Summary: S.9 — 100th Congress (1987-1988)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Indefinitely postponed in Senate (12/04/1987)

(Measure indefinitely postponed in Senate, H.R. 2616 passed in lieu)

Omnibus Veterans' Benefits and Services Act of 1987 - Title I: Compensation and Other Benefits - Part A: Compensation and Related Cost-of-Living Adjustments - Amends Federal veterans' benefits provisions to direct the Administrator of Veterans Affairs to increase the rates of veterans' disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation by the same percentage (4.2 percent) as that which is to be provided to Social Security recipients and Veterans Administration (VA) pension beneficiaries as of January 1, 1988. Requires such rate increases to be published in the Federal Register. Increases the amount of payment for specially adapted housing assistance, the automobile assistance allowance, and service-connected death benefits (the burial allowance).

Part B: Other Compensation-Related Provisions - Provides a presumption (for purposes of eligibility for veterans' benefits) of service-connection for former prisoners of war (POW's) who suffer from peripheral neuropathy, irritable bowel syndrome, or peptic ulcer disease, if the disabilities become ten percent or more disabling. Reduces from six months to 90 days the period of internment required to establish eligibility for outpatient dental care by the VA.

Provides for the inclusion of systemic lupus erythematosus among the chronic diseases that are presumed to be service-connected if manifest to a disabling degree of ten percent or more within one year of the veterans' discharge from active service.

Extends eligibility for certain Social Security-equivalent benefits to those survivors receiving benefits under the Reinstated Entitlement Program for Survivors (REPS) rather than under the Social Security Act.

Exempts from any sequestration order provided under the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 the VA's program of rehabilitation services for certain service-connected disabled veterans and the educational assistance program for survivors of veterans who die from service-connected causes or whose death occurred while rated as totally and permanently disabled, as well as dependents of veterans whose disability is currently rated as total and permanent.

Requires the VA to contract, subject to the availability of appropriations, for a comprehensive review to be conducted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) or by an alternative appropriate scientific entity, of all scientific evidence, studies, and literature pertaining to the human health effects of exposure to agent orange and its component compounds. Requires such contract to be entered into no later than 60 days after the enactment of this Act. Requires the Administrator, no later than October 1, 1988, to transmit to the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees (the veterans' committees) a report on the results of such review.

Part C: Education Provisions - Revises the standard for evaluating the training time of VA students enrolled in courses with laboratory instruction.

Extends the delimiting period for educational assistance for members of the all-volunteer force for certain veterans and other eligible persons who have been prevented from using such entitlements as a result of alcohol or drug dependence or abuse conditions. Defines an alcohol or drug dependence or abuse condition for purposes of the extension. Requires an individual so affected to file an application for such benefits within a specified period, and to then utilize such extended benefits within a specified period not to exceed four years from the date of such extension. Makes identical delimiting period extensions for: (1) programs of rehabilitation for veterans with service-connected disabilities; (2) educational assistance for post-Vietnam era veterans; (3) educational assistance for Vietnam-era veterans; and (4) educational assistance for veterans' survivors and dependents.

Authorizes the Administrator to waive required annual educational institution compliance surveys when an institution has a demonstrated record of compliance with all veterans' education requirements.

Requires that the effective dates for the award of benefits under the Post-Vietnam Era Education Assistance Program correspond, to the extent feasible, with the effective dates of awards of VA disability compensation.

Repeals the VA's authority to make education loans in the form of accelerated payment of educational assistance allowances.

Part D: Insurance Provisions - Amends Federal veterans' life insurance provisions to authorize the Administrator to increase periodically the amount of monthly annuity payments to beneficiaries under the following policies: (1) National Service Life Insurance; (2) Veterans Special Life Insurance; (3) Veterans Reopened Insurance; and (4) United States Government Life Insurance. Prohibits any State from imposing taxes on any premiums paid under a Serviceman's Group Life Insurance or under a Veterans' Group Life Insurance policy. Authorizes the Administrator to administer directly the Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance program.

Part E: Pension Provision - Excludes reimbursement for property loss (from any source) from the beneficiary's income as used by the VA in determining eligibility for, and rates of, pension payments and parents' dependency and indemnity compensation.

Title II: Veterans' Radiation Exposure - Veterans' Radiation Exposure Disability and Death Benefits Act of 1987 - Sets forth findings, includidng the following: (1) a significant portion of the veterans present at nuclear detonations were exposed to ionizing radiation which was measured by what proved to be an inaccurate method of determining the amount of such dosage; (2) the present process of adjudicating claims by veterans based on such radiation exposure has not resulted in fair resolution of such claims, due in part to the inaccurate measurement of health risk caused by such radiation dosages; and (3) certain body organs have shown a high susceptibility to the induction of cancers by ionizing radiation, creating a much higher possibility of cancer in various organs and areas of the body.

Amends Federal veterans' benefits provisions to provide either a monthly disability or a monthly death benefit to a veteran who has died or is suffering from a disease based on the Government's testing of nuclear weapons or on the American occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Specifies the diseases based on such radiation exposure for which such benefits shall be paid, requiring manifestation of such disease within a specified period following exposure to such ionizing radiation. Bases the rates of compensation to be paid on the rates of compensation for service-connected death or disability benefits. Requires the Administrator to give special consideration to claims for compensation or dependency or indemnity compensation based on such radiation exposure and involving specific forms of cancer manifesting themselves within five years after exposure.

Denies the payment of any such benefits when there is affirmative evidence that the disease was not incurred as a result of the veteran's exposure to testing or involvement in the occupation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Treats any benefits paid under this Act as service-connected benefits for purposes of the applicability of other veterans' benefits provisions.

Defines a veteran's estimated service-related radiation exposure for purposes of adjudicating a claim for benefits provided under this Act.

Amends the Veterans' Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act to require a certain advisory committee's report concerning the possible adverse effects resulting from exposure to ionizing radiation to be forwarded to the House and Senate veterans' committees.

Makes the deadline for application for benefits under this Act and the eligibility for VA health care for radiation-exposed veterans September 30, 1991.

Prohibits plutonium in any form from being transported by aircraft from one foreign nation to another through U.S. air space, unless: (1) the possible routes for shipment have been properly evaluated; and (2) such plutonium is transported in a container certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as safe. Directs that the NRC conduct a crash test and a drop test involving such a container, and that the NRC certify such container as safe for the transport of such plutonium. Requires such tests to be designed by the NRC after public notice and after reasonable opportunity for public comment on the design of such tests. Requires the results of all such tests to be: (1) available to the public; and (2) submitted to the Congress.

Title III: Health Care - Part A: Health-Care Programs - Amends Federal veterans' benefits provisions to authorize the VA, in the case of veterans who request such services, to furnish procreation-aid services in cases where the veteran's service-connected disability impairs the veteran's ability to procreate.

Authorizes the VA to contract with non-VA health-care entities to provide emergency hospital care for veterans being furnished nursing home care in the community at VA expense, and to provide inpatient or outpatient observation and examination of veterans to determine eligibility for VA benefits.

Amends the Veterans' Health Care Amendments of 1979 to conform certain reporting requirements contained under such Act to changes made in the VA's contract authorities by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA).

Allows the VA to furnish to any eligible veteran residing or sojourning abroad: (1) hospital care or medical services for a service-connected disability; or (2) vocational rehabilitation for a service-connected disability.

Revises current eligibility criteria for VA domiciliary care to provide eligibility to persons in need of such care who either have a service-connected disability or have no adequate means of support.

Requires the VA to conduct, from January 1, 1988, to December 31, 1991, a four-year pilot program at not less than five nor more than ten demonstration project sites to evaluate noninstitutional alternatives to institutional care. Requires a report from the Administrator to the veterans' committees, no later than April 1, 1991, relating to such pilot program.

Authorizes the VA to contract for community nursing home care for eligible veterans in Alaska or Hawaii, at a rate of up to 45 percent of the cost of care in a community general hospital under VA contract in those states.

Requires the VA to establish a system-wide AIDS education and training program for patients and employees of VA health-care facilities. Expands the scope of existing VA alcohol and drug treatment confidentiality and nondiscrimination provisions to encompass individuals who are infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. Prohibits the VA from implementing any widespread HIV testing program unless the Congress specifically appropriated funds for such purpose.

Places certain limitations on the authority of the Administrator to prescribe limitations on the furnishing of health care services to veterans, except during periods of national or regional emergency.

Increases the per-diem rates for the care of veterans in State homes, authorizing the Administrator to increase such rates by the percentage increase in the cost of care in VA general hospitals.

Makes technical adjustments to provisions of current Federal law establishing a priority for the awarding of State home construction grants.

Precludes per-diem payments made by the VA to State veterans' homes from being considered a "third-party liability" under the Medicaid program, and therefore, being deducted from medicaid payments to State homes.

Modifies the effective date of the exemption of the Special Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Services Activities Fund (STRAF) from sequestration under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act.

Authorizes the Administrator to provide, or assist in the provision of, rehabilitative recreational activities to disabled veterans.

Requires the Administrator to conduct a two-year pilot program of four projects using appropriately-equipped mobile vans to furnish health care in rural areas where veterans live at least 100 miles from the nearest VA health-care facility. Requires reports from the Administrator to the veterans' committees relating to the pilot program.

Adds mental illness research as a specific research mission of the VA's Department of Medicine and Surgery.

Directs the Administrator, no later than March 1, 1988, to submit to the veterans' committees a report regarding the VA's activities designed to promote increased efforts by affiliated medical and other health-professional training schools: (1) in training health professionals to care for older patients; and (2) in research into the aging process and diseases and disabilities associated with aging.

Part B: Health-Care Administration - Subpart 1: Health-Care Personnel - Revises the procedure for appointing individuals to certain positions in the Office of the Chief Medical Director of the VA's Department of Medicine and Surgery (the CMD and the Department, respectively). Makes various changes to organizational aspects of the Department.

Makes nursing additional-pay authority available within the Department to assist in the recruitment and retention of pharmacists and occupational therapists. Provides that all employee grievance or disciplinary matters involving such employees will be handled as though such employees are civil service system employees, instead of special employees within the Department. Provides that the civil service procedures utilized for lesser disciplinary actions would be used in cases involving personnel. Sets forth under a grievance-resolution process.

Revises provisions relating to the recruitment and retention within the Department of registered nurses, physical therapists, and other direct patient-care providers, including: (1) requiring the VA to pay nurses who currently work on Saturday the same premium pay currently applicable to such work performed on Sunday; (2) establishing a tuition reimbursement program for full-time nursing personnel (or, when needed, for other full-time personnel) for academic courses leading to the appropriate grant of a degree in such field, with special priority to certain nursing personnel for such program; (3) making eligible for the Health Professional Scholarship program physical therapists and other Department personnel who provide direct patient-care services, requiring a minimum two years of obligated service within the Department for every one year of scholarship aid, and giving priority for such scholarships to nurses seeking a fourth year of baccalaureate education; and (4) requiring the Chief of Nursing Services or their designee to be members of VA health-care facilities policy-making and fiscal committees. Authorizes a bonus of up to $20,000 over four years to be paid to full-time registered nurses or other full-time health-care personnel who agree to work or are presently working within the VA within a specific geographic area or in a professional specialty experiencing recruitment and retention problems. Authorizes the waiver of certain licensing and internship requirements if the individual will be employed in a research-only position (no direct patient care responsibility) or if the individual will be employed in a foreign country in which such individual is fully licensed to practice. Authorizes the Administrator to increase the rates of pay for psychologists who are academically accredited by a recognized institution.

Directs the Administrator to conduct a study of pay and other personnel management practices within the Department. Authorizes the CMD to conduct a pilot program, during calendar years 1988 through 1990 and in not less than five VA medical centers, to gain information and experience with respect to the Administrator's study. Requires various reports concerning such study and pilot program.

Directs the Administrator, to the extent practicable and in the best interest of the VA, to provide for the establishment of onsite child-care centers at VA facilities for the care of children of VA employees and, to the extent space is available, other Federal and non-Federal employees. Outlines administrative provisions concerning the establishment of such centers, requiring the Administrator to prescribe regulations to carry out such provision.

Subpart 2: Other Medical Administration Matters - Repeals a provision of current Federal law which authorizes the Administrator to furnish tobacco to hospitalized veterans.

Revises the period of time during which the VA may institute legal action to recover the cost of VA health care in certain circumstances.

Expands the immunity from liability for VA health-care employees to include under such immunity any negligent or wrongful act committed by such employees while in the scope of their employment (making the Federal Government liable for such acts instead of the individual employees). Authorizes the Administrator to settle administrative tort claims in an amount equal to the amount of settlement authority which the Attorney General provides to a U.S. Attorney.

Replaces the current Veterans' Affairs Committees approval resolutions process for VA major medical construction or acquisition projects with a specified legislative authorization process. Replaces the existing prohibition against increasing the contract amount by more than ten percent of the amount specified by the Committees' resolution process with a requirement that the Administrator give the veterans' committees 30 days' advance notice whenever the cost of a project would exceed by more than ten percent the amount specified in the authorizing legislation.

Requires the Administrator to develop and fully implement an agency-wide plan for the cost-effective standardization of medical and pharmaceutical supplies procured by the VA. Requires the VA to procure items only through national contracts to be awarded by the VA, except under certain limited conditions. Requires that local purchases of medical and pharmaceutical items be made through wholesalers. Requires VA medical centers to report annually to the Administrator on the quantity and cost of items procured under local contracts, and requires the Administrator to report annually to the veterans' committees on its experiences in procurement, including a summary of items procured under local contracts. Authorizes the VA to use multiyear procurement contracts, except when such contracts would interfere with the maximum procurement of generic drugs. Outlines various administrative provisions to be contained in such multiyear medical procurement contracts. Requires the Administrator to prescribe regulations to implement this provision.

Directs the Administrator, no later than 120 days after the enactment of this Act, to submit to the Congress a report on: (1) the health care resources allocated by the VA to VA facilities in each State in fiscal years 1982 through 1986; and (2) the utilization of the health care resources allocated to such facilities in each such fiscal year.

Title IV: Miscellaneous - Prohibits the Administrator from declaring as excess to the needs of the VA, or taking any other action to dispose of, the land and improvements at the VA medical centers in West Los Angeles, California, and in Sepulveda, California.

Gives the Administrator discretionary authority to waive the general requirement for upright grave markers in a VA national cemetery after certain determinations made by the Administrator concerning the utility of such grave markers.

Requires the VA, upon certain conditions being met, to lease to the Department of Labor for use as a Job Corps center certain land and buildings in Minot, North Dakota, where the VA formerly operated a hospital.

Adds a representative of veterans who are native Hawaiians to the VA's Advisory Committee on Native American Veterans. Revises the dates of certain reports due from such Committee.

Repeals a provision of Federal law relating to the sales of loans made by the VA to finance the sale of foreclosed properties.

Transfers the Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Arizona, to the VA, under specified terms and conditions.

Renames the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, as the Overton Brooks Veteran's Administration Medical Center.

Prohibits any funds appropriated under this Act from being used for any construction project of the VA which uses any service of a foreign country during any period in which such country is listed by the United States Trade Representative as denying fair and equitable market opportunities for services of the United States in procurement or bidding. Requires the USTR to maintain a list of all such countries engaging in such inequitable practices against the United States, and to keep such countries on such list until such country does permit such fair and equitable market opportunities to the United States.