[USC02] 38 USC PART IV, CHAPTER 51, SUBCHAPTER III: PAYMENT OF BENEFITS
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38 USC PART IV, CHAPTER 51, SUBCHAPTER III: PAYMENT OF BENEFITS
From Title 38—VETERANS' BENEFITSPART IV—GENERAL ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONSCHAPTER 51—CLAIMS, EFFECTIVE DATES, AND PAYMENTS

SUBCHAPTER III—PAYMENT OF BENEFITS

§5120. Payment of benefits; delivery

(a) Monetary benefits under laws administered by the Secretary shall be paid by checks drawn, pursuant to certification by the Secretary, in such form as to protect the United States against loss, and payable by the Treasurer of the United States. Such checks shall be payable without separate vouchers or receipts except in any case in which the Secretary may consider a voucher necessary for the protection of the Government. Such checks shall be transmitted by mail to the payee thereof at the payee's last known address and, if the payee has moved and filed a regular change of address notice with the United States Postal Service, shall be forwarded to the payee. The envelope or cover of each such checks shall bear on the face thereof the following notice: "POSTMASTER: PLEASE FORWARD if addressee has moved and filed a regular change-of-address notice. If addressee is deceased, return the letter with date of death, if known."

(b) Postmasters, delivery clerks, letter carriers, and all other postal employees are prohibited from delivering any mail addressed by the United States and containing any such check to any person whomsoever if such person has died or in the case of a surviving spouse, if the postal employee believes that the surviving spouse has remarried (unless the mail is addressed to the surviving spouse in the name the surviving spouse has acquired by the remarriage). The preceding sentence shall apply in the case of checks in payment of benefits other than pension, compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, and insurance, only insofar as the Secretary deems it necessary to protect the United States against loss.

(c) Whenever mail is not delivered because of the prohibition of subsection (b), such mail shall be returned forthwith by the postmaster with a statement of the reason for so doing, and if because of death or remarriage, the date thereof, if known. Checks returned under this subsection because of death or remarriage shall be canceled.

(d) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, pursuant to an agreement with the Department of the Treasury under which the Secretary certifies such benefits for payment, monetary benefits under laws administered by the Secretary may be paid other than by check upon the written request of the person to whom such benefits are to be paid, if such noncheck payment is determined by the Secretary to be in the best interest of such payees and the management of monetary benefits programs by the Department.

(e) Whenever the first day of any calendar month falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal public holiday (as defined in section 6103 of title 5), the Secretary shall, to the maximum extent practicable, certify benefit payments for such month in such a way that such payments will be delivered by mail, or transmitted for credit to the payee's account pursuant to subsection (d) of this section, on the Friday immediately preceding such Saturday or Sunday, or in the case of a legal holiday, the weekday (other than Saturday) immediately preceding such legal public holiday, notwithstanding that such delivery or transmission of such payments is made in the same calendar month for which such payments are issued.

(f)(1) In the case of a payee who does not have a mailing address, payments of monetary benefits under laws administered by the Secretary shall be delivered under an appropriate method prescribed pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection.

(2) The Secretary shall prescribe an appropriate method or methods for the delivery of payments of monetary benefits under laws administered by the Secretary in cases described in paragraph (1) of this subsection. To the maximum extent practicable, such method or methods shall be designed to ensure the delivery of payments in such cases.

(Pub. L. 85–857, Sept. 2, 1958, 72 Stat. 1227, §3020; Pub. L. 95–117, title IV, §402(a), (b)(1), Oct. 3, 1977, 91 Stat. 1065, 1066; Pub. L. 97–295, §4(73), Oct. 12, 1982, 96 Stat. 1310; Pub. L. 99–570, title XI, §11007(a)(2), Oct. 27, 1986, 100 Stat. 3207–170; Pub. L. 99–576, title VII, §701(65), Oct. 28, 1986, 100 Stat. 3296; renumbered §5120, Pub. L. 102–40, title IV, §402(b)(1), May 7, 1991, 105 Stat. 238; Pub. L. 102–83, §4(a)(1), (3), (4), (b)(1), (2)(E), Aug. 6, 1991, 105 Stat. 403–405.)

Amendments

1991Pub. L. 102–40 renumbered section 3020 of this title as this section.

Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 102–83, §4(b)(1), (2)(E), substituted "Secretary" for "Administrator" in two places.

Pub. L. 102–83, §4(a)(1), substituted "administered by the Secretary" for "administered by the Veterans' Administration".

Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 102–83, §4(b)(1), (2)(E), substituted "Secretary" for "Administrator".

Subsec. (d). Pub. L. 102–83, §4(b)(1), (2)(E), substituted "Secretary" for "Administrator" in two places.

Pub. L. 102–83, §4(a)(3), (4), substituted "Department" for "Veterans' Administration" before period at end.

Pub. L. 102–83, §4(a)(1), substituted "administered by the Secretary" for "administered by the Veterans' Administration".

Subsec. (e). Pub. L. 102–83, §4(b)(1), (2)(E), substituted "Secretary" for "Administrator".

Subsec. (f)(1). Pub. L. 102–83, §4(a)(1), substituted "administered by the Secretary" for "administered by the Veterans' Administration".

Subsec. (f)(2). Pub. L. 102–83, §4(b)(1), (2)(E), substituted "Secretary" for "Administrator".

Pub. L. 102–83, §4(a)(1), substituted "administered by the Secretary" for "administered by the Veterans' Administration".

1986—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 99–576, §701(65)(A), substituted "the payee's" for "his", and "the payee" for "he" and "him" in third sentence.

Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 99–576, §701(65)(B), substituted "such person" for "he", "surviving spouse" for "widow", "the surviving spouse" for "she" in two places, "to the surviving spouse" for "to her", and "by the" for "by her" in first sentence.

Subsec. (f). Pub. L. 99–570 added subsec. (f).

1982—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 97–295 substituted "United States Postal Service" for "Post Office Department".

1977Pub. L. 95–117, §402(b)(1), struck out "by check" after "benefits" in section catchline.

Subsecs. (d), (e). Pub. L. 95–117, §402(a), added subsecs. (d) and (e).

Effective Date of 1986 Amendment

Pub. L. 99–570, title XI, §11007(b)(2), Oct. 27, 1986, 100 Stat. 3207–170, provided that: "The amendment made by subsection (a)(2) [amending this section] shall take effect with respect to payments made on or after October 1, 1986."

Effective Date of 1977 Amendment

Pub. L. 95–117, title IV, §402(c), Oct. 3, 1977, 91 Stat. 1066, provided that: "The amendments made by this section [amending this section] shall be effective on the date of enactment of this Act [Oct. 3, 1977]."

§5121. Payment of certain accrued benefits upon death of a beneficiary

(a) Except as provided in sections 3329 and 3330 of title 31, periodic monetary benefits (other than insurance and servicemen's indemnity) under laws administered by the Secretary to which an individual was entitled at death under existing ratings or decisions or those based on evidence in the file at date of death (hereinafter in this section and section 5122 of this title referred to as "accrued benefits") and due and unpaid, shall, upon the death of such individual be paid as follows:

(1) Upon the death of a person receiving an apportioned share of benefits payable to a veteran, all or any part of such benefits to the veteran or to any other dependent or dependents of the veteran, as may be determined by the Secretary.

(2) Upon the death of 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).


(3) Upon the death of a surviving spouse or remarried surviving spouse, to the children of the deceased veteran.

(4) Upon the death of a child, to the surviving children of the veteran who are entitled to death compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, or death pension.

(5) Upon the death of a child claiming benefits under chapter 18 of this title, to the surviving parents.

(6) In all other cases, only so much of the accrued benefits may be paid as may be necessary to reimburse the person who bore the expense of last sickness and burial.


(b) No part of any accrued benefits shall be used to reimburse any political subdivision of the United States for expenses incurred in the last sickness or burial of any beneficiary.

(c) Applications for accrued benefits must be filed within one year after the date of death. If a claimant's application is incomplete at the time it is originally submitted, the Secretary shall notify the claimant of the evidence necessary to complete the application. If such evidence is not received within one year from the date of such notification, no accrued benefits may be paid.

(Pub. L. 85–857, Sept. 2, 1958, 72 Stat. 1228, §3021; Pub. L. 92–328, title I, §105(b), June 30, 1972, 86 Stat. 395; Pub. L. 97–258, §3(k)(4), Sept. 13, 1982, 96 Stat. 1065; Pub. L. 98–160, title VII, §703(1), Nov. 21, 1983, 97 Stat. 1010; Pub. L. 99–576, title VII, §701(66), Oct. 28, 1986, 100 Stat. 3296; renumbered §5121 and amended Pub. L. 102–40, title IV, §402(b)(1), (d)(1), May 7, 1991, 105 Stat. 238, 239; Pub. L. 102–83, §4(a)(1), (b)(1), (2)(E), Aug. 6, 1991, 105 Stat. 403–405; Pub. L. 104–275, title V, §507, Oct. 9, 1996, 110 Stat. 3343; Pub. L. 107–14, §8(a)(16), June 5, 2001, 115 Stat. 35; Pub. L. 108–183, title I, §104(a)–(c), Dec. 16, 2003, 117 Stat. 2656.)

Amendments

2003—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 108–183, §104(c)(1), struck out comma after "or decisions" in introductory provisions.

Pub. L. 108–183, §104(a), struck out "for a period not to exceed two years" after "unpaid" in introductory provisions.

Subsec. (a)(1) to (4). Pub. L. 108–183, §104(c)(2), substituted period for semicolon at end of pars. (1) to (4) and subpars. (A) and (B) of par. (2).

Subsec. (a)(5), (6). Pub. L. 108–183, §104(b), added par. (5) and redesignated former par. (5) as (6).

2001—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 107–14 substituted "hereinafter" for "hereafter" in introductory provisions.

1996—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 104–275 substituted "two years" for "one year" in introductory provisions.

1991Pub. L. 102–40, §402(b)(1), renumbered section 3021 of this title as this section.

Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 102–83, §4(b)(1), (2)(E), substituted "Secretary" for "Administrator" in par. (1).

Pub. L. 102–83, §4(a)(1), substituted "administered by the Secretary" for "administered by the Veterans' Administration" in introductory provisions.

Pub. L. 102–40, §402(d)(1), substituted "5122" for "3022" in introductory provisions.

Subsec. (c). Pub. L. 102–83, §4(b)(1), (2)(E), substituted "Secretary" for "Administrator".

1986—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 99–576, §701(66)(A), struck out "his" after "entitled at".

Subsec. (a)(2)(A) to (C). Pub. L. 99–576, §701(66)(B), substituted "The veteran's" for "His".

1983—Subsec. (a)(3). Pub. L. 98–160 substituted "surviving spouse" for "widow" in two places.

1982—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 97–258 substituted "sections 3329 and 3330 of title 31" for "sections 123–128 of title 31".

1972—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 92–328 struck out reference to section 3203(a)(2)(A) of this title.

Effective Date of 2003 Amendment

Pub. L. 108–183, title I, §104(d), Dec. 16, 2003, 117 Stat. 2656, provided that: "The amendments made by subsections (a) and (b) [amending this section] shall apply with respect to deaths occurring on or after the date of the enactment of this Act [Dec. 16, 2003]."

Effective Date of 1972 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 92–328 effective first day of second calendar month which begins after June 30, 1972, see section 301(a) of Pub. L. 92–328, set out as a note under section 1114 of this title.

§5121A. Substitution in case of death of claimant

(a) Substitution.—(1) If a claimant dies while a claim for any benefit under a law administered by the Secretary, or an appeal of a decision with respect to such a claim, is pending, a living person who would be eligible to receive accrued benefits due to the claimant under section 5121(a) of this title may, not later than one year after the date of the death of such claimant, file a request to be substituted as the claimant for the purposes of processing the claim to completion.

(2) Any person seeking to be substituted for the claimant shall present evidence of the right to claim such status within such time as prescribed by the Secretary in regulations.

(3) Substitution under this subsection shall be in accordance with such regulations as the Secretary may prescribe.

(b) Limitation.—Those who are eligible to make a claim under this section shall be determined in accordance with section 5121 of this title.

(Added Pub. L. 110–389, title II, §212(a), Oct. 10, 2008, 122 Stat. 4151.)

Effective Date

Pub. L. 110–389, title II, §212(c), Oct. 10, 2008, 122 Stat. 4151, provided that: "Section 5121A of title 38, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), shall apply with respect to the claim of any claimant who dies on or after the date of the enactment of this Act [Oct. 10, 2008]."

§5122. Cancellation of checks mailed to deceased payees

A check received by a payee in payment of accrued benefits shall, if the payee died on or after the last day of the period covered by the check, be returned to the issuing office and canceled, unless negotiated by the payee or the duly appointed representative of the payee's estate. The amount represented by such check, or any amount recovered by reason of improper negotiation of any such check, shall be payable in the manner provided in section 5121 of this title, without regard to section 5121(c) of this title. Any amount not paid in the manner provided in section 5121 of this title shall be paid to the estate of the deceased payee unless the estate will escheat.

(Pub. L. 85–857, Sept. 2, 1958, 72 Stat. 1229, §3022; Pub. L. 99–576, title VII, §701(67), Oct. 28, 1986, 100 Stat. 3296; renumbered §5122 and amended Pub. L. 102–40, title IV, §402(b)(1), (d)(1), May 7, 1991, 105 Stat. 238, 239; Pub. L. 104–316, title II, §202(t), Oct. 19, 1996, 110 Stat. 3845.)

Amendments

1996Pub. L. 104–316 in last sentence struck out "upon settlement by the General Accounting Office" after "shall be paid".

1991Pub. L. 102–40 renumbered section 3022 of this title as this section and substituted "5121" for "3021" in two places and "5121(c)" for "3021(c)".

1986Pub. L. 99–576 substituted "the payee's" for "his" in first sentence.

§5123. Rounding down of pension rates

The monthly or other periodic rate of pension payable to an individual under section 1521, 1541, or 1542 of this title or under section 306(a) of the Veterans' and Survivors' Pension Improvement Act of 1978 (Public Law 95–588), if not a multiple of $1, shall be rounded down to the nearest dollar.

(Added Pub. L. 97–253, title IV, §403(a)(1), Sept. 8, 1982, 96 Stat. 802, §3023; renumbered §5123, Pub. L. 102–40, title IV, §402(b)(1), May 7, 1991, 105 Stat. 238; amended Pub. L. 102–83, §5(c)(1), Aug. 6, 1991, 105 Stat. 406.)

References in Text

Section 306(a) of the Veterans' and Survivors' Pension Improvement Act of 1978 (Public Law 95–588), referred to in text, is section 306(a) of Pub. L. 95–588, title III, Nov. 4, 1978, 92 Stat. 2508, which is set out as a note under section 1521 of this title.

Prior Provisions

Prior sections 5201 to 5228 were renumbered sections 8501 to 8528 of this title, respectively.

Amendments

1991Pub. L. 102–40 renumbered section 3023 of this title as this section.

Pub. L. 102–83 substituted "1521, 1541, or 1542" for "521, 541, or 542".

Effective Date

Section 403(b) of Pub. L. 97–253, as amended by Pub. L. 98–21, title I, §111(e), Apr. 20, 1983, 97 Stat. 73; Pub. L. 98–369, div. B, title VI, §2662(j), July 18, 1984, 98 Stat. 1160, provided that:

"(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the amendment made by subsection (a)(1) [enacting this section] shall apply with respect to amounts payable for periods beginning after May 31, 1983.

"(2) In the cases of individuals to whom pension is payable under sections 521, 541, and 542 [now 1521, 1541, and 1542] of title 38, United States Code, the amendment made by subsection (a)(1) shall take effect on the first day after May 31, 1983, that an increase is made in maximum annual rates of pension pursuant to section 3112 [now 5312] of title 38, United States Code."

§5124. Acceptance of claimant's statement as proof of relationship

(a) For purposes of benefits under laws administered by the Secretary, the Secretary may accept the written statement of a claimant as proof of the existence of any relationship specified in subsection (b) for the purpose of acting on such individual's claim for benefits.

(b) Subsection (a) applies to proof of the existence of any of the following relationships between a claimant and another person:

(1) Marriage.

(2) Dissolution of a marriage.

(3) Birth of a child.

(4) Death of any family member.


(c) The Secretary may require the submission of documentation in support of the claimant's statement if—

(1) the claimant does not reside within a State;

(2) the statement on its face raises a question as to its validity;

(3) there is conflicting information of record; or

(4) there is reasonable indication, in the statement or otherwise, of fraud or misrepresentation.

(Added Pub. L. 103–446, title III, §301(a), Nov. 2, 1994, 108 Stat. 4657.)

§5125. Acceptance of reports of private physician examinations

For purposes of establishing any claim for benefits under chapter 11 or 15 of this title, a report of a medical examination administered by a private physician that is provided by a claimant in support of a claim for benefits under that chapter may be accepted without a requirement for confirmation by an examination by a physician employed by the Veterans Health Administration if the report is sufficiently complete to be adequate for the purpose of adjudicating such claim.

(Added Pub. L. 103–446, title III, §301(b), Nov. 2, 1994, 108 Stat. 4658.)

§5126. Benefits not to be denied based on lack of mailing address

Benefits under laws administered by the Secretary may not be denied a claimant on the basis that the claimant does not have a mailing address.

(Added Pub. L. 106–475, §3(b), Nov. 9, 2000, 114 Stat. 2098.)