Summary: S.1402 — 106th Congress (1999-2000)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Senate agreed to House amendment with amendment (10/12/2000)

Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act of 2000 - Title I: Educational Assistance Provisions - Subtitle A: Montgomery GI Bill Educational Assistance - Increases as of November 1, 2000, the rates of veterans' basic educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill.

(Sec. 102) Amends the GI Bill to: (1) require for eligibility for its basic educational assistance, for both regular and reserve personnel, that the individual complete the requirements for a secondary school diploma, or the equivalent of 12 semester hours in a program of education leading to a standard college degree, before applying for such benefits; (2) allow such individuals to withdraw their election not to enroll in the benefits program; and (3) limit the eligibility period for such benefits to ten years after either the enactment of this Act or the date of the individual's last discharge or release from active duty, whichever is later.

(Sec. 103) Reduces from three to two years the obligated period of active or reserve service before becoming eligible for GI Bill benefits. Requires individuals whose period of obligated service is: (1) two years to serve at least 20 months before such eligibility; and (2) three years to serve at least 30 months before such eligibility. Revises the amount of such assistance based on the initial period of obligated duty. Limits the eligibility period for such benefits to ten years after either the enactment of this Act or the date of the individual's last discharge or release from active duty, whichever is later.

(Sec. 104) Authorizes participants in the Veterans Educational Assistance Program who have continuously served on active duty since October 9, 1996, through at least April 1, 2000, to enroll in the GI Bill Program. Provides a one-year enrollment period. Requires monthly pay reductions to cover program costs.

(Sec. 105) Allows individuals eligible for GI Bill benefits for active-duty or reserve service, during the period beginning on May 1, 2001, and ending on July 31, 2001, to contribute an additional monthly amount in order to receive an increased amount of basic educational assistance. Requires such contributions to be in multiples of $4 and not exceed $600. Makes eligible for such additional assistance those members on active duty on the date of enactment of this Act but subsequently discharged or released before May 1, 2001.

Subtitle B: Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance - Increases the rates of survivors' and dependents' educational assistance, including assistance used for correspondence courses, special restorative training, and apprenticeship training. Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Secretary) to annually increase such amounts by the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index.

(Sec. 112) Revises generally the period of eligibility for the receipt of survivors' and dependents' educational assistance for individuals whose eligibility is based on the permanent total disability or death of a parent. Revises the effective date for the award of such assistance.

(Sec. 114) Includes within the term "program of education" for purposes of GI Bill educational benefits a preparatory course for a test that is required or utilized for admission to a college or graduate school. Allows a person to participate in such a course before his or her 18th birthday.

Subtitle C: General Educational Assistance - Authorizes the payment of basic educational assistance during periods between school terms where the period between such terms does not exceed eight weeks and both the terms preceding and following such period are not shorter than such period.

(Sec. 122) Authorizes as of March 1, 2001, the use of basic educational assistance for payment of vocation or profession licensing or certification tests, limiting such amount to the lesser of $2,000 or the fee charged for the test. Prohibits: (1) such amount from exceeding the amount of the individual's available entitlement; and (2) any such payment until the Secretary determines that the testing meets certain approval requirements for such tests as well as organizations and entities offering such tests. Establishes within the Department of Veterans Affairs (Department) the Professional Certification and Licensure Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary with respect to the requirements of organizations and entities offering such tests. Provides funding.

(Sec. 123) Increases the amounts authorized for FY 2001 and 2002 for payment to State approving agencies for administrative expenses incurred while approving courses of education to be paid from veterans' basic educational assistance.

Title II: Health Provisions - Subtitle A: Personnel Matters - Revises pay adjustment authority for nurses employed by the Department to require the director of a Department health care facility to use third-party industry wage surveys in making such adjustments. Prohibits any adjustment from reducing the rate of basic pay applicable to any nurse grade. Prohibits the director, in determining whether to carry out an adjustment, from considering the absence of a current recruitment or retention problem for personnel in that position. Requires a director to make such determination based on whether there is a significant pay-related staffing problem for such position at that facility. Authorizes the Department's Under Secretary for Health to modify any adjustment determination made by a facility director. Requires each director to report annually to the Secretary on staffing for covered positions at that facility. Requires the Secretary to report annually to the congressional veterans' committees on such staffing. Makes annual (currently terminated in 1993) a reporting requirement from the Secretary to such committees regarding pay adjustments.

Requires the Under Secretary to ensure that: (1) the director of a geographic service area, in formulating policy for the provision of patient care, consult regularly with a senior nurse executive; and (2) the director of a health-care facility include a registered nurse on any committee providing recommendations or decisions on medical center operations or policy affecting clinical services, clinical outcomes, budget, or resources.

(Sec. 202) Increases the special pay for dentists for: (1) full-time status; (2) length-of-service pay; (3) scarce specialty pay; (4) service in certain executive positions; (5) service in a geographic location in which there exists extraordinary difficulties in the recruitment and retention of qualified dentists; and (6) completing a post-graduate year of accredited hospital-based training. Credits toward civil service retirement calculations 25 percent of the special pay for length-of-service pay for each two years that the dentist completes as a dentist in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

(Sec. 203) Exempts VHA pharmacists from a required ceiling on special salary rates for certain VHA health professionals.

(Sec. 204) Revises generally provisions regarding the temporary appointment of graduates of physician assistant training programs. Provides a three-year term for temporary full-time appointments of certain medical support personnel (with authorized renewals for additional three-year periods).

(Sec. 205) Requires VHA social workers to be licensed or certified to independently practice social work in a State (with an authorized waiver on an individual basis for a reasonable period).

(Sec. 206) Establishes within the VHA an Advisor on Physician Assistants, to advise the Under Secretary for Health on all matters relating to the utilization and employment of physician assistants.

(Sec. 207) Amends the Department of Veterans Affairs Employment Reduction Assistance Act of 1999 to: (1) revise the number of authorized participants in a plan for voluntary separation incentive payments; (2) revise the percentage of required agency contributions to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund to cover such payments; and (3) extend payment authority through 2002.

Subtitle B: Military Service Issues - Expresses the sense of Congress: (1) urging the Secretary to assess the feasibility and desirability of using a computer-based system to conduct clinical evaluations relevant to military experiences and exposures; and (2) recommending that the Secretary accelerate Department efforts to ensure that relevant veterans' military histories are included in Department medical records.

(Sec. 212) Directs the Secretary to contract with an appropriate entity to conduct a follow-up study on post-traumatic stress disorder in Vietnam veterans. Requires a report to the veterans' committees.

Subtitle C: Medical Administration - Authorizes the Secretary to furnish temporary lodging in Fisher houses (guest houses) or other appropriate facilities, in connection with the examination, care, and treatment of a veteran, to: (1) a veteran who must travel a significant distance to receive such care and treatment; and (2) a family member and others who accompany such veteran to provide familial support. Authorizes the Secretary to establishes charges for such lodging.

(Sec. 222) Excludes from the right of the Department to recover certain costs from a State for veterans' care facilities not so used for at least 20 years the establishment and operation of an outpatient clinic at such a facility.

(Sec. 223) Expresses the sense of Congress that the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs should increase, to the maximum extent consistent with their respective missions, their level of cooperation in the procurement and management of prescription drugs.

Subtitle D: Construction Authorization - Authorizes the Secretary to carry out major medical facility projects in Palo Alto, California, Beckley, West Virginia, and Long Beach, California. Authorizes the Secretary to carry out a renovation project at the Department medical center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

(Sec. 232) Authorizes appropriations for FY 2001 and 2002 for the Construction, Major Projects, account for such projects.

Subtitle E: Real Property Matters - Prohibits the Secretary from entering into an enhanced-use lease of Department property until 90 days after notifying the veterans' committees of the intention to designate property for such use.

(Sec. 242) Directs the Secretary to release a reversionary interest in certain real property in Johnson City, Tennessee, previously transferred to the State of Tennessee.

(Sec. 243) Directs the Secretary to enter into a multiyear contract with the Ford Motor Land Development Corporation to: (1) demolish the buildings and auxiliary structures comprising the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Allen Park, Michigan; and (2) remediate the site of all hazardous materials and environmental contaminants. Limits the contract period to seven years, and prohibits the Secretary from expending more than $14 million under such contract (requiring the Corporation to bear all costs in excess of such amount). Provides annual payment requirements under the contract. Requires the Corporation to erect and maintain on such property a flagpole and suitable memorial identifying the property as the location of the former Medical Center.

(Sec. 244) Directs the Secretary to convey specified tracts of property at the Carl Vinson Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dublin, Georgia, to: (1) the Board of Regents of the State of Georgia to be used solely for education purposes; and (2) the Community Service Board of Middle Georgia to be used solely for education and health care purposes.

(Sec. 245) Directs the Secretary to convey to Custer County, Montana, the Miles City Veterans Administration Medical Center complex in Miles City, Montana, for use for veterans activities, community and economic development, or other appropriate public purposes.

(Sec. 246) Authorizes the Secretary to convey to the State of Colorado the Ft. Lyon Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, for use as a correctional facility. Prohibits such conveyance until the Secretary: (1) prepares and implements a plan which considers current patients at the Center; and (2) completes the evaluation and performance of all necessary environmental restoration activities.

(Sec. 247) Authorizes the Secretary to pay the State of Colorado, or any private nursing home facility, for costs incurred in providing nursing home care to veterans relocated from the Ft. Lyon Center as the result of the above conveyance. Requires a report from the Under Secretary for Health to the veterans' committees on the status of the health care system for veterans under the Veterans Integrated Service Network in southern Colorado.

Title III: Compensation, Insurance, Housing, Employment, and Memorial Affairs Provisions - Subtitle A: Compensation Program Changes - Includes as a service-connected and therefore compensable injury under veterans' disability compensation provisions a stroke or heart attack incurred or aggravated by members of the reserves during the performance of inactive-duty training or while traveling to or from such training.

(Sec. 302) Provides monthly veterans' disability compensation for female veterans who lose one or both breasts as a result of a service-connected disability.

(Sec. 303) Authorizes the payment of veterans' disability compensation for veterans who are disabled during participation in a compensated work therapy program.

(Sec. 304) Revises provisions concerning a limitation on the payment of benefits to incompetent institutionalized veterans to increase from $1,500 to five times the amount payable to a fully disabled service-connected disabled veteran the amount that such a veteran may retain and still qualify for payments. Provides that if payments are withheld, they may be restored if the veteran's assets drop to one-half of the above amount.

(Sec. 305) Directs the Secretary of Defense to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to carry out periodic reviews of the dose reconstruction program of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (radiation exposure reconstruction). Requires an Academy report to Congress.

Subtitle B: Life Insurance Matters - Prohibits the premium rate for term service disabled veterans' insurance from exceeding the renewal age 70 premium rate. Requires submission from the Secretary to Congress of a plan to liquidate the unfunded liability under such insurance program no later than October 1, 2011.

(Sec. 312) Increases from $200,000 to $250,000 the automatic maximum coverage under both Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and Veterans' Group Life Insurance.

(Sec. 313) Authorizes SGLI participation for individuals who volunteer for assignment to a mobilization category in the Individual Ready Reserve.

Subtitle C: Housing and Employment Programs - Prohibits any reduction in assistance for specially adapted housing for disabled veterans for veterans sharing joint ownership of a housing unit.

(Sec. 322) Provides a veterans' employment emphasis under Federal contracts of $25,000 or more for recently separated veterans (those discharged or released within one year).

(Sec. 323) Amends veterans' employment rights provisions to: (1) include as military service any period for which a person is absent from civilian employment to perform authorized funeral honors duty; and (2) require an employer to give an employee who is a member of a reserve component an authorized leave of absence to perform such duty.

Subtitle D: Cemeteries and Memorial Affairs - Makes eligible for interment in national cemeteries Filipino Commonwealth Army veterans of World War II, as long as each such veteran, at his or her time of death: (1) was a U.S. citizen or alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence; and (2) resided in the United States.

(Sec. 332) Requires Filipino veterans of World War II, in order to receive burial benefit payments, to be individuals who, at their time of death: (1) were citizens of the United States or aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence; (2) were residing in the United States; and (3) either were receiving veterans' disability compensation or, if their service was deemed active military service, would have been paid a military pension but for an applicable net worth limitation.

(Sec. 333) Allows a State to continue to receive a plot allowance for the burial of a veteran in a State veterans' cemetery in the case of the burial of a member or former member discharged or released from service under conditions other than dishonorable.

Title IV: Other Matters - Directs the Secretary to identify birth defects of children of female Vietnam veterans that: (1) are associated with service during the Vietnam era; and (2) result in the permanent physical or mental disability of such children. Excludes from such defects familial or birth-related defects or injuries. Directs the Secretary to provide to such children necessary health care to address the defect and any associated disability. Authorizes the Secretary to provide vocational training to such a child if the achievement of a vocational goal is reasonably feasible.

Directs the Secretary to pay a monthly allowance to such a child, the amount to be determined through a schedule rating the various defects and disabilities and their degrees. Provides that the receipt of such allowance shall not infringe upon the right to receive any other benefit to which the individual is entitled. Prohibits such allowance from being considered income for purposes of other veterans' benefits for which income limitations exist. States that, in the case of an eligible child whose only covered birth defect is spina bifida, a monetary allowance shall be paid under these provisions only. Allows an eligible individual to be provided only one program of vocational training.

(Sec. 402) Extends through: (1) December 31, 2008, the authority to guarantee the payment of principal and interest on certificates or other securities evidencing an interest in a pool of veterans' mortgage loans; (2) September 30, 2008, the authority to charge a home loan fee for Department-guaranteed veterans' housing loans; (3) September 30, 2008, certain procedures applicable to foreclosure sales on defaulted home loans guaranteed by the Department; (4) September 30, 2008, the authority of the Secretary to utilize certain veterans' income verification procedures; (5) September 30, 2008, a veterans' pension limitation for certain recipients of nursing home care covered under title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act; (6) 2004 a report requirement from the Committee on Care of Severely Chronically Mentally Ill Veterans; and (7) December 31, 2003, the authority of the Secretary to establish research and education corporations at Department medical centers.

(Sec. 403) Makes a provision of the Federal Reports Elimination and Sunset Act of 1995 which terminates on December 31, 1999, all reporting requirements contained on a list prepared by the Clerk of the House of Representatives for the first session of the 103d Congress inapplicable to certain Department reports. Terminates the requirement for certain budget reports, reports on equitable relief cases, and reports from advisory committees on former prisoners of war and women veterans.

Requires that, whenever the Secretary submits to Congress or a congressional committee a report required by law or by joint explanatory statement of a conference committee, the Secretary shall include with such report a statement of the cost of preparing the report and the methodology used in preparing the cost statement.