Summary: S.1315 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (09/22/2008)

Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2008 - Title I: Insurance Matters - (Sec. 101) Allows administrative costs of the Service-Disabled Veterans' Insurance program to be paid through premiums.

(Sec. 102) Includes all (under current law, only certain active-duty) members of the Individual Ready Reserve under the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program. Revises provisions relating to the termination of SGLI coverage for a dependent to provide that such coverage may terminate upon termination of the dependent's status as an insurable dependent of the member. (Under current law, such coverage may terminate 120 days following termination of such status.)

(Sec. 103) Requires the Secretary of Defense to develop a form for the designation of a recipient of funds for traumatic injury coverage under SGLI in cases where the member is mentally incapacitated or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness.

Title II: Housing Matters - (Sec. 201) Authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Secretary), in the case of a member determined to have a total and permanent disability incurred or aggravated in the line of active duty, to furnish home improvements and structural alterations for the member for such disability while the member is hospitalized or receiving outpatient care, medical services, or treatment, if the Secretary determines that the member is likely to be discharged or released from the Armed Forces due to the disability.

Title III: Labor and Education Matters - (Sec. 301) Directs the Secretary to ensure the coordination of educational course approval activities by state approving agencies with approval activities performed by the Departments of Labor and Education and other appropriate entities. Requires a report from the Secretary to the congressional veterans' committees on actions taken to establish outcome-oriented performance standards for, and a tracking and reporting system for resources expended by, approving agencies.

(Sec. 302) Authorizes the Secretary to waive, for public interest purposes on a case-by-case basis, the residency requirement for a Director for Veterans' Employment and Training.

(Sec. 303) Includes veterans of the Post 9/11 Global War on Terror within an annual (currently, biennial) veterans' unemployment study.

Title IV: Court Matters - (Sec. 401) Eliminates the 180-day per-year limit on service of retired judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Court) who voluntarily return to such service. Establishes a three-tiered retirement pay structure for Court judges appointed after the enactment of this Act. Requires recalled judges to receive the pay of current judges during the period of recall, less the amount of any applicable annuity. Prohibits recall service in excess of five years for judges recalled involuntarily.

(Sec. 402) Removes the $30 annual limit on practice and registration fees for those admitted to practice before the Court. Requires any fees charged to be reasonable.

(Sec. 403) Requires an annual report from the chief judge to the veterans' committees summarizing the Court's workload.

(Sec. 404) Expresses the sense of Congress that the Court should be provided with appropriate office space, without undue disruption, inconvenience, or cost. Requires a report from the Administrator of General Services to the veterans' committees on the feasibility of leasing additional space for the Court, and on using the entire building in which the Court is housed as a Veterans Courthouse and Justice Center.

Title V: Other Matters - (Sec. 501) Revises provisions concerning the VA's program of outreach to veterans to: (1) include members of the National Guard and reserves; and (2) define "outreach" as the proactive provision of information, services, and benefits counseling to veterans, and to the spouses, children, and parents of veterans who may be eligible to receive benefits through the VA.

(Sec. 502) Amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to allow members of the Armed Forces who receive orders to deploy outside the United States for not less than 90 days to terminate or suspend their cell phone contracts without incurring early termination or reactivation fees if their ability to fulfill the service contract or to utilize the service will be materially affected by such deployment.

(Sec. 503) Directs the Medical Follow-Up Agency of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies to maintain and manage the assets (including electronic data files and biological specimens of study participants) transferred to the Agency from the Air Force Health Study. Authorizes the Agency, during FY2008-FY2012, to conduct additional research on such assets toward the goal of understanding the determinants of health, and promoting wellness, in veterans. Requires an Agency report to Congress assessing the feasibility and advisability of conducting additional research on such assets after the end of FY2012. Provides funding.

(Sec. 504) Requires: (1) the Secretary to contract with the Institute, above, to conduct a comprehensive epidemiological study to identify any increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis as a result of service in the Persian Gulf or in the Post 9/11 global operations theaters; and (2) an interim and final results report from the Institute to the Secretary and the veterans' committees.

(Sec. 505) Directs the Comptroller General to report to the veterans' and appropriations committees on the adequacy of dependency and indemnity compensation in replacing a deceased veteran's income for surviving spouses and dependents of veterans who die from service-connected disabilities.