Summary: H.R.4741 — 100th Congress (1987-1988)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed Senate amended (10/18/1988)

(Measure passed Senate, amended, in lieu of S. 2011)

Veterans' Benefits and Programs Improvement Act of 1988 - Title I: Compensation and Related Benefits - Directs the Administrator of Veterans Affairs to increase the rates of veterans' disability compensation and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation paid to the survivors of disabled veterans by the Veterans Administration (VA). Provides that certain payments that were increased under the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustments Act of 1987 are to be further increased by the same percentage that benefit amounts payable under title II (Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance) of the Social Security Act are increased as of a specified date. Requires the Administrator to publish such notice in the Federal Register at the same time that increases under title II of the Social Security Act are required to be published.

Title II: Agent Orange and Related Provisions - Veterans' Agent Orange Exposure and Vietnam Service Benefits Act of 1988 - Part A: Agent Orange Presumptions, Benefits, Research, and Outreach Matters - Directs the Administrator to pay a monthly disability or death benefit to Vietnam veterans having non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or soft-tissue sarcoma. Provides exceptions to such payments and defines benefit amounts. Treats such disabilities as presumptively service-connected for purposes of eligibility for VA benefits. Provides a conditional expiration date for the provision of interim benefits. Requires the Administrator to take specified action to notify eligible veterans of such benefits.

Provides a presumption of service-connection for a Vietnam veteran suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or soft-tissue sarcoma for purposes of eligibility for veterans' wartime disability compensation. Provides that, for purposes of eligibility for such benefits, certain diseases incurred by Vietnam veterans exposed to dioxin and other toxic agents shall be considered service-connected.

Directs the Administrator to enter into an agreement with an appropriate nonprofit scientific organization in order to make determinations concerning diseases associated with effects of exposure to certain toxic agents or effects of serving in Vietnam during the Vietnam era. Requires certain reports among the scientific organization, the Administrator, and the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees (the veterans' committees) concerning such determinations. Requires the Administrator, on the basis of such determinations, to issue proposed regulations which list each disease reasonably associated with such service during the Vietnam era. Outlines further administrative provisions relating to the determination and listing of diseases associated with Vietnam duty. Revises provisions relating to the payment of veterans' disability compensation for veterans suffering from listed associated diseases before final regulations are issued by the Administrator concerning such diseases. Provides a special effective date for the award of veterans' disability compensation if the Administrator fails to issue final regulations regarding associated diseases within 180 days after the scientific organization makes its determinations. Prohibits the Administrator from entering into an agreement with a nonprofit scientific organization, other than an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences, until specifically authorized to do so by an Act other than this Act.

Directs the Administrator to compile and analyze all clinical data available relating to the treatment by the VA of veterans suffering from diseases determined to be associated with their service in Vietnam during the Vietnam era. Requires an annual report from the Administrator to the veterans' committees concerning such data. Directs the Administrator to consult with the Director of the Office of Technology Assessment before compiling and analyzing such information.

Directs the Administrator to establish and maintain a system for the collection and storage of voluntarily-contributed samples of blood and tissues of veterans who performed active service in Vietnam during the Vietnam era. Outlines provisions concerning: (1) security of such samples and specimens; (2) authorized uses; (3) limitations on acceptance of samples; and (4) consultation with the Director of the Office of Technology Assessment concerning such system.

Directs the Administrator to establish a program to provide for studies of the feasibility of conducting additional scientific research on health hazards resulting from exposure to dioxin or other toxic agents by Vietnam veterans during the Vietnam era. Outlines program and report requirements relating to such feasibility studies. Requires consultation with the National Academy of Sciences on such program and studies.

Directs the Administrator to: (1) conduct an outreach program for furnishing to Vietnam veterans information relating to health risks incurred as the result of exposure to dioxin or other toxic agents during their service, as well as services and benefits available to such veterans; (2) update the information on veterans contained in the Veterans' Administration Agent Orange Registry; and (3) organize the information contained in such Registry so as to promptly notify a veteran of any increased health risk resulting from such exposure. Directs the Administrator to promptly furnish such information to the veterans' committees.

Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services, no later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act, to report to the veterans' committees a discussion of the research being conducted to identify and develop treatments for physiological absorption of dioxin and other toxic agents used in support of the U.S. and allied operations in Vietnam during the Vietnam era.

Provides a presumption of service-connection for a Vietnam veteran suffering from chloracne.

Part B: Advisory Committee on Special Studies Relating to the Possible Long-Term Health Effects of Phenoxy Herbicides and Contaminants - Requires that, as of March 1, 1989, no less than one-third of the total membership of the Advisory Committee on Special Studies Relating to the Possible Long-Term Health Effects of Phenoxy Herbicides and Contaminants (the Committee) shall be individuals selected by the Secretary of Health and Human Services from among scientists recommended by veterans' organizations and determined by the Secretary to be qualified. Authorizes the Chairman of the Committee to be an officer or employee of the Federal Government only if the Secretary makes certain determinations.

Directs the Committee to directly consult with and provide information and recommendations to the Department of the Air Force scientists conducting the Ranch Hand Study (relating to the possible long-term health effects of phenoxy herbicides and contaminants on Air Force personnel who participated in Operation Ranch Hand in Vietnam during the Vietnam era). Requires certain reports from the Secretary of Defense to the veterans' committees on the Ranch Hand Study and other related studies.

Part C: Effective Date - Sets forth the effective date for this title.

Extends through 1990 health-care eligibility for benefits for veterans suffering from a disease based on Agent Orange or ionizing radiation exposure.

Excludes parents' dependency and indemnity compensation and pension and health-care payments from "income" for purposes of eligibility for certain needs-based benefits for veterans and their dependents.

Provides that payments made from the settlement of a certain Agent Orange product liability case shall not be considered income in determining eligibility for certain needs-based veterans' benefits.

Requires the Administrator to enter into negotiations with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) whereby the NAS conducts a specified scientific evidence review of Agent Orange. Outlines reporting requirements. Authorizes appropriations.

Revises procedures for the evaluation and consideration of: (1) Vietnam veterans epidemiological studies; and (2) other Vietnam-veterans related studies.

Title III: Education and Rehabilitation - Part A: Rehabilitation for Veterans with Service-Connected Disabilities - Provides training and work experience (without pay) in State and local government agencies for veterans with service-connected disabilities. Removes a bar to the use of for-profit organizations for employment assistance and independent living programs for such veterans.

Extends through January 31, 1992, temporary programs of trial work periods and vocational rehabilitation evaluations.

Part B: Education Programs - Subpart 1: Montgomery GI Bill Provisions - Provides a specified amount of assistance to certain GI bill benefits for individuals discharged for pre-service medical conditions or due to reductions in force. Provides an opportunity for enrollment for certain benefits recently added to benefits under the GI Bill for certain active-duty non-participants. Authorizes certain Reserve members eligible for both this assistance and basic educational assistance to choose between the two benefits (not allowing both benefits).

Directs the Administrator, in the event of a service-connected death of an individual whose pay was reduced in order to qualify for veterans' educational assistance, to pay to the beneficiaries (in a specified order) of such veteran any amount taken from such pay less any educational assistance amount provided before the individual's death.

Subpart 2: Provisions Relating to Montgomery GI Bill and Certain Other Programs - Authorizes the Administrator to approve the enrollment of qualified individuals in deficiency, remedial, or refresher courses or courses offered by an appropriate educational institution and required for, or preparatory to, the pursuit of an approved program of education. Authorizes such assistance under the Post-Vietnam Era Veterans' Educational Assistance program and the Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance program.

Provides tutorial assistance (for all individuals entitled to an educational assistance allowance) under: (1) the Montgomery GI Bill Active-Duty program; (2) the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve program; and (3) the Post-Vietnam Era Educational Assistance program. Provides cooperative training to all such individuals under the same programs.

Provides certain extensions of the tolling period for the following programs for members of the armed forces or veterans applying for such an extension by reason of drug or alcohol dependency or abuse conditions: (1) educational assistance for members of the all-volunteer force; (2) programs of rehabilitation for veterans with service-connected disabilities of a certain degree or more; (3) educational assistance for post-Vietnam Era veterans; (4) educational assistance for Vietnam Era veterans; and (5) educational assistance for veterans' survivors and dependents.

Subpart 3: Administrative and Miscellaneous Provisions - Authorizes the Administrator to approve the pursuit of flight training by an individual entitled to basic educational assistance, if certain conditions are met. Provides the amount of such flight training assistance, as well as other conditions for the availability of such assistance. Authorizes the Administrator to approve such flight training assistance under the Selected Reserve Educational Assistance program. Directs the Administrator to conduct an evaluation of the efficacy of providing such flight training assistance and, no later than January 31, 1993, report to the veterans' committees on such evaluation.

Sets forth administrative provisions concerning: (1) course withdrawals; (2) the funding of educational and vocational counseling services; and (3) the measurement of full-time study. Provides educational assistance for certain incarcerated veterans under the Post-Vietnam Era Veterans' Educational Assistance program.

Adds a specified official to the Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education. Extends the existence of such Committee through 1993.

Provides Vietnam-Era GI Bill eligibility for certain service academy graduates. Repeals expired programs concerning the accelerated payment of veterans' educational assistance loans.

Part C: Non-Service-Connected Disability Pension Recipients' Vocational Training Program - Extends through January 31, 1990, the program period for: (1) vocational training for certain new veterans' pension recipients; and (2) temporary protection of health-care eligibility for veterans whose pensions are terminated.

Title IV: Miscellaneous Benefits Provisions - Part A: Insurance Programs - Provides authority for the payment of interest on veterans' insurance settlements. Authorizes the Administrator to adjust periodically the discount rates for veterans' insurance premiums paid in advance.

Part B: State Cemetery Construction Grant Program - Extends by four years the authorization of appropriations for the State cemetery construction grant program.

Part C: Home Loan Guaranty Program - Revises a provision concerning the waiver of indebtedness under the veterans' home loan guaranty program.

Provides that the Veterans' Home Loan Guaranty Revolving Fund shall be available to the Administrator for contracts for the procurement of supplementary services for the VA and for the acquisition of such supplementary equipment as the Administrator determines would assist in the long-term stability and solvency of the Fund. Outlines various supplementary services authorized to be procured by the Administrator. Limits the amount the Administrator may obligate in a fiscal year for services and equipment under this provision.

Title V: Board of Veterans' Appeals - Outlines and revises provisions concerning the Board of Veterans' Appeals, including provisions relating to the following: (1) the independence of the Chairman; (2) the timeliness of dispositions; (3) appointment and removal of the Board Chairman and members; (4) reports on Board activities and resources; (5) voting by, and decisions of, the Board; (6) reopening of disallowed claims; (7) notice and content of Board decisions; (8) the prohibition against a presumption of agreement among Board members; (9) medical opinions; (10) adjudication procedures and notice of procedures; (11) the effective date of awards in reopended cases; and (12) attorneys' fees.

Title VI: Health Care - Part A: Programs Relating to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Mental Health - Increases eligiblity for health care for veterans with service-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Requires the Special Committee on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, no later than April 1, 1989, to report to the Administrator on the results of its study. Requires report updates.

Directs the Administrator to provide for a study of psychological problems among Asian-American, American-Indian, Native-Hawaiian, other Native-American Pacific Islanders, and Alaska Native Vietnam veterans. Requires a report from the Administrator to the veterans' committees concerning such study.

Directs the Administrator to designate not more than five VA health-care facilities as the locations for centers of mental illness research, education, and clinical activities. Outlines provisions concerning the establishment of such centers and authorized activities for such centers. Requires reports from the Administrator to the veterans' committees concerning such centers.

Extends the eligibility for veterans' readjustment counseling.

Directs the Administrator, during FY 1989 through 1997, to conduct a clinical evaluation in order to determine the long-term results of drug and alcohol abuse treatment furnished to veterans in contract residential treatment facilities. Requires reports from the Administrator to the veterans' committees concerning such evaluation.

Authorizes the Administrator to relocate a veterans' readjustment counseling center, in existence on January 1, 1988, to a new location away from a general VA facility when necessitated by circumstances beyond the control of the VA. Requires the veterans' committees to be notified of such relocations and provides for a 30-day waiting period after such notification.

Directs the Administrator, in certain papers required to be submitted to the President annually, to identify the amounts in the appropriations requests for the VA that are estimated to be obligated for payments and treatments for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and for education, training, research, and the operation of the National Center on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Part B: Other Health-Care Programs - Extends the authority for: (1) the provision of respite care for veterans; (2) the due date for a report required under specified Federal law concerning such care; and (3) contracts and grants for medical care for U.S. veterans in the Republic of the Philippines. Directs the Administrator to submit to the Congress certain reports concerning such care at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and other treatment centers in the Philippines.

Includes health-care facilities in a provision authorizing the sharing of specialized medical resources.

Extends through FY 1992 the authority for veterans' State home construction grants.

Directs the Administrator, during FY 1989 through 1992, to conduct a pilot program for providing assistive animals to aid veterans in the performance of daily living tasks which they are unable to perform due to certain disabilities or handicaps. Outlines administrative provisions and requires reports from the Administrator to the veterans' committees concerning such program.

Amends the Veterans' Benefits and Services Act of 1988 to defer until February 1, 1990, the due date of a required report on certain activities relating to training in geriatrics of medical and other health-professional schools affiliated with the VA.

Part C: Health-Care Personnel - Authorizes the Administrator to appoint into the competitive service five individuals who were appointed to, and successfully participated in, a VA-affiliated clinical education program.

Authorizes the Administrator to advance the effective date for the payment of certain special pay for VA health-care personnel if the President approves such advance date.

Provides a priority provision in the awarding of VA health professional scholarships.

Authorizes appropriations for FY 1989 through 1992 for making grants for assistance to health-personnel educational institutions to aid in the development of new health-care careers.

Directs the Chief Medical Director of the VA, during calendar years 1989 through 1992, to conduct the effect of pay and personnel practices in the VA's Department of Medicine and Surgery on the ability to recruit and retain certain qualified registered nurses providing medical care to veterans.

Revises provisions concerning disciplinary actions and grievances within the VA's Department of Medicine and Surgery.

Directs the Administrator, through September 30, 1989, to: (1) ensure that the provisions of all negotiated labor agreements reached for the benefit of certain VA employees are given full force, unless renegotiated by the parties prior to such date; and (2) continue to negotiate in good faith with the appropriate labor respresentatives all matters and conditions of employment affecting such employees.

Title VII: Miscellaneous - Expands the definition of "Vietnam era" for purposes of eligibility for veterans' benefits.

Extends through FY 1992 the authority for the VA regional office in the Philippines.

Amends the Internal Revenue Code to authorize the use of Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration data for income verification purposes when determining eligibility for certain veterans' needs-based benefits. Provides for the protection of individuals from the improper use of such information.

Expands the authority of the Administrator to enter into multiyear procurement contracts for the VA to include as part of the Administrator's authority the procurement of non-medical items through such contracts.

Amends the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act to provide for a veterans' employment hiring preference within local hire of Alaska Conservation System units.

Authorizes the Administrator, under specified conditions, to transfer certain excess properties to a State for use as State home facilities.

Excludes from consideration as income (for veterans' benefits eligibility purposes): (1) parents' dependency and indemnity compensation casualty loss reimbursements; and (2) casualty loss reimbursements.

Directs the Administrator and the Secretary of Labor, in certain documents required to be submitted annually to the Congress, to identify the estimated amount to be obligated for the furnishing of specified veterans' benefits and services, only with respect to veterans who performed active military service during a period of war or other hostilities. Directs the Administrator and the Secretary, if it is determined that such an estimate is not feasible, to report to the veterans' committees the reasons for the infeasibility.

Directs the Administrator and the Secretary, no later than one year after the enactment of this Act, to enter into a memorandum of understanding regarding the provision of the following information, forms, and assistance: (1) information on services and benefits available to veterans who are dislocated workers eligible for assistance under the Job Training Partnership Act or are otherwise unemployed; (2) all application and related forms necessary in order to receive such assistance; (3) assistance in resolving questions and problems relating to the receipt of such services and benefits; and (4) assistance in contacting other Federal and State offices where such services and benefits are provided and administered. Requires the memorandum to be periodically evaluated by the Administrator and the Secretary to ensure implementation of the above provisions. Provides for the coordination of Department of Labor activities in such regard. Outlines the services and benefits covered by such provisions.