Summary: S.714 — 105th Congress (1997-1998)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (11/09/1997)


Title I: Equal Employment Opportunity Process in the

Department of Veterans Affairs

Title II: Extension and Improvement of Authorities

Title III: Major Medical Facility Projects Construction


Title IV: Technical and Clarifying Amendments

Veterans' Benefits Act of 1997 - Title I: Equal Employment Opportunity Process in the Department of Veterans Affairs - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide that the employment discrimination complaint resolution system within the Department of Veterans Affairs be established and administered so as to encourage timely and fair resolution of concerns and complaints and that the system is administered in an objective, fair, and effective manner as perceived by Department employees and other interested parties. Directs the Secretary to: (1) ensure that Department employees receive adequate education and training for such functions; and (2) impose appropriate disciplinary measures for Department employees who engage in unlawful employment discrimination, including retaliation against employees asserting equal employment opportunity (EEO) rights. Requires quarterly and annual reports from the Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration to the veterans' committees summarizing the employment discrimination complaints filed.

Directs the Secretary to ensure that a Department employee may elect to receive employment discrimination counseling from an individual who carries out EEO counseling functions on a full-time basis. Limits to 40 the number of Department employees whose duties include EEO counseling functions as well as other unrelated functions. Allows such splitting of functions only at Department facilities located in remote geographic locations. Directs the Secretary to submit to the Congress reports on the implementation and operation of the EEO system within the Department.

(Sec. 102) Establishes in the Department an Office of Employment Discrimination Complaint Adjudication headed by a Director who shall be responsible for making final agency decisions on the merits of any employment discrimination complaint filed by a Department employee or applicant for employment. Requires the Director to report to the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs when the Director has reason to believe that there has been retaliation against an employee asserting EEO rights. Requires the Director to submit to the Secretary and the Congress reports on the implementation and operation of the Office.

(Sec. 103) Requires a private entity to conduct an assessment and monitoring of, and report to the veterans' committees on, the Department's employment discrimination complaint resolution system, including the presence of specified programs for ensuring system quality.

Title II: Extension and Improvement of Authorities - Extends through December 31, 2001, a pilot program under which the Secretary is authorized to make housing loans to Native American veterans. Includes additional outreach requirements under the program. Directs the Secretary to report annually to the veterans' committees on pilot program implementation.

(Sec. 202) Authorizes the Secretary, in providing care and services to veterans suffering from serious mental illness, including homeless veterans, to provide: (1) outreach services; (2) care, treatment, and rehabilitative services (including the use of halfway houses); and (3) therapeutic transitional housing assistance and outpatient care. Terminates such authority on December 31, 2001.

Authorizes the Secretary to operate residences and facilities as therapeutic housing, with specified conditions, including the requirement of a house manager at each residence and payments by residents to cover board expenses.

Directs the Secretary, through December 31, 2001, to operate a program to expand and improve the provision of veterans' benefits to homeless veterans. Requires the establishment of at least eight sites as centers for the provision of comprehensive services to homeless veterans. Directs the Secretary to coordinate such services with other Federal departments and agencies, State and local governments, and nongovernmental organizations. Requires assessments of the needs of homeless veterans living in each area served by the Department.

(Sec. 203) Extends through December 31, 1999, a program under which the Secretary provides Department real property acquired by loan defaults to nonprofit organizations to provide housing to homeless veterans.

Amends the Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Service Programs Act of 1992 to extend through FY 1999 the homeless veterans comprehensive service grant program.

Amends the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act to extend through December 31, 1999, and increase the authorized 1999 expenditure for, homeless veterans reintegration projects.

(Sec. 204) Amends the Veterans' Benefits Improvements Act of 1994 to require additional information on program effectiveness in a required report concerning assistance provided to homeless veterans.

(Sec. 205) Extends through December 31, 2001, the Department's authority to enter into enhanced-use leases of Department real property. Repeals a provision limiting the number of enhanced-use agreements in toto and during a fiscal year.

(Sec. 206) Extends permanently a pilot program for the furnishing of noninstitutional alternatives to veterans' nursing home care.

(Sec. 207) Extends through December 31, 1998, the Department's Health Professional Scholarship Program. Requires the submission of an overdue report concerning such Program.

(Sec. 208) Directs the Under Secretary for Health to develop a national policy for the Veterans Health Administration on mammography screening for veterans which specifies screening standards as well as recommendations on the frequency of screenings for women veterans: (1) over 39 years old; and (2) who have inherent breast cancer risk factors. Directs the Secretary to report such policy to the veterans' committees. Expresses the sense of the Congress that such policy conform to guidelines endorsed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the National Institutes of Health.

(Sec. 209) Authorizes the Secretary to provide hospital care and services to a veteran who was exposed to a toxic substance, radiation (current law), or other conditions (currently, an environmental hazard) while performing military service.

Directs the Secretary to carry out a program of demonstration projects to test new approaches to treating, and improving treatment satisfaction of, Persian Gulf veterans who suffer from undiagnosed and ill-defined disabilities. Requires the program to be established no later than July 1, 1998, at up to ten geographically dispersed Department medical centers. Provides funding.

(Sec. 210) Directs the President to report to the Congress on preparations for a national response to medical emergencies arising from the terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction.

Title III: Major Medical Facility Projects Construction Authorization - Authorizes the Secretary to carry out: (1) seismic corrections at the Department medical center in Memphis, Tennessee; (2) seismic corrections and clinical and other improvements to the McClellan Hospital at Mather Field, Sacramento, California; and (3) outpatient improvements at Mare Island, Vallejo, California, and Martinez, California. Specifies the funds that may be used for such purposes.

(Sec. 302) Authorizes the Secretary to enter into leases for: (1) an information management field office in Birmingham, Alabama; (2) satellite outpatient clinics in Jacksonville, Florida, Boston, Massachusetts, Canton, Ohio, Portland, Oregon, and Tulsa, Oklahoma; and (3) an information resources management field office in Salt Lake City, Utah.

(Sec. 303) Authorizes appropriations to the Secretary for FY 1998 for the Construction, Major Projects, account and the Medical Care account.

Title IV: Technical and Clarifying Amendments - Redesignates the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans' Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, as the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

(Sec. 404) Amends Federal veterans' benefits provisions, as such provisions may apply to the children of Vietnam veterans who were born with the birth defect spina bifida, to: (1) define the Vietnam era, during which period the child must have been conceived, as the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975; (2) define a Vietnam veteran as any veteran who served during such period, without regard to the character of such individual's service (discharge standing); and (3) make provisions regarding service-connected disability compensation and benefits applicable to such children.

Allows vocational training programs for children of veterans to begin on the child's 18th birthday or upon completion of the child's secondary schooling, whichever occurs first.