H.R.2569 - Salute to Veterans and the Armed Forces Act of 2003108th Congress (2003-2004)
|Sponsor:||Rep. Edwards, Chet [D-TX-11] (Introduced 06/24/2003)|
|Committees:||House - Armed Services; Veterans' Affairs; Ways and Means|
|Latest Action:||House - 07/24/2003 Referred to the Subcommittee on Health. (All Actions)|
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Text: H.R.2569 — 108th Congress (2003-2004)All Information (Except Text)
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Introduced in House (06/24/2003)
[Congressional Bills 108th Congress] [From the U.S. Government Printing Office] [H.R. 2569 Introduced in House (IH)] 108th CONGRESS 1st Session H. R. 2569 To improve benefits for members of the Armed Forces and veterans and for their dependents and survivors. _______________________________________________________________________ IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES June 24, 2003 Mr. Edwards (for himself, Mr. Evans, Mr. Skelton, Mr. Marshall, and Mr. Filner) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Armed Services, and in addition to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs, and Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned _______________________________________________________________________ A BILL To improve benefits for members of the Armed Forces and veterans and for their dependents and survivors. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS. (a) Short Title.--This Act may be cited as the ``Salute to Veterans and the Armed Forces Act of 2003''. (b) Table of Contents.--The table of contents of this Act is as follows: Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents. Sec. 2. Full payment of both retired pay and compensation to disabled military retirees. Sec. 3. Repeal of dependency and indemnity compensation offset from survivor benefit plan surviving spouse annuities. Sec. 4. Increase in amount of basic educational assistance for members of the Selected Reserve. Sec. 5. Application of index based on costs of higher learning. Sec. 6. One-time bonus for certain service in connection with Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. Sec. 7. Authorization of additional funding for veterans medical care. Sec. 8. Interim payments under certain veterans claims when decision is delayed following remand for expedited consideration. Sec. 9. Prohibition on increases in medication copayment for veterans and imposition of healthcare enrollment fee for veterans. Sec. 10. Information for separating servicemembers on veterans benefits information. Sec. 11. Veterans outreach programs. Sec. 12. Retention of 38.6 percent top individual income tax rate. SEC. 2. FULL PAYMENT OF BOTH RETIRED PAY AND COMPENSATION TO DISABLED MILITARY RETIREES. (a) Restoration of Full Retired Pay Benefits.--Section 1414 of title 10, United States Code, is amended to read as follows: ``Sec. 1414. Members eligible for retired pay who have service- connected disabilities: payment of retired pay and veterans' disability compensation ``(a) Payment of Both Retired Pay and Compensation.--Except as provided in subsection (b), a member or former member of the uniformed services who is entitled to retired pay (other than as specified in subsection (c)) and who is also entitled to veterans' disability compensation is entitled to be paid both without regard to sections 5304 and 5305 of title 38. ``(b) Special Rule for Chapter 61 Career Retirees.--The retired pay of a member retired under chapter 61 of this title with 20 years or more of service otherwise creditable under section 1405 of this title at the time of the member's retirement is subject to reduction under sections 5304 and 5305 of title 38, but only to the extent that the amount of the member's retired pay under chapter 61 of this title exceeds the amount of retired pay to which the member would have been entitled under any other provision of law based upon the member's service in the uniformed services if the member had not been retired under chapter 61 of this title. ``(c) Exception.--Subsection (a) does not apply to a member retired under chapter 61 of this title with less than 20 years of service otherwise creditable under section 1405 of this title at the time of the member's retirement. ``(d) Definitions.--In this section: ``(1) The term `retired pay' includes retainer pay, emergency officers retirement pay, and naval pension. ``(2) The term `veterans' disability compensation' has the meaning given the term `compensation' in section 101(13) of title 38.''. (b) Repeal of Special Compensation Programs.--Sections 1413 and 1413a of such title are repealed. (c) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by striking the items relating to sections 1413, 1413a, and 1414 and inserting the following: ``1414. Members eligible for retired pay who have service-connected disabilities: payment of retired pay and veterans' disability compensation.''. (d) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on-- (1) the first day of the first month that begins after the date of the enactment of this Act; or (2) the first day of the fiscal year that begins in the calendar year in which this Act is enacted, if later than the date specified in paragraph (1). (e) Retroactive Benefits.--No benefits may be paid to any person by reason of section 1414 of title 10, United States Code, as amended by subsection (a), for any period before the effective date specified in subsection (a). SEC. 3. REPEAL OF DEPENDENCY AND INDEMNITY COMPENSATION OFFSET FROM SURVIVOR BENEFIT PLAN SURVIVING SPOUSE ANNUITIES. (a) Repeal.--Subsections (c), (e), and (k) of section 1450 of title 10, United States Code, and subsection (c)(2) of section 1451 of such title are repealed. (b) Effective Date.--The amendments made by subsection (a)-- (1) shall take effect on the later of October 1, 2003, or the date of the enactment of this Act; and (2) shall apply with respect to payment of annuities under subchapter II of chapter 73 of title 10, United States Code, for months beginning on or after that date. (c) Recoupment of Certain Amounts Previously Refunded to SBP Recipients.--(1) A surviving spouse who is in receipt of an SBP annuity that is in effect before the date specified in subsection (b) and that is adjusted by reason of the amendments made by subsection (a) and who had previously received an SBP retired pay refund shall repay an amount determined under paragraph (2). Any such repayment shall be made in the same manner as a repayment under subsection (k)(2) of section 1450 of title 10, United States Code, as in effect on the day before the date of the enactment of this Act. (2) The amount of a repayment under paragraph (1) shall be the amount that bears the same ratio to the amount of that refund as the surviving spouse's life expectancy (determined in accordance with standard actuarial practices) bears to the anticipated total duration of the annuity (determined as the sum of such life expectancy and the duration of the annuity already received). (3) In this subsection: (A) The term ``SBP annuity'' means an annuity under the program established under subchapter II of chapter 73 of title 10, United States Code. (B) The term ``SBP retired pay refund'' means a refund under subsection (e) of section 1450 of title 10, United States Code, as in effect before the date specified in subsection (b). SEC. 4. INCREASE IN AMOUNT OF BASIC EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE FOR MEMBERS OF THE SELECTED RESERVE. (a) In General.--(1) Paragraph (1) of section 16131(b) of title 10, United States Code, is amended-- (A) in subparagraph (A), by striking ``$251'' and inserting ``$600''; (B) in subparagraph (B), by striking ``$188'' and inserting ``$450''; and (C) in subparagraph (C), by striking ``$125'' and inserting ``$300''. (2) The amendments made by paragraph (1) shall take effect on October 1, 2004, and shall apply with respect to educational assistance allowances under section 16131(b)(1) of such title paid for months after September 2004. (3) In the case of an educational assistance allowance under such section paid for months occurring during fiscal year 2004-- (A) subparagraph (A) of such section shall be applied by substituting ``$475'' for ``$251''; (B) subparagraph (B) of such section shall be applied by substituting ``$325'' for ``$188''; and (C) subparagraph (C) of such section shall be applied by substituting ``$215'' for ``$125''. (b) No Adjustment for Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005.--Section 16131(b)(2) of such title shall not apply to rates of basic educational assistance paid under such section during fiscal years 2004 and 2005. SEC. 5. APPLICATION OF INDEX BASED ON COSTS OF HIGHER LEARNING. (a) In General.--Section 16131(b)(2) of title 10, United States Code, is amended to read as follows: ``(2)(A) With respect to any fiscal year beginning on or after October 1, 2005, the Secretary shall provide a percentage increase (rounded to the nearest dollar) in the rates payable under paragraph (1) equal to the percentage (as determined by the Secretary) by which-- ``(i) the average monthly costs of tuition and expenses for commuter students at public institutions of higher learning that award baccalaureate degrees for purposes of paragraph (1) for the fiscal year involved, exceeds ``(ii) such average monthly costs for the preceding fiscal year. ``(B) The Secretary shall make the determination under subparagraph (A) after consultation with the Secretary of Education. ``(C) A determination made under subparagraph (A) in a year shall take effect on October 1 of that year and apply with respect to basic educational assistance allowances payable under this section for the fiscal year beginning in that year. ``(D) Not later than September 30 each year, the Secretary shall publish in the Federal Register the average monthly costs of tuition and expenses as determined under subparagraph (A) in that year.''. (b) Conforming Amendment.--(1) Section 3015(h) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking ``by which--'' and all that follows and inserting ``determined by the Secretary under section 16131(b)(2) of title 10 for the fiscal year involved.''. (2) The amendment made by paragraph (1) shall apply to fiscal years beginning on or after October 1, 2005. SEC. 6. ONE-TIME BONUS FOR CERTAIN SERVICE IN CONNECTION WITH OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM OR OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. (a) Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.--The Secretary of Defense shall provide for the payment of a bonus under this section to each member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps who, at any time during the service of the member in connection with Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom, satisfied or satisfies the eligibility criteria for receipt of special pay under section 310 of title 37, United States Code, for duty subject to hostile fire or imminent danger. (b) Coast Guard.--The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide for the payment of a bonus under this section to each member of the Coast Guard who, at any time during the service of the member in connection with Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom, satisfied or satisfies the eligibility criteria for receipt of special pay under such section. (c) Amount of Bonus.--The amount of the bonus paid under this section shall be equal to $1,000. (d) Entitlement Limited to Single Bonus Payment.--A member may not receive more than one bonus under the authority of this section. SEC. 7. AUTHORIZATION OF ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR VETERANS MEDICAL CARE. (a) Authorization.--There are authorized to be appropriated to the Department of Veterans Affairs, in addition to amounts otherwise authorized to be appropriated, the amount of $1,000,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2004 through 2013. (b) Improved Access to Care.--Amounts appropriated pursuant to the authorization of appropriations in subsection (a) shall be used to ensure that veterans seeking healthcare from the Department of Veterans Affairs receive their initial appointment for healthcare for a date that is not later than 30 days after the date on which the request is made. SEC. 8. INTERIM PAYMENTS UNDER CERTAIN VETERANS CLAIMS WHEN DECISION IS DELAYED FOLLOWING REMAND FOR EXPEDITED CONSIDERATION. (a) In General.--(1) Chapter 53 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section: ``Sec. 5320. Interim benefits under certain remanded cases ``(a) Interim Benefits.--When a claim for benefits under the jurisdiction of the Secretary is remanded by the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims or by the Board for Veterans' Appeals in a case to which section 302 of Public Law 103-446 (38 U.S.C. 5101 note) applies, if the Secretary does not make a decision on the matter within 180 days of the date of the remand decision, then until such matter is finally decided, the Secretary shall pay an interim benefit in the amount of $500 per month to each claimant under the claim. Such payments shall commence as of the first month beginning after the end of such 180-day period. ``(b) Effect on Interim Benefit Payments of Final Decision on Claim.--When a claim with respect to which interim benefits are being paid under subsection (b) is finally decided-- ``(1) if the final decision is to award benefits, the amounts paid as interim benefits shall be considered to be an advance payment of benefits owed for any period before the date of such final decision (except that if the total amount of interim benefits paid is greater than the amount of retroactive benefits, the amount of the difference shall not be considered to be an overpayment for any purpose); and ``(2) if the final decision is not to award benefits, the amounts paid as interim benefits shall not be considered to be an overpayment for any purpose.''. (2) The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by adding at the end the following new item: ``5320. Interim benefits under certain remanded cases.''. (b) Effective Date.--Section 5320 of title 38, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), shall apply with respect to any decision remanded by the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims or the Board of Veterans' Appeals on or after the date of the enactment of this Act. (c) Report.--Not later than six months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to Congress a report on measures the Secretary intends to take to expedite the processing of remanded claims for veterans benefits. SEC. 9. PROHIBITION ON INCREASES IN MEDICATION COPAYMENT FOR VETERANS AND IMPOSITION OF HEALTHCARE ENROLLMENT FEE FOR VETERANS. (a) Medication Copayments.--During the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on October 1, 2004, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs may not implement under subsection (b) of section 1722A of title 38, United States Code, an increase in the copayment for medications required under subsection (a) of that section. (b) Enrollment Fee.--During the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on October 1, 2004, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs may not implement an enrollment fee for veterans enrolling (or renewing enrollment) in the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system under section 1705 of such title. SEC. 10. INFORMATION FOR SEPARATING SERVICEMEMBERS ON VETERANS BENEFITS INFORMATION. (a) Information on Final Pay Stub.--Section 1142 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(d) Information on Access to Veterans Benefits.--The Secretary concerned shall include on the final statement of pay and allowances provided to a member who is separating from active duty or an active status information on how to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs for information concerning veterans benefits and the Department of Labor for information concerning employment opportunities.''. (b) Effective Date.--Subsection (d) of section 1142 of title 10, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), shall apply with respect to persons separating from active duty or an active status in the Armed Forces after the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act. SEC. 11. VETERANS OUTREACH PROGRAMS. (a) Information on Veterans Benefits.--Section 7722(c) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraphs: ``(3) Information provided under this subsection shall include information on how to apply for benefits for which the veteran or dependent may be eligible, including information about assistance available under subsection (d). ``(4) In the case of veterans or dependents who are members of distinct beneficiary populations (such as survivors of veterans), the Secretary shall ensure that information provided under this subsection includes specific information about benefits relating to that population.''. (b) Annual Outreach Plan.--(1) Chapter 77 of such title is amended by inserting at the end of subchapter II the following new section: ``Sec. 7728. Annual outreach plan ``(a) The Secretary shall prepare an annual plan for the conduct of outreach activities under this subchapter. The Secretary shall include in the annual plan-- ``(1) efforts to identify veterans who are not otherwise enrolled or registered with the Department for benefits or services under programs administered by the Secretary; and ``(2) provisions for informing veterans and dependents of any changes in benefit programs or health care eligibility. ``(b) In developing the annual plan, the Secretary shall consult with the following: ``(1) Directors or other responsible officials of veterans service organizations. ``(2) Directors or other responsible officials of local education and training programs. ``(3) Representatives of veterans outreach programs. ``(4) Local veterans employment representatives. ``(5) Business and professional organizations. ``(6) Other appropriate individuals or organizations that could assist veterans in adjusting to a self-sufficient civilian life. ``(c) The annual report required by section 7726 of this title shall include specific information concerning the effectiveness of the outreach plan developed pursuant to this section.''. (2) The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 7727 the following new item: ``7728. Annual outreach plan.''. SEC. 12. RETENTION OF 38.6 PERCENT TOP INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX RATE. (a) In General.--The table contained in section 1(i)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended by the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, is amended by striking ``35.0%'' and inserting ``38.6%''. (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2002. <all>