Summary: H.R.1047 — 102nd Congress (1991-1992)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed Senate amended (07/25/1991)

Veterans' Benefits Programs Improvement Act of 1991 - Title I: Compensation and Pension Programs - Increases from $60 to $90 the maximum monthly pension payable to a veteran with no dependents who is readmitted within six months of previous care to a Department of Veterans Affairs (Department) nursing home or domiciliary care facility for further treatment lasting more than one month.

Allows the payment of parents dependency and indemnity compensation less frequently than monthly if the amount of the annual benefits is less than four percent of the maximum annual rate payable.

Prohibits a readjustment in the rating schedule from causing a veteran's compensation amount to be reduced unless an improvement in the veteran's disability is shown to have occurred.

Makes the presumptive period (the period after service in a radiation-risk activity during which a disease must become manifest in order to be considered service-connected and, therefore, compensable as disability compensation) for leukemia 40 years (currently, 30).

Creates a 40-year presumptive period for members of the reserves who were exposed to atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device during active duty or inactive duty for training and who contract specified diseases or illnesses within such period.

Title II: Life Insurance Programs - Increases from one to two years the period after discharge or release from duty during which service-disabled veterans must apply in order to qualify for National Service Life Insurance. Increases similarly such time periods in the case of veterans who are mentally incompetent from a service-connected disability.

Requires the lump-sum payment (instead of monthly payments) to the first beneficiary of veterans' life insurance in the case of veterans with service-connected disabilities who are declared incompetent.

Establishes a one-year period, beginning July 1, 1991, during which veterans may use accumulated dividend credits and deposits on their national service life insurance accounts to purchase additional paid-up insurance. Authorizes the Secretary to provide additional periods if it would be actuarially and administratively sound to do so.

Title III: Health-Related Provisions - Authorizes the provision of outpatient dental care to veterans when medically necessary in preparation for hospital admission or to veterans otherwise receiving Department medical care.

Increases from $500 to $1,000 the yearly maximum amount the Department may extend for contract outpatient dental services for a veteran without requiring a second opinion as to the necessity of such services and the reasonableness of the fee.

Extends through December 31, 1994 (currently expires September 30, 1991) the Department's authority to contract for care and treatment and rehabilitative services at various community-based resident treatment facilities for eligible veterans suffering from alcohol or drug dependence or disabilities.

Extends through FY 1992 the authority to contract for the care and treatment of veterans at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in the Philippines. Ratifies any actions taken by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with respect to contracting for such care and treatment during the period beginning on October 1, 1990, and ending on the date of enactment of this Act.

Sets forth the qualifications required for social workers employed by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) of the Department. Allows the Secretary to waive such requirements for up to three years following employment in order for the social worker to meet such requirements within such period. Applies such qualification requirements only to social workers not yet employed within the VHA on the date of enactment of this Act.

Title IV: Real Property and Facilities - Authorizes the Secretary to enter into enhanced-use leases with respect to real property under the jurisdiction or control of the Secretary if the Secretary determines that: (1) at least part of the use of the property under such lease will provide for an activity contributing to the mission of the Department; (2) the lease will not be inconsistent with nor adversely affect the mission of the Department; and (3) the lease will enhance the use of the property. Provides for enhanced-use lease terms of: (1) 35 years, in the case of a lease for new building construction or substantial rehabilitation of an existing structure; and (2) 20 years, in the case of other lease types. Provides enhanced-use lease terms, conditions, and requirements.

Requires the Secretary to conduct a public hearing with respect to property proposed to be leased under an enhanced-use lease agreement. Requires such hearing to be held in the local community involved and to discuss the proposed lease and its possible effects on local commerce, Department programs, and veterans' services within the community. Requires reasonable notice to be provided before such hearing is conducted. Requires the Secretary to notify the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees of the intention to designate property for an enhanced-use lease and to publish notice of such intention in the Federal Register. Requires the Secretary to wait 60 days after such notice before entering into such a lease. Outlines notice requirements. Authorizes the Secretary, if he determines during the term of such a lease that the leased property is no longer needed by the Department, to initiate action for the transfer of all rights to such property by requesting the Administrator of General Services to dispose of the property. Requires such a disposition to be in the best interests of the Department. Outlines transfer conditions, including notification to the veterans' committees and publication in the Federal Register.

Requires 75 percent of the funds received by the Department under an enhanced-use lease (after deduction for certain expenses) to be deposited in the nursing home revolving fund and 25 percent to be credited to the Medical Care Account of the Department for the use of the Department facility at which the property is located.

Requires any construction occurring under such leases to comply with all standards applicable to the construction of Federal buildings. Requires the Secretary to conduct periodic construction inspections. Exempts such leases from all State and local taxation. Limits the number of such leases. Terminates the authority of the Secretary to enter into such leases on December 31, 1994.

Authorizes the Secretary, in certain instances, to acquire and use real property: (1) before title to such property is approved under Federal statutes; and (2) even through the property will be held in other than a fee simple interest, as long as the Secretary determines that the interest acquired is sufficient for its intended purpose.

Transfers custody and control of Pershing Hall, a memorial in Paris, France, owned by the United States, to the Department. Requires the Secretary to administer, develop, and improve Pershing Hall and its site, as appropriate. Authorizes the Secretary to establish and operate a regional office to disseminate information, respond to inquiries, and otherwise assist veterans and their families in obtaining veterans' benefits.

Directs the Secretary, after consultation with the American Battle Monuments Commission, to dedicate a portion of the Hall to the memory of the commander-in-chief, men, and services of the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I. Requires the establishment and continuing supervision of the memorial to be carried out by the Commission.

Authorizes the Secretary to provide certain allowances and benefits currently available to Department personnel assigned to the Philippines to Department personnel assigned to Pershing Hall.

Authorizes the Secretary to enter into leases for the operation, development, and improvement of the Hall and its site. Outlines lease terms and conditions.

Establishes the Pershing Hall Revolving Fund. Provides for the transfer of monies to the Fund for the construction of major projects. Abolishes the Pershing Hall Memorial Fund and transfers the corpus of the Memorial Fund to the Revolving Fund. Limits the amount that may be expended from the Fund in any fiscal year. Requires reports to the Congress on Fund expenditures.

Title V: Miscellaneous - Amends current law to provide for earlier implementation (during FY 1991 through 1994, in lieu of FY 1992 through 1994) of a program which combines compensated work therapy with transitional housing for veterans.

Provides that certain amendments made by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 limiting the eligibility of certain remarried spouses or married children of veterans for purposes of the payment of dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) shall not apply with respect to a surviving spouse or child as of October 31, 1990, unless such an individual marries or lives with another person after such date, thereby losing such DIC or certain other benefits.

Amends the Agent Orange Act of 1991 to authorize the Secretary to provide liability insurance for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) or any other contract scientific organization for protection against claims in connection with findings, reports, and recommendations with respect to a study required under such Act regarding associations between diseases and exposure to dioxin and other chemical compounds in herbicides used in Vietnam during the Vietnam era. Requires the Secretary to reimburse NAS or any other such organization for any judgments or expenses not covered by the liability insurance in connection with legal proceedings regarding such study. Directs the Secretary to enter into an agreement with NAS within two months after enactment of this Act (currently, within two months after enactment of the Agent Orange Act of 1991) for the performance of the study and related services. Changes the effective date of that Act to two months after the enactment of this Act.

Authorizes the Secretary to accept gifts, devises, and bequests which enhance the Secretary's ability to provide services and benefits.

Allows payments of members of the Coast Guard for certain indebtedness owed to the United States to be deposited into the Retired Pay Account of the Coast Guard, as appropriate.