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Title of Law:Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2002
Law #:Public Law 107-330
Passed by Congress:107th Congress (2nd Session)

The following are excerpts, highlighted in red, from the final legislation and/or conference report which contain National Academies' studies. (Pound signs [##] between passages denote the deletion of unrelated text.)

S2237 Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) 11/18/02
Enrolled (finally passed both houses)

To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve authorities of the Department of Veterans Affairs relating to veteransī compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, and pension benefits, education benefits, housing benefits, memorial affairs benefits, life insurance benefits, and certain other benefits for veterans, to improve the administration of benefits for veterans, to make improvements in procedures relating to judicial review of veteransī claims for benefits, and for other purposes.
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TITLE I-COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS IMPROVEMENTS

Sec. 101. Retention of CHAMPVA for surviving spouses remarrying after age 55.

Sec. 102. Clarification of entitlement to special monthly compensation for women veterans who have service-connected loss of breast tissue.

Sec. 103. Specification of hearing loss required for compensation for hearing loss in paired organs.

Sec. 104. Assessment of acoustic trauma associated with military service from World War II to present.

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SEC. 104. ASSESSMENT OF ACOUSTIC TRAUMA ASSOCIATED WITH MILITARY SERVICE FROM WORLD WAR II TO PRESENT.

(a) ASSESSMENT BY NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES.-The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall seek to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences for the Academy to perform the activities specified in this section. The Secretary shall seek to enter into the agreement not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(b) DUTIES UNDER AGREEMENT.-Under the agreement under subsection (a), the National Academy of Sciences shall do the following:

(1) Review and assess available data on hearing loss that could reasonably be expected to have been incurred by members of the Armed Forces during the period from the beginning of World War II to the date of the enactment of this Act.

(2) Identify the different sources of acoustic trauma that members of the Armed Forces could reasonably be expected to have been exposed to during the period from the beginning of World War II to the date of the enactment of this Act

(3) Determine how much exposure to each source of acoustic trauma identified under paragraph (2) is required to cause or contribute to hearing loss, hearing threshold shift, or tinnitus, as the case may be, and at what noise level.

(4) Determine whether or not such hearing loss, hearing threshold shift, or tinnitus, as the case may be, is-

(A) immediate or delayed onset;

(B) cumulative;

(C) progressive; or

(D) any combination of subparagraph (A), (B), and (C).

(5) Identify age, occupational history, and other factors which contribute to an individualīs noise-induced hearing loss.

(6) Identify-

(A) the period of time at which audiometric measures used by the Armed Forces became adequate to evaluate individual hearing threshold shift; and

(B) the period of time at which hearing conservation measures to prevent individual hearing threshold shift were available to members of the Armed Forces, shown separately for each of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, and, for each such service, shown separately for members exposed to different sources of acoustic trauma identified under paragraph (2).

(c) REPORT.-Not later than 180 days after the date of the entry into the agreement referred to in subsection (a), the National Academy of Sciences shall submit to the Secretary a report on the activities of the National Academy of Sciences under the agreement, including the results of the activities required by subsection (b).

(d) REPORT ON ADMINISTRATION OF BENEFITS FOR HEARING LOSS AND TINNITUS.-(1) Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the Committees on Veteransī Affairs of the Senate and the House of Representatives a report on the claims submitted to the Secretary for disability compensation or health care for hearing loss or tinnitus.

(2) The report under paragraph (1) shall include the following:

(A) The number of decisions issued by the Secretary in each of fiscal years 2000, 2001, and 2002 on claims for disability compensation for hearing loss, tinnitus, or both.

(B) Of the decisions referred to in subparagraph (A)-

(i) the number in which compensation was awarded, and the number in which compensation was denied, set forth by fiscal year; and

(ii) the total amount of disability compensation paid on such claims during each such fiscal year.

(C) The total cost to the Department of Veterans Affairs of adjudicating the claims referred to in subparagraph (A), set forth in terms of full-time employee equivalents (FTEEs).

(D) The total number of veterans who sought treatment in Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities during fiscal years specified in subparagraph (A) for hearing-related disorders, set forth by the number of veterans per year.

(E) The health care furnished to veterans referred to in subparagraph (D) for hearing-related disorders, including the number of veterans furnished hearing aids and the cost of furnishing such hearing aids.

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