Text: H.R.4028 — 111th Congress (2009-2010)All Bill Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (11/05/2009)


111th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 4028

To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve services for veterans residing in rural areas.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
November 5, 2009

Mr. Wu (for himself, Mr. Altmire, Mr. Blumenauer, Ms. Bordallo, Mr. Childers, Mr. Courtney, Mr. DeFazio, Mr. Gordon of Tennessee, Mr. Hill, Mr. Hinchey, Mr. Hinojosa, Mr. Kagen, Mr. Minnick, Mr. Peterson, Mr. Pierluisi, Mr. Ross, Mr. Salazar, Mr. Schrader, Mr. Walz, and Mr. Wilson of Ohio) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs


A BILL

To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve services for veterans residing in rural areas.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Rural Veterans Services Outreach and Training Act”.

SEC. 2. Definition of outreach.

Section 101 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

“(34) The term ‘outreach’ means the act or process of reaching out in a systematic manner to proactively provide information, services, and benefits counseling to veterans, and to the spouses, children, and parents of veterans, who may be eligible to receive benefits under the laws administered by the Secretary, and to ensure that such individuals are fully informed about, and assisted in applying for, any benefits and programs under such laws.”.

SEC. 3. Department of veterans affairs grant program for rural county veteran service officers.

(a) Grants.—Chapter 5 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 532 the following new section:

§ 533. Grants to assist certain rural counties in employing veteran service officers; professional qualifications

“(a) Purpose.—The purpose of this section is to improve outreach and assistance to veterans, and to the spouses, children, and parents of veterans, who may be eligible to receive veterans’ or veterans-related benefits and who are residing in rural counties through the training of covered veteran service officers to serve in rural counties.

“(b) Grant program.—The Secretary shall carry out a program to make competitive grants in accordance with this section to provide financial assistance to State departments of veterans affairs for the purpose stated in subsection (a).

“(c) Amount of grant.—The amount of a grant under this section shall be determined by the Secretary, but may not exceed $2,000,000.

“(d) Use of funds.—A State department of veterans affairs that receives a grant under this section may distribute any amount of the grant funds to qualified State, county, or local agencies and qualified non-profit veterans service organizations that provide casework services to rural veterans. Grant funds distributed under this subsection shall be used for the purpose stated in subsection (a).

“(e) Eligibility.—For purposes of this section, a State is eligible for a grant under this section if it can demonstrate any of the following:

“(1) That it has at least one county, in which veterans reside, that does not have a covered veterans service officer.

“(2) That it has at least one county, in which veterans reside, that has a covered veterans service officer who performs covered veterans service officer functions on less than a full-time basis and that county is able to demonstrate a need for additional services by a covered veterans service officer.

“(3) That it has at least one county, in which not fewer than 1,000 veterans reside, that currently has a full-time covered veterans service officer, but only if the county is able to demonstrate a need for additional services by a covered veterans service officer.

“(f) Competition for grant.—An eligible State seeking a grant under this section shall submit to the Secretary an application for the grant. The application shall be in such form and shall contain such information as the Secretary may require, including information establishing that the State is an eligible State under this section. From the applications submitted the Secretary shall approve those applications that the Secretary determines to be the most promising in carrying out the purposes of the grant program. Each State whose application is selected by the Secretary to receive a grant under the grant program shall receive funds in an amount determined by the Secretary under subsection (c). In making such determination, the Secretary shall take into consideration the amount of the total appropriation for the grant program, the relative size of the State’s veteran population, and the funding necessary to improve training and outreach of covered veteran service officers in rural counties. Such funds shall go to the State department of veterans affairs.

“(g) Requirements for State receipt of Federal funds.—Each State receiving a grant under this section shall—

“(1) provide to the Secretary information and assurances that the funds received under the grant program for the training of covered veteran service officers will go to assist counties described in paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of subsection (e);

“(2) provide an assurance that the State agency shall match the Federal funds provided under this section by providing at least 20 percent of the total cost of the grant program; and

“(3) use funds received under this section only to supplement the amount of funds that would, in the absence of such Federal funds, be made available from non-Federal sources for the purposes of this section, and not to supplant such funds.

“(h) Grant Frequency.—Grants under this section shall be made on an annual basis.

“(i) Covered Veteran Service Officer defined.—In this section, the term ‘covered veteran service officer’ means a qualified employee (regardless of job title)—

“(1) who is an employee of a State, county, local government, or a veterans service organization recognized under section 5902 of this title;

“(2) whose duties include providing to veterans advice and casework services related to benefits provided under laws administered by the Secretary; and

“(3) who is accredited by the Department to file a claim with the Veterans Benefits Administration on behalf of a claimant who is a veteran or a veteran’s survivor.

“(j) Authorization of appropriations.—There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section $100,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2010 through 2013.”.

(b) Clerical amendment.—The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 531 the following new item:


“532. Grants to assist certain rural counties in employing veteran service officers; professional qualifications.”.

(c) Comptroller General Report.—The Comptroller General shall conduct a review of the grant program under section 533 of title 38, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), and shall submit to Congress a report on the results of such review. In carrying out the review, the Comptroller General shall examine the effectiveness of the grant program in improving the representation of veterans living in rural areas by trained individuals who assist the veterans in understanding and receiving access to the benefits to which they are entitled.