Summary: H.R.901 — 101st Congress (1989-1990)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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House agreed to Senate amendment with amendment (11/20/1989)

Veterans' Benefits Amendments of 1989 - Title I: Compensation and Pension - Part A: Compensation Rate Increases - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the rates of, and limitations on, Department of Veterans Affairs (Department) disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled veterans, dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children, and supplemental dependency and indemnity compensation for disabled adult children.

Part B: Compensation and Pension Program Changes - Increases from $60 to $90 the monthly pension payable to a veteran having neither spouse nor child and being furnished domiciliary care by the Department. Extends the provision of such assistance from two to three months following admission for such care.

Expands the eligibility for a veterans' clothing allowance to include veterans who, because of a compensable disability, use medication for a service-connected skin condition which stains or damages such veteran's clothing.

Reduces from two years to one the period of marriage required for a veteran's survivor to be eligible for veterans' survivors' benefits.

Reduces from 50 to 45 years the minimum age required of new pension recipients to be eligible for a temporary program of vocational training. Preserves a veteran's rating of total and permanent disability if such veteran secures employment within one year after such veteran's eligibility for vocational counseling expires.

Requires the Secretary to provide claimants for veterans' benefits with timely notice of his decision as well as the reasons for such decision.

Title II: Health-Care Provisions - Extends through FY 1992 the authority of the Secretary to: (1) provide respite care services to eligible veterans; (2) make grants to States for the construction of State nursing home facilities; and (3) continue a pilot program of community-based residential care for homeless chronically mentally ill and other veterans. Extends through 1989 the years for which a report is required on the furnishing of non-service-connected health care to veterans under the Veterans' Health Care Amendments of 1986. Extends for one additional year the requirement for a report concerning the provision of care and treatment to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Authorizes the reimbursement of expenses for the provision of emergency care in non-Department facilities to participants in a veterans' vocational rehabilitation training program.

Authorizes the Secretary to appoint qualified individuals in the competitive civil service who have successfully completed a clinical education program with the Department to the Veterans Health Services and Research Administration (the Administration) without regard to Federal provisions regarding examination, certification, and appointment in the competitive service. Requires the Secretary to apply the principles of preference for hiring veterans and others under such Federal provisions.

Revises notice provisions required for the payment of special pay to health care personnel of the Department involved in the provision of direct patient care services or services incident to such care.

Includes registered nurses who are retired military personnel and are necessary to meet emergency employment needs in the category of Administration personnel who are exempt from reductions in retirement pay under Federal provisions regarding pay administration in the Federal service. Terminates such exemption with respect to such registered nurses as of the end of FY 1992.

Requires the Secretary to establish and conduct a leave transfer program for employees of the Department consistent with the Federal leave transfer program authorized under current law. Requires such program to be voluntary. Authorizes the Secretary and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to enter into an agreement whereby health-care employees of the Department would choose to participate in the Federal leave transfer program in lieu of the program established by the Secretary. Requires the program established by the Secretary to be implemented no later than October 1, 1990.

Requires the Secretary, in selecting applicants for the Department's Health Professionals Scholarship program, to ensure an equitable allocation of such scholarships to persons enrolled in the second year of a program leading to an associate degree in nursing.

Title III: Housing - Veterans Home Loan Indemnity and Restructuring Act of 1989 - Establishes the Guaranty and Indemnity Fund (GIF) with respect to housing loans guaranteed or insured by the Department after 1989. Provides that the following sums shall be credited to the Fund: (1) all fees collected for loans with respect to which the GIF is available; (2) specified percentages of each loan closed during or after FY 1990 with respect to which the GIF is available; (3) all collections of principal and interest and the proceeds from property held or disposed of with respect to such loans; and (4) all income from investments of the GIF that are required to be made by the Secretary in obligations of the United States. Outlines contracts and acquisitions for which the GIF shall be available.

Requires the Department to include in its annual budget submission to the Congress certain information about the current and projected operations and financial status of both the Loan Guaranty Revolving Fund and the GIF.

Raises the basic loan fee, with respect to loans closed after December 31, 1989, to 1.25 percent of the loan. Reduces such fee to .75 percent if the borrower makes a downpayment of five percent or more of the purchase amount. Reduces both the fee and the Government contribution to 0.5 percent if the borrower makes a downpayment of ten percent or more. Allows the Government to allocate its contribution between the first two years of the loan. Requires Government payment of an amount equal to the fee that an exempt borrower is excused from paying.

Indemnifies against liability to the Department, with respect to loans made after September 30, 1989, veterans who default on guaranteed loans except in the case of fraud, misrepresentation, or bad faith by the veteran in obtaining the loan or in connection with the loan default.

Nullifies (if enacted by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989) a provision postponing until October 1, 1990, the effective date of a provision allowing the Department to sell vendee loans without recourse only if the proceeds are at least equal to the value of the home.

Provides additional guaranty entitlement for loans that exceed $144,000 equal to 25 percent of the loan amount over $144,000 up to a total guaranty of $46,000.

Requires a lender to notify the Secretary when the lender refuses a borrower's tender of partial payment on a defaulted loan. Authorizes the Secretary to require a statement of the circumstances of the default, the amount tendered, the amount of the indebtedness on the date of the tender, and the reasons for the lender's refusal.

Prohibits the Department from considering the cost of borrowing funds in determining net value. Extends the no-bid formula through FY 1991.

Exempts from the 90-percent loan-to-value loan limits those loans made to refinance a construction loan, to replace an installment land sales contract with a deed and mortgage loan, or to refinance a conventional or FHA-insured loan with a lower-rate Department-guaranteed loan. Prohibits such refinancing loans from exceeding the lesser of the home's reasonable value or the sum of the outstanding balance on the existing loan plus closing costs.

Restores a veteran's entitlement to a home loan guaranty to veterans who have repaid the original guaranteed loan but have not yet disposed of the property, as long as the restored entitlement is to be used for a loan secured by the same property that secured the original loan.

Makes mandatory the granting of waivers of home-loan debts if collection of the debt would be against equity and good conscience. Prohibits such waivers in cases involving fraud, misrepresentation, or bad faith.

Requires the Secretaries of Veterans Affairs and the Interior to jointly study and report to the Senate and House veterans' committees on the extent to which veterans who are Native Americans living on Native-American trust lands participate in the veterans' home loan guaranty program.

Title IV: Education and Employment - Veterans Education and Employment Amendments of 1989 - Authorizes rate increases or increased allowances for: (1) rehabilitation subsistence allowances for veterans with service-connected disabilities; and (2) educational assistance for veterans' survivors and dependents.

Makes permanent the Department program for the provision of independent living services and assistance for severely handicapped veterans.

Provides that hours of services to be performed in connection with Department activities by veteran-students shall be equal to 25 times the number of weeks in the applicable enrollment period for the veterans' work-study program. Authorizes the Secretary to base work-study allowance payments on the higher of the Federal minimum wage or the minimum wage of the State in which the work is performed. Changes the name of such program to work-study allowance.

Authorizes, for purposes of work-study in the case of an individual who is receiving armed forces' educational assistance, activities related to the administration of such assistance at DOD facilities.

Provides that individuals pursuing at least 3/4-time programs of rehabilitation, education, or training under either veterans' educational assistance programs or armed forces educational assistance programs are eligible for work-study participation as of May 1, 1990. Authorizes work-study participation to a veteran's survivors or dependents who are pursuing an education program at a 3/4-time rate or higher as of the same date.

Extends the Veterans' Readjustment Appointment authority through December 31, 1993. Provides eligibility for such authority during the extended period to: (1) Vietnam-era veterans who are service-disabled or who received a campaign badge during the Vietnam era; (2) post-Vietnam-era veterans; and (3) eligible non-disabled veterans who have completed not more than 16 years of education at the time of appointment. Raises the grade-level restriction for such appointments to GS-11 for a Vietnam-era veteran who is service-disabled or who earned a campaign badge during the Vietnam era. Limits the period during which a veteran may receive such an appointment to the later of: (1) the end of the four-year period from his date of separation; or (2) the end of the two-year period beginning on the enactment of this Act. Requires an appointee to complete satisfactorily an education or training period under such program only if such appointees have fewer than 15 years of education.

Directs the Secretary of Labor to conduct a three-year pilot program, in at least five but not more than ten geographically-dispersed States, to furnish employment and training information and services to members of the armed forces within 180 days before such members are separated from service. Requires specific personnel to be utilized to provide such information. Requires a report on the success of such program.

Permits Montgomery GI Bill participants to meet the secondary-school-diploma requirement by successfully completing the equivalent of 12 semester hours in a program of education leading to a standard college degree before the end of the individual's initial obligated period of active duty. Prohibits individuals from receiving entitlement credit to educational assistance under both the veterans' and armed forces' educational assistance programs.

Revises conditions under which a veteran will be permitted to reenter a program of education assistance after having already failed such a program due to unsatisfactory conduct or progress, allowing such renewal if the school involved certifies to the Department that such veteran has been readmitted into such institution for such educational purposes.

Eliminates the bar to payment of educational assistance or subsistence allowances to an individual enrolled in certain courses not leading to a standard college degree for any day of absence in excess of 30 days in a 12-month period. Provides, in lieu, that no such payment shall be made to a person who is not pursuing their course in accordance with the policies and regulations of the educational institution and the Secretary and the requirements of veterans' educational assistance provisions. Allows the Department to discontinue such assistance allowances following unsatisfactory attendance as determined in accordance with the policies and practices of the institution involved.

Revises provisions concerning the standard for evaluating the training time of students enrolled in courses with shop training.

Provides that FY 1990 funding that the Secretary provides to State approving agencies for veterans' training curriculum development expenses may be used to train new approving agencies' employees and for continuing the training of such current employees in the development of a national veterans' training curriculum.

Authorizes the Secretary to: (1) withhold educational or rehabilitation allowances under any Department program until the required proof of enrollment and pursuit of a program of education is received and the amount of the payment is appropriately adjusted; and (2) accept the veteran's or eligible person's certification of enrollment in, and pursuit of, their program as sufficient proof of the certified matter.

Includes veterans pursuing a program of rehabilitative training due to service-connected disabilities as veterans on whose behalf the Department pays participating schools a fee to defray certain costs incurred by the school in participating in such training programs.

Revises the method for measuring pursuit of a non-degree course so that the number of college credit hours would be converted to equivalent clock hours and combined with actual clock hours being pursued to determine training time under the clock-hour measurement standards.

Authorizes the Secretary to approve the enrollment of an eligible member of the Selected Reserve or the Ready Reserve under contracts with the Department of Defense for a program of education.

Provides for a determination of the effective date of an educational benefits adjustment in education programs which require monthly self-certification.

Provides that the ten-year delimiting period for the use of veterans' educational assistance benefits shall begin on the date of the last discharge or release from active duty of at least 90 continuous days' duration, unless the individual is discharged or released for a service-connected disability, for a medical condition which preexisted such service and which the Secretary determines is not service-connected, for hardship, or as a result of a reduction in force.

Directs the Secretary, in order to assist individuals receiving Department-administered education benefits, to: (1) prepare and update periodically a detailed document describing benefits, limitations, procedures, requirements, and other important aspects of such education programs; (2) distribute copies of documents to individuals applying for such benefits, education and training institution officials, and others significantly affected, including military education personnel; and (3) use funds appropriated to the Department's readjustment benefits account to carry out this provision.

Amends Federal armed forces educational assistance provisions under the Montgomery GI Bill for both the active duty and the Selected Reserve members to authorize the Secretary to approve the pursuit of flight training by an individual entitled to basic educational assistance under either program if: (1) such training is generally accepted as necessary for the attainment of a recognizable objective in the field of aviation; (2) the individual possesses a valid private pilot's license and meets the medical requirements necessary for a commercial pilot's license; and (3) the flight school courses meet FAA standards and are approved by the FAA and the State approving agency. Terminates the approval of such flight training courses which commence after September 30, 1994. Provides the monthly amount of such assistance. Requires proof from the individual and the institution of the training received and the cost of such training before such educational assistance allowance will be paid by the Secretary. Charges an individual's general entitlement to basic educational assistance an appropriate amount for each month of flight training assistance provided. Directs the Secretary to report to the Veterans' Committees on paying educational assistance for flight training under both the armed forces educational assistance provisions and the veterans' educational assistance provisions.

Title V: Memorial Affairs - Permits payment of the headstone or marker allowance to the estate of a deceased veteran who purchased a headstone or marker prior to death.

Directs the Secretary of the Army to set aside an appropriate area in Arlington National Cemetery for the unmarked interment of the cremated remains of persons eligible for burial in that cemetery. Requires Secretaries of the military departments to make available appropriate forms for those who wish to be buried in such manner.

Authorizes the appointment of enlisted members of the armed forces as members of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Directs the Secretary to provide a grave liner for each new grave in an open cemetery within the National Cemetery System in which remains are interred in a casket.

Directs the Secretary to enter into a contract with the State of Michigan under which the Secretary shall operate and maintain the cemetery located in Mackinac Island State Park, Michigan.

Title VI: Miscellaneous - Expands the Department's multiyear procurement authority to include the purchase of non-health-care supplies and services.

Includes the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals within the list of courts covered by laws requiring certain financial disclosure by judicial personnel. Requires judges and other judicial personnel of such Court, within 30 days after enactment of this Act, to file a report containing the financial disclosure information as required under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978. Grants judges of such Court the authority to administer oaths and to compel action of the Secretary unreasonably delayed.

Requires the Secretary to provide for the collocation of at least three regional offices of the Department with medical centers of the Department. Authorizes the Secretary to lease property for such purposes. Provides lease and sublease terms and conditions. Directs the Secretary to transmit copies of both the invitation for collocation offers and the proposed collocation agreements to the Veterans' Committees. Terminates on October 1, 1992, the authority to enter into any collocation agreements.

Authorizes the Secretary to acquire no more than three facilities for the provision of outpatient medical services or nursing-home care through lease-purchase arrangements on real property under the jurisdiction of the Department. Terminates on October 1, 1993, the authority to enter into such agreements.