under this section for substitution as the 
claimant on a claim must be filed not later than the later of--
            ``(A) the end of the one-year period beginning on the date 
        of the claimant's death; or
            ``(B) the end of the six-month period beginning on the date 
        of the notification under paragraph (1).
    ``(d) A person named as a substitute claimant under section (a) 
shall be accorded all the rights and responsibilities of the original 
claimant.
    ``(e) If benefits are payable as a result of a decision on a claim 
by a substituted claimant named under this section, such benefits shall 
be paid as follows:
            ``(1) If the deceased claimant was claiming benefits as a 
        veteran, to the living person first listed below:
                    ``(A) The veteran's spouse.
                    ``(B) The veteran's children (in equal shares).
                    ``(C) The veteran's dependent parents (in equal 
                shares).
            ``(2) If the deceased claimant was claiming benefits as the 
        surviving spouse of a veteran, to the surviving children of the 
        deceased veteran (in equal shares).
            ``(3) If the deceased claimant was claiming benefits under 
        chapter 18 of this title as the child of a veteran, to the 
        surviving parents of the child (in equal shares).
            ``(4) If there is no beneficiary who meets the criteria of 
        paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) and in all other cases, to the 
        decedent's estate, unless the estate will escheat.
    ``(f) Upon the appointment of a substitute claimant, the Secretary 
shall notify the person substituted as the claimant as to the evidence 
or information necessary to substantiate the pending claim. If such 
information or evidence is not received within one year from the date 
of such notification, no benefits may be paid on the claim.
    ``(g) For purposes of section 5112(b) of this title, the term 
`payee' as used in such section shall be deemed to include a deceased 
claimant for whom a substitute claimant is appointed under this 
section.''.
    (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections at the beginning of 
such chapter is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

``5127. Deaths of applicants for benefits: continuation of claims and 
                            substitution of parties.''.

SEC. 3. PAYMENT OF ACCRUED BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO DEATHS BEFORE DATE OF 
              ENACTMENT.

    (a) In General.--Subsection (a) of section 5121 of title 38, United 
States Code, is amended--
            (1) in the matter preceding paragraph (1), by striking 
        ``periodic monetary benefits'' and all that follows through 
        ``be paid'' and inserting ``accrued benefits of a deceased 
        individual who died before the date of the enactment of the 
        Veterans Claims Continuation Act that are due and unpaid for a 
        period not to exceed two years shall be paid''; and
            (2) in paragraph (5), by striking ``only so much'' and all 
        that follows through ``burial'' and inserting ``to the 
        decedent's estate, unless the estate will escheat''.
    (b) Definition of Accrued Benefits.--Such section is further 
amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
    ``(d) For purposes of this section and section 5122 of this title, 
the term `accrued benefits', with respect to a deceased individual, 
means periodic monetary benefits (other than insurance and 
servicemember's indemnity) under laws administered by the Secretary to 
which the deceased individual was entitled at death under existing 
ratings or decisions or based on evidence in the file at date of 
death.''.

SEC. 4. SUBSTITUTION OF SURVIVOR IN CASES PENDING BEFORE A COURT.

    (a) In General.--(1) Subchapter II of chapter 72 of title 38, 
United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new 
section:
``Sec. 7270. Cases pending on death of claimant: substitution of 
              parties
    ``(a) If a claimant dies before filing an appeal under section 7266 
of this title, an eligible person may file an appeal as a substituted 
claimant for the decedent within the time period specified under 
section 7266 of this title. If an appellant or respondent dies while a 
claim is pending before a court and before a final decision is rendered 
under section 7291 of this title, an eligible person may move the court 
for substitution of claimant in the pending action. Any such motion 
filed with the the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims 
or to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit must 
be filed within the time period prescribed by sections 7266 and 7292 of 
this title, respectively, or within one year of the claimant's death, 
whichever is earlier.
    ``(b) In any case in which a final decision under section 7291 of 
this title has not been made, an eligible person may move a court to be 
substituted as the appellant (or respondent as the case may be) for an 
appellant or respondent who dies while an appeal is pending. The court 
shall, upon filing of a timely motion, appoint an eligible person to 
substitute as the claimant to continue prosecution or defense of that 
claim.
    ``(c) Nothing in this section shall require or authorize 
substitution for a deceased claimant if a final decision under section 
7291 of this title has been entered before the filing of a motion for 
substitution.
    ``(d) In this section, the term `eligible person' has the meaning 
given that term in section 5127(b) of this title.''.
    (2) The table of sections at the beginning of such subchapter is 
amended by adding at the end the following new item:

``7270. Cases pending on death of claimant: substitution of parties.''.
    (b) Effective Date.--Section 7270 of title 38, United States Code, 
as added by subsection (a), shall apply with respect to deaths of 
claimants on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.
                                 <all>

Pages: 1

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