S 1080

112th CONGRESS
1st Session

S. 1080

To provide veterans with individualized notice about available benefits, to streamline application processes for the benefits, to provide for automatic enrollment of veterans returning from combat zones into the Department of Veterans Affairs medical system, and for other purposes.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

May 25, 2011

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


A BILL

To provide veterans with individualized notice about available benefits, to streamline application processes for the benefits, to provide for automatic enrollment of veterans returning from combat zones into the Department of Veterans Affairs medical system, 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 `Providing Real Outreach for Veterans Act of 2011' or the `PRO-VETS Act of 2011'.

SEC. 2. SHARING INFORMATION TO IMPROVE VETERANS' ACCESS TO BENEFITS.

    (a) Agreement on Data Transfer-

      (1) IN GENERAL- The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall enter an agreement with the Secretary of Defense providing for the transfer of data to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in accordance with this section for the purpose of providing members of the Armed Forces and veterans with individualized information about veterans benefits each member and veteran may be eligible for.

      (2) CONTENTS OF AGREEMENT-

        (A) SPECIFIC CRITERIA FOR IDENTIFICATION OF DATA- The agreement shall specify criteria to identify data of the Department of Defense, including personnel data and data contained in an electronic medical record system, that the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs agree could be used by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs--

          (i) to determine the eligibility of a member of the Armed Forces or veteran for veterans benefits; and

          (ii) as an indicator of a likelihood that a member of the Armed Forces or veteran is eligible for veterans benefits.

        (B) ELECTRONIC DATA TRANSFER METHOD- The agreement shall contain a description of an efficient electronic method to be used for the transfer of data identified in accordance with the criteria specified under subparagraph (A) under the agreement.

        (C) TRANSFER OF DATA- Under the agreement, the Secretary of Defense shall transfer data identified in accordance with the criteria under subparagraph (A) to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs as follows:

          (i) In the case of a member of the Armed Forces who is scheduled for discharge or separation from service, at the time the Secretary of Defense first learns of the scheduled discharge or separation, but not later than one month after the date of discharge or separation.

          (ii) In the case of a member of the Armed Forces or veteran not covered under clause (i), at such time as is specified under the agreement, but subject to subsection (e).

    (b) Identification of Benefits Available-

      (1) GENERATION OF INITIAL LIST- Not later than seven days after the date the Secretary of Veterans Affairs receives data concerning a member of the Armed Forces or veteran under the agreement under subsection (a), the Secretary shall compile a list with respect to the member or veteran of all veterans benefits for which the member or veteran may be eligible based on the data. The list shall be divided into--

        (A) benefits for which the member or veteran has a high probability of being eligible; and

        (B) all other benefits for which the member or veteran may be eligible.

      (2) UPDATED BENEFITS LIST- The Secretary shall update the list under paragraph (1) with respect to a member of the Armed Forces or veteran on an annual basis using any information that the Department of Veterans Affairs may possess about the member or veteran.

    (c) Notification of Available Benefits-

      (1) INITIAL NOTIFICATION- Upon compiling the list of benefits under subsection (b)(1)(A) with respect to a member of the Armed Forces or veteran, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall send a notice of the benefits to the member or veteran or the legal representative of the member or veteran. The notice shall also contain an explanation of each such benefit and a summary of any application requirements and procedures that the member or veteran must comply with to be eligible to receive the benefit.

      (2) SUBSEQUENT NOTIFICATIONS-

        (A) SECOND NOTICE- If a member of the Armed Forces or veteran provided a notice under paragraph (1) does not apply for any benefit listed in the notice by the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date that the Secretary sent the notice, the Secretary shall send a second notice to the member or veteran or the legal representative of the member or veteran. The notice shall contain the same information as the notice sent to the member, veteran, or legal representative under paragraph (1).

        (B) SUBSEQUENT ANNUAL NOTICES- If a member of the Armed Forces or veteran provided a notice under subparagraph (A) does not apply for any benefit listed in the notice by the end of the year beginning on the date that the Secretary sent the notice, the Secretary shall send a subsequent notice to the member or veteran or the legal representative of the member or veteran. The notice shall contain information on the veterans benefits for which the member or veteran has a high probability of being eligible based on the updated list under subsection (b)(2) with respect to the member or veteran.

      (3) NOTICES BASED ON CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCES-

        (A) IN GENERAL- The Secretary shall send a notice to the member or veteran or the legal representative of the member or veteran if, based on data available to the Secretary, the Secretary identifies a member of the Armed Forces or veteran as having a high probability of being eligible for a veterans benefit and--

          (i) the member or veteran has not applied for the benefit;

          (ii) the Secretary has not sent the member or veteran a notice under this subsection with respect to the benefit; and

          (iii) the Secretary has not informed the member or veteran of the benefit under subsection (d)(2) or any other provision of law.

        (B) CONTENTS- The notice under subparagraph (A) shall contain information on the benefit for which the veteran has a high probability of being eligible, an explanation of such benefit, and a summary of any application requirements and procedures that the member or veteran must comply with to be eligible to receive the benefit.

      (4) OPTION TO DECLINE FURTHER NOTICES-

        (A) IN GENERAL- The Secretary shall provide each member of the Armed Forces and veteran that is sent a notice under this subsection with the option to decline further notices under this subsection.

        (B) NOTICE OF OPTION- Each notice under this subsection shall include information concerning the option to decline further notices under this subsection.

        (C) PROHIBITION OF FURTHER NOTICES- If a member of the Armed Forces or veteran declines further notices under this paragraph, the Secretary may not send any notices under this section to the member or veteran after the date the member or veteran declines further notices.

      (5) METHOD OF DELIVERY OF NOTICES-

        (A) IN GENERAL- Subject to subparagraph (B), all notices under this subsection shall be sent--

          (i) by mail; and

          (ii) electronically, if the Secretary has electronic contact information for the member, veteran, or legal representative of the member or veteran.

        (B) OPTION ON METHOD OF DELIVERY OF NOTICES- The Secretary shall provide each member and veteran with the opportunity to be sent notices under this subsection solely--

          (i) by mail; or

          (ii) through electronic methods, such as e-mail.

    (d) Application Process-

      (1) STREAMLINED APPLICATION PROCESS-

        (A) IN GENERAL- The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall use the data received under subsection (a) and any additional relevant data that the Department of Veterans Affairs has in its possession to reduce the amount of information that a member of the Armed Forces or veteran must provide when the member or veteran applies to the Department for veterans benefits. The use of such data may include prepopulating a paper or Internet Web site-based application form to be used by the member or veteran with the data.

        (B) CONFIRMATION- The Secretary may require that a member of the Armed Forces or veteran confirm or verify any data that the Department of Veterans Affairs uses under subparagraph (A) to determine the eligibility of the member or veteran for veterans benefits.

      (2) EVALUATION OF ELIGIBILITY-

        (A) REVIEW OF LIST- When evaluating a member of the Armed Forces or veteran for eligibility for veterans benefits, the Secretary shall review the list of benefits for the member or veteran compiled under subsection (b).

        (B) DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION- If the Secretary determines that the member or veteran has a high probability of being eligible for a benefit so listed for which the member or veteran did not apply, the Secretary shall inform the member or veteran of the benefit and of the opportunity to apply for the benefit.

        (C) RECORD OF DISCLOSURE- If the Secretary informs a member or veteran of a benefit under subparagraph (B), the Secretary shall keep a record, for a period of not less than five years, that contains, at a minimum,--

          (i) the date on which the Secretary informed the member or veteran of such benefit;

          (ii) the name of the member or veteran; and

          (iii) a general description of the information provided to the member or veteran by the Secretary.

      (3) NOTICE OF DENIAL- Not later than 30 days after the date a member of the Armed Forces or veteran is determined not eligible for a veterans benefit for which the member or veteran has applied, the Secretary shall provide notice to the member or veteran of the determination. The notice shall include an explanation of the reason for the determination.

    (e) Transition Period- Not later than five years after the date of the enactment of this Act, for all veterans discharged from the Armed Forces prior to the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall transfer to the Department of Veterans Affairs all data that exists in electronic systems of the Department of Defense on the date of the transfer and that meet the criteria specified in subsection (a)(2)(A).

    (f) Relation to Other Law- The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall implement this section in a manner that does not conflict with the processes, procedures, and standards for the transition of recovering members of the Armed Forces from care and treatment through the Department of Defense to care, treatment, and rehabilitation through the Department of Veterans Affairs under section 1614 of the Wounded Warrior Act (title XVI of Public Law 110-181; 10 U.S.C. 1071 note).

    (g) Privacy-

      (1) IN GENERAL- The Secretary of Defense shall provide a member of the Armed Forces or a veteran the opportunity to decline authorization for the transfer under subsection (a) of some or all of the data associated with the member or veteran.

      (2) CONSENT PRESUMED- If a member of the Armed Forces or veteran does not decline an authorization under paragraph (1), the member or veteran shall be treated as having authorized the transfer of data under subsection (a) until any date on which the member or veteran declines the authorization of the transfer.

      (3) PROHIBITION OF DATA TRANSFER- Data associated with a member of the Armed Forces or a veteran may not be transferred under subsection (a) after any date on which the member or veteran declines the authorization of such transfer under paragraph (1).

      (4) CONSTRUCTION-

        (A) HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT- Nothing in this section shall be construed as waiving regulations promulgated under section 264(c) of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-191).

        (B) PRIVACY ACT- Transfers of data to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under the agreement under subsection (a) shall be treated as a routine use of a record for purposes of section 552a of title 5, United States Code.

SEC. 3. AUTOMATIC ENROLLMENT OF VETERANS RETURNING FROM COMBAT ZONES INTO DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS MEDICAL SYSTEM.

    (a) In General- Except as provided in subsection (b), not later than 45 days after the date on which a veteran described in section 1710(e)(1)(D) of title 38, United States Code, is discharged or separated from service in the active military, naval, or air service, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall, in cooperation with the Secretary of Defense--

      (1) enroll such veteran in the system of annual enrollment established and operated by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under section 1705 of such title; and

      (2) provide such veteran with--

        (A) a veterans identification card that--

          (i) demonstrates that such veteran is enrolled in such system; and

          (ii) allows such veteran to access hospital care and medical services at Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities for which the veteran is eligible at medical facilities of the Department; and

        (B) a list of Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities (including hospitals, outpatient centers, and mental health clinics) that are--

          (i) located within 100 miles of the home of such veteran; or

          (ii) the closest to the veteran's home, if no such facilities are located within 100 miles of the home of such veteran.

    (b) Opt-Out Provisions-

      (1) PRIOR TO ENROLLMENT-

        (A) OPTION NOT TO ENROLL- During the discharge or separation process for a person from active military, naval, or air service, and prior to enrolling the person pursuant to subsection (a)(1), the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, provide the person with the option to decline such enrollment.

        (B) NOTICE TO SECRETARY; PROHIBITION ON ENROLLMENT- If a person provides notice to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that the person is declining enrollment under subparagraph (A), the Secretary may not enroll the person pursuant to subsection (a)(1).

      (2) SUBSEQUENT TO ENROLLMENT-

        (A) NOTICE TO SECRETARY- Not later than 180 days after the date on which a veteran is enrolled under section 1705 of title 38, United States Code, pursuant to subsection (a)(1), a veteran so enrolled may disenroll from the patient enrollment system under such section by providing notice to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

        (B) DISENROLLMENT- Not later than 60 days after receiving notice from a veteran under subparagraph (A), the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall disenroll such veteran from such patient enrollment system.

    (c) Effective Date- This section shall take effect on the date that is 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 4. DEFINITIONS.

    In this Act:

      (1) VETERAN- The term `veteran' has the meaning given such term in section 101 of title 38, United States Code.

      (2) ARMED FORCES- The term `Armed Forces' has the meaning given the term `armed forces' in section 101 of title 10, United States Code.

      (3) VETERANS BENEFITS- The term `veterans benefits' means benefits under laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

END