Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed House amended (10/07/1994)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Title I: Persian Gulf War Veterans

Title II: Board of Veterans' Appeals Administration

Title III: Adjudication Improvements

Title IV: Veterans' Claims Adjudication Commission

Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions

Title VI: Education and Training Programs

Title VII: Employment Programs

Title VIII: Cemeteries and Memorial Affairs

Title IX: Housing Programs

Title X: Homeless Veterans Programs

Title XI: Reductions in Department of Veterans Affairs

Personnel

Title XII: Technical and Clerical Amendments

Veterans' Benefits Improvements Act of 1994 - Title I: Persian Gulf War Veterans - Persian Gulf War Veterans' Benefits Act - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop and implement a uniform and comprehensive medical evaluation protocol that will ensure appropriate medical assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of Persian Gulf War (War) veterans who are suffering from illnesses the origin of which are unknown but may be attributable to service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the War. Requires the protocol to include an evaluation of complaints relating to illnesses involving the reproductive system. Requires a report to the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees (veterans' committees) if the protocol has not been developed within 120 days after enactment of this Act. Requires the Secretary to ensure that information collected through the protocol is collected and maintained in a manner that permits the effective and efficient cross-reference of such information with information collected and maintained through the comprehensive clinical protocols of the Department of Defense (DOD) for War veterans.

(Sec. 105) Directs the Secretary to implement a comprehensive outreach program to inform War veterans and their families of the medical care and other benefits that may be provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DOD arising from service in the War. Requires such outreach program to include: (1) a semiannual newsletter distributed to veterans listed on the Persian Gulf War Veterans Health Registry; and (2) the establishment of a toll-free telephone number to provide War veterans and their families information on the Registry and health care and other benefits provided by the VA.

(Sec. 106) Authorizes the Secretary to pay compensation to any War veteran suffering from a chronic disability resulting from an undiagnosed illness that: (1) became manifest during service on active duty during the War; or (2) became manifest to a degree of ten percent or more within a presumptive period (such period to be prescribed by the Secretary) after such service . Requires a report and appropriate regulations.

(Sec. 107) Directs the Secretary to conduct a study of the health status of spouses and children of War veterans, including diagnostic testing and appropriate medical examinations. Requires the Secretary to develop standard protocols and guidelines for such testing and examinations in order to ensure the uniform development of the medical data. Requires study results to be entered into the Registry. Requires the Secretary to: (1) conduct appropriate outreach activities in connection with the study; (2) make the protocols and guidelines developed under such study available outside the VA; and (3) provide study reports to the Congress.

(Sec. 108) Amends the Persian Gulf War Veterans' Health Status Act to include diagnostic tests within the allowable scope of health examinations provided under such Act for veterans eligible for inclusion in health-related registries.

(Sec. 109) Authorizes the Secretary to carry out a survey of the incidence and nature of health problems occurring in War veterans and their families.

(Sec 110) Authorizes the Secretary to carry out an epidemiological study on the health consequences of service in the War if the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) includes in a required report a finding that a sound basis exists for such a study. Requires certain oversight. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 111) Allows surviving spouses eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation to elect to instead receive a death pension. Limits the FY 1995 cost-of-living increases for various veterans' compensation to the percentage increase under title II (Old age, survivors and disability insurance) of the Social Security Act beginning on December 1, 1994.

Title II: Board of Veterans' Appeals Administration - Requires members of the Board of Veterans' Appeals other than the Chairman to be appointed by the Secretary, with the President's approval, based upon recommendations of the Chairman. Directs the Chairman to establish a panel of Board members to review the performance of each member at least every three years. Provides for the granting of a conditional recertification or recommendation for noncertification of a Board member not meeting the required performance standards.

(Sec. 202) Requires Board member performance standards to be established within 90 days after enactment of this Act. Requires a report.

(Sec. 203) Allows a Board Chairman to continue in such office until either reappointment or the appointment of a successor.

Title III: Adjudication Improvements - Authorizes the Secretary to accept the written statement of a claimant as proof of the existence of a marriage or its dissolution, the birth of a child, of the death of a family member. Authorizes the acceptance of reports of private physician medical examinations in support of a claim for benefits.

(Sec. 302) Directs the Secretary to take any necessary action to provide for the expeditious treatment of benefit claims that have been remanded from either the Board or the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals (Court).

(Sec. 303) Allows for the screening of appeals to: (1) determine the adequacy of the record for decisional purposes; or (2) develop a record found to be inadequate for decisional purposes.

(Sec. 304) Directs the Secretary to report to specified congressional committees on the feasibility of the reorganization of the adjudication divisions located within the regional offices of the Veterans Benefits Administration.

Title IV: Veterans' Claims Adjudication Commission - Establishes the Veterans' Claims Adjudication Commission to study and report to the Congress on the VA system for the disposition of claims for veterans' benefits. Provides Commission funding for FY 1995.

Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions - Presumes a service connection (and, therefore, eligibility for veterans' disability compensation) between radiation exposure during the detonation of a nuclear device and radiation-related illness in a veteran, whether or not the nation conducting the nuclear test was the United States.

(Sec. 502) Extends through December 31, 1999, the authority to maintain VA regional offices in the Republic of the Philippines.

(Sec. 503) Allows for reapplication (without penalty) for veterans' pension benefits or parents' dependency and indemnity compensation within one year after renouncement of such rights.

(Sec. 505) Adds to the list of herbicide-exposure related diseases and illnesses presumed to be service-connected and therefore compensable through veterans' disability compensation if they become manifest to a disability degree of ten percent or more: (1) Hodgkin's disease; (2) porphyria cutanea tarda; (3) respiratory cancers; and (4) multiple myeloma.

(Sec. 506) Excludes from consideration as income, for purposes of eligibility for veterans' benefits, any cash, stock, land, or other interests received by an individual from a Native Corporation under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

(Sec. 507) Eliminates the requirement for payment in Philippine pesos of certain veterans' compensation for service in the Philippine Scouts.

(Sec. 508) Directs the Secretary to enter into an agreement for the Medical Follow-Up Agency of the Institute of Medicine of the NAS to convene a panel to evaluate the feasibility of carrying out a study of the relationship of exposure to certain ionizing radiation while participating in military service and the presence of certain birth- related defects and illnesses.

(Sec. 509) Establishes in the VA a Center for Minority Veterans and a Center for Women Veterans. Requires the Secretary to include in annual budget documents detailed information on each Center's budget and a report on each Center's activities and accomplishments.

(Sec. 510) Directs the Secretary to establish the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans with respect to the administration of VA benefits for veterans who are minority group members. Requires an annual report from the Advisory Committee on its programs and activities. Defines "minority group members" as Asian Americans, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Pacific-Islander Americans. Terminates the Advisory Committee on December 31, 1997.

(Sec. 511) Provides that a notice of appeal of a final Board decision shall be deemed to be received by the Court on the date of its receipt or the date of the U.S. postal service postmark stamped on the envelope.

Title VI: Education and Training Programs - Repeals the requirement that a course of flight training must commence before October 1, 1994, in order to be approved as a course of education under the veterans' basic educational assistance program for active-duty, reserve, and post-Vietnam era veterans.

(Sec. 602) Authorizes the Secretary to use the facilities of any federally recognized Indian tribe in order to provide training and rehabilitative services for veterans with service-connected disabilities. Allows veterans to pursue on-job training or work experience on such facilities.

(Sec. 603) Allows veterans to use basic educational assistance benefits for attending alternative teacher certification programs at educational institutions that provide State-approved programs.

(Sec. 604) Prohibits a veteran, in using educational assistance benefits, from enrolling in a course outside the United States unless the institution is an approved institution of higher learning and is also approved by the Secretary.

(Sec. 605) Provides that approved programs of education under veterans' educational assistance benefits shall include certain correspondence programs from approved educational institutions.

(Sec. 606) Increases from $12 to $13 million the annual amount authorized to be reimbursed by the VA to State educational approving agencies for travel and administrative expenses incurred in determining the qualifications of educational institutions under the veterans' educational assistance program. Eliminates the requirement of a quarterly report by such agencies relating to such expenses. Eliminates the requirement that the Secretary supervise the provision of course approval services by such agencies.

(Sec. 608) Extends through December 31, 2003, the Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education.

(Sec. 609) Increases from $5 to $6 million the annual fiscal year funding for VA contracting for veterans' educational and vocational counseling services.

(Sec. 610) Amends the Service Members Occupational Conversion and Training Act of 1992 to: (1) eliminate the current 18-month limit on training for former military personnel for employment in stable and permanent positions; (2) revise the amount of payments made to employers under the program; and (3) allow entry into a job training program with the employer on the day that notice is transmitted to the implementing official.

Title VII: Employment Programs - Designates within the Department of Labor a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans' Employment and Training, to perform duties as prescribed by the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans' Employment and Training. Requires disabled veterans' outreach program specialists to be paid at rates comparable to those paid other professionals performing essentially similar duties. Adds certain veterans to a list of those to be subjects of a biennial study concerning unemployment among categories of veterans. Requires a report to the Congress on the study's results.

(Sec. 702) Allows contractors of contracts of $10,000 or more for the procurement of personal property and non-personal services to exclude certain positions from a requirement that such contractors first offer positions under such contract to disabled and Vietnam veterans. Excludes any amounts received under the All-Volunteer Force educational assistance program from the needs or qualification requirements of the veterans' employment and training programs.

Title VIII: Cemeteries and Memorial Affairs - Provides eligibility for burial in national cemeteries for: (1) spouses who predecease veterans; and (2) unremarried surviving spouses who had a subsequent remarriage which was terminated by death or divorce.

(Sec. 803) Extends through FY 1999 the authorization of appropriations for grants to States for establishing, expanding, or improving veterans' cemeteries.

(Sec. 804) Authorizes the Secretary to provide for flat grave markers at the Willamette National Cemetery, Oregon.

Title IX: Housing Programs - Makes eligible under the veterans' home loan program: (1) former members of the Selected Reserve who were discharged or released before completing six years of service because of a service-connected disability; and (2) surviving spouses of reserve personnel who died while on active duty. Revises provisions regarding the determination of the aggregate home loan guaranty amount.

(Sec. 903) Prohibits the use of veterans' home loan funds for the purchase or construction of new residential housing that is not served by a public or community water and sewage system.

(Sec. 904) Authorizes the use of veterans' guaranteed home loan funds to refinance existing guaranteed loans to make home energy efficiency improvements and to refinance adjustable rate mortgages as fixed rate mortgages.

(Sec. 906) Provides that, with regard to the veterans' home loan program, any manufactured housing unit properly displaying a certification of conformity with Federal home construction and safety standards pursuant to the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974 shall be deemed to meet standards required by the VA. Authorizes the Secretary to deny guaranteed or direct loan financing in the case of other types of manufactured homes. Repeals a provision requiring housing inspection results to be reported annually to the Congress.

(Sec. 907) Permits the VA to acquire property from the lender at the price provided for under applicable State law, whether or not the lender's bid at foreclosure exceeds such price.

(Sec. 908) Includes, as an exception to the minimum two-year active duty service requirement for entitlement to certain veterans' benefits, military personnel discharged before such period due to a reduction in force.

Title X: Homeless Veterans Programs - Directs the Secretary to report annually to the veterans' committees on VA activities during the preceding year to assist homeless veterans.

(Sec. 1002) Amends the Veterans' Medical Programs Amendments of 1992 to: (1) require updates during FY 1995 through 1997 of assessments of VA programs for assisting the homeless; and (2) require the Secretary to report to the veterans' committees with regard to such assessments as well as progress made in developing a homeless veterans assistance plan.

(Sec. 1003) Amends the Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Service Programs Act of 1992 to: (1) raise from four to eight the authorized number of demonstration centers for the provision of comprehensive services to homeless veterans; and (2) repeal a prohibition on the use of funds to carry out certain provisions of such Act unless expressly provided for in an appropriations Act.

(Sec. 1005) Expresses the sense of the Congress calling for a more proportionate share of Federal homeless assistance funds to be appropriated to the Secretary to assist homeless veterans. Requests the Secretary to encourage Federal agencies that provide assistance to the homeless to be aware of and make referrals to the VA for homeless assistance benefits.

Title XI: Reductions in Department of Veterans Affairs Personnel - Requires a minimum number of 224, 377 full-time equivalent positions in the VA during a fiscal year from the date of enactment of this Act until September 30, 1999. Excludes certain full-time personnel from those to be considered full-time for purposes of the Federal Workforce Restructuring Act of 1994, including personnel paid with funds other than appropriated funds. Prohibits the Secretary from reducing the number of full-time VA personnel unless: (1) necessary due to a reduction in available funds; or (2) required under a law enacted after enactment of this provision which specifically refers to this provision. Requires a report from the Secretary to the veterans' committees annually through 2000 on any such reductions.

(Sec. 1103) Precludes from application during FY 1995 through 1999 certain Federal provisions prohibiting the VA from contracting to have VA direct patient care or activities incident to such care from being converted to activities performed by non-VA providers. Requires that, whenever any activity at a VA health-care facility is so converted, the Secretary must: (1) require in the contract an employment priority for VA employees displaced due to the contract; and (2) provide to such former employees all possible assistance in obtaining other Federal employment or job training or retraining. Directs the Secretary to report annually to the Congress on all contracting-out authority exercised.

(Sec. 1104) Directs the Secretary to enter into an agreement with a non-federal entity under which such entity carries out a study of the feasibility and advisability of alternative organizational structures for the provision of health care services to veterans. Requires the Secretary to submit such report to the veterans' committees. Authorizes appropriations.

Title XII: Technical and Clerical Amendments - Makes technical and clerical amendments to Federal veterans' benefits provisions.