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110th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                     110-772
======================================================================
 
 REPEAL OF SUNSET PROVISION FOR ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON MINORITY VETERANS

                                _______
                                

 July 24, 2008.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Mr. Filner, from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, submitted the 
                               following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 674]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

  The Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to whom was referred the 
bill (H.R. 674) to amend title 38, United States Code, to 
repeal the provision of law requiring termination of the 
Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans as of December 31, 
2009, having considered the same, report favorably thereon 
without amendment and recommend that the bill do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Purpose and Summary..............................................     2
Background and Need for Legislation..............................     2
Hearings.........................................................     4
Committee Consideration..........................................     5
Committee Votes..................................................     5
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     5
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............     5
New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures     5
Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits.............................     5
Committee Cost Estimate..........................................     5
Congressional Budget Office Estimate.............................     5
Federal Mandates Statement.......................................     6
Advisory Committee Statement.....................................     7
Constitutional Authority Statement...............................     7
Applicability to Legislative Branch..............................     7
Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation...................     7
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill as Reported.............     7

                          Purpose and Summary

    H.R. 674 was introduced by Representative Louis V. 
Gutierrez of Illinois on January 24, 2007. This legislation 
would repeal the provision of law requiring termination of the 
Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans (ACMV) on December 31, 
2009.
    According to the 2000 Census, minority veterans comprise 
over 14 percent of the total veteran population (9.7 percent 
African American, 1.1 percent Asian, 0.7 percent Native 
American, and 0.1 percent Hawaiian/Pacific Islander\1\). 
Ensuring that compensation, health care, rehabilitation, 
outreach, and other benefits and programs of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs (VA) are fully integrated and equally 
available to minority veterans is the primary mission of the 
ACMV.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ Hispanics were not considered a unique racial category in the 
Vet Pop 2004 data, therefore they are already counted.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                  Background and Need for Legislation

    The ACMV was created in response to concerns that there was 
limited input and no representation in VA policies and planning 
for minority veterans. The ACMV was established by section 510 
of Public Law 103-446, which was enacted on November 2, 1994, 
to support and inform the Center for Minority Veterans (CMV). 
The CMV replaced the Office of the Chief Minority Affairs 
Officer that had been created in Public Law 102-218. The ACMV 
is currently set to expire on December 31, 2009. Congress has 
extended the ACMV four previous times. H.R. 674 would provide 
permanent authority for the ACMV.
    The 15-member ACMV is appointed by the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs and is ethnically, racially, and culturally 
diverse. It is specifically charged to focus on Pacific 
Islanders, Asian, African, Hispanic/Latino and Native American 
veterans. ACMV members make informed judgments about the 
cultural, societal, and economic challenges facing minority 
veterans based on their review of pertinent studies and 
literature, site visits, and town hall meetings with minority 
veterans. This process results in recommendations on behalf of 
minority veterans to improve their access to the services and 
resources of the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans 
Benefits Administration, and the National Cemetery 
Administration. The ACMV advises the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs and submits an annual report to Congress outlining 
recommendations, concerns and observations on VA's delivery of 
services to minority veterans.
    Since its inception in 1994, the ACMV has made a number of 
critical observations documented in its annual reports to VA 
and Congress. The ACMV identified these concerns during site 
visits to locations such as Los Angeles, California and 
Anchorage, Alaska. During these visits and other meetings the 
ACMV identified numerous problem areas:
           Inadequate and insufficient research in 
        health care, disability compensation, and other 
        benefits for minority veterans;
           Insufficient ethnic representation on both 
        the Rating Panels and the Merit Review Boards;
           Lack of genuine service and outreach 
        programs to minority veterans living in rural areas, 
        the Pacific Islands, or on reservations;
           Elimination or modification of department or 
        regional programs without sufficient input or genuine 
        consideration of minority veterans' needs;
           Absence of Minority Advisory Committee's 
        ability to provide direct information and advice to 
        Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) Directors 
        and Regional Office Directors on the needs and concerns 
        of minority veterans;
           Inadequate process to pursue aggressively 
        alternative solutions to increase access to health 
        services;
           Lack of definitive policies and sustaining 
        efforts to educate VA staff regarding exceptional 
        customer service appropriate to minority cultures;
           Absence of ethnic identifiers on VA's 
        initial application forms;
           Exclusion of veterans' preference status in 
        Part C, Title IV, Job Training Partnership Act; and,
           Absence of aggressive programs that take 
        care of homeless minority veterans and provide 
        treatment for minority veterans suffering from alcohol 
        and drug dependencies.
    The need for the ACMV was highlighted at a July 12, 2007, 
joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Health and the 
Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs of 
the Committee on Veterans' Affairs regarding issues facing 
women and minority veterans. The hearing assessed the 
effectiveness of VA programs in addressing the needs of special 
populations and heard recommendations for closing gaps and for 
meeting the growing challenges resulting from the increasing 
minority veteran population. Issues concerning military 
transition and homelessness; access, affordability, travel 
distances to health care facilities and regional offices; lack 
of minorities at the senior staff level, and the disparities in 
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compensation rates for 
African Americans were identified during this hearing. Also 
discussed at the hearing was the report of the VA's Health 
Services and Research Development Service entitled Racial and 
Ethnic Disparities in the VA Healthcare System: A Systematic 
Review. This report documented the prevalence of racial and 
ethnic disparities within clinical areas that resulted in 
poorer health outcomes; described the sources of those 
disparities; and, offered avenues for future research to 
improve equity in VA health care. Recommendations were made 
regarding improving outreach to minority veterans and assisting 
with transportation; using telehealth to reach rural areas, 
such as with Alaska natives and those living on the Navajo 
reservation; expanding equitable mental health for all 
generations of veterans; and, improving VA's claims assistance 
process and employing electronic records, and enhancing staff 
diversity.
    At the July 31, 2007, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance 
and Memorial Affairs hearing, Representative Luis V. Gutierrez 
of Illinois submitted a statement explaining the importance of 
the ACMV and referred to the issues of disparate claims 
adjudication reported in the Chicago Sun-Times and the VA 
Inspector General report regarding the Chicago regional office 
as reasons for needing the ACMV. In discussing H.R. 674, 
Representative Gutierrez stated that ``[u]nfortunately, 
discrimination and cultural insensitivity remain problematic 
for minority veterans at many VA facilities.''
    The Committee agrees that the ACMV will still be needed in 
the future. The unique concerns of minority veterans will 
become increasingly important over the next decade since 17 
percent of the troops currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan 
are African American, while 11 percent are Hispanic. The 
concerns of these veterans and others will not disappear on 
December 31, 2009--the current sunset date for the ACMV. The 
Committee agrees with the VA's Health Services and Research 
Development Service report that specific issues of concern to 
minority veterans will need to be addressed further since these 
veterans confront the debilitating effects of PTSD and 
substance abuse in greater rates, and suffer from a higher 
incidence of homelessness, than other veterans. The ACMV found 
that access to health care for Native American veterans is a 
more common problem than in other veteran populations. In 
addition, access to adequate job training is difficult for many 
minority veterans.
    In the course of the hearing on July 31, 2007, the VA 
testified in support of H.R. 674, stating that ``ACMV's reports 
and recommendations have highlighted many of the challenges 
confronting minority veterans, such as access to care, 
disparities in health care for diseases that disproportionately 
affect minorities, homelessness, unemployment, lack of 
understanding of claims process, existence of limited medical 
research, and statistical data related to minority veterans. 
The VA has accepted many of the ACMV's recommendations and is 
moving forward to implement them.''
    The Committee believes that the ACMV is a valuable and 
indispensible resource for the VA and should be made a 
permanent entity within the Department.

                                Hearings

    On July 12, 2007, the Subcommittee on Health and the 
Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held 
a joint hearing on ``Issues Facing Women and Minority 
Veterans.''
    On July 31, 2007, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance 
and Memorial Affairs held a legislative hearing on a number of 
bills introduced in the 110th Congress, including H.R. 674. The 
following witnesses testified: The Honorable Nick J. Rahall II 
of West Virginia; The Honorable Vito Fossella of New York; Mr. 
Carl Blake, National Legislative Director, Paralyzed Veterans 
of America; Mr. Eric A. Hilleman, Deputy Director, National 
Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United 
States; Mr. Robert M. Fells, General Counsel and External Chief 
Operating Officer, International Cemetery, Cremation and 
Funeral Association; Mr. Raymond C. Kelley, Legislative 
Director, American Veterans (AMVETS); Mr. Alec S. Petkoff, 
Assistant Director, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation 
Commission, The American Legion; Mr. Bradley G. Mayes, 
Director, Compensation and Pension Service, Veterans Benefits 
Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 
accompanied by Mr. Richard Hipolit, Assistant General Counsel, 
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Ms. Lucretia McClenney, 
Director, Center for Minority Veterans, U.S. Department of 
Veterans Affairs, and Mr. Ronald E. Walters, Director, Office 
of Finance and Planning, National Cemetery Association, U.S. 
Department of Veterans Affairs. Those submitting statements for 
the record included: The Honorable Luis V. Gutierrez of 
Illinois, and Mr. Brian Lawrence, Assistant National 
Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans.

                        Committee Consideration

    On July 16, 2008, the full Committee met in an open markup 
session, a quorum being present, and ordered H.R. 674 reported 
favorably to the House of Representatives, by voice vote.

                            Committee Votes

    Clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires the Committee to list the record votes 
on the motion to report the legislation and amendments thereto. 
There were no record votes taken in connection with ordering 
H.R. 674 reported to the House. A motion by Mr. Buyer of 
Indiana to order H.R. 674 reported favorably to the House of 
Representatives was agreed to by voice vote.

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

         Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives

    In accordance with clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee's performance 
goals and objectives are reflected in the descriptive portions 
of this report.

   New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee adopts as its 
own the estimate of new budget authority, entitlement 
authority, or tax expenditures or revenues contained in the 
cost estimate prepared by the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional 
Budget Act of 1974.

                  Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits

    H.R. 674 does not contain any congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in 
clause 9(d), 9(e), or 9(f) of rule XXI of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives.

                        Committee Cost Estimate

    The Committee adopts as its own the cost estimate on H.R. 
674 prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget Office 
pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 
1974.

               Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    Pursuant to clause 3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the following is the cost estimate 
for H.R. 674 provided by the Congressional Budget Office 
pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 
1974:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                     Washington, DC, July 22, 2008.
Hon. Bob Filner,
Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 674, a bill to 
amend title 38, United States Code, to repeal the provision of 
law requiring termination of the Advisory Committee on Minority 
Veterans as of December 31, 2009.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Dwayne M. 
Wright.
            Sincerely,
                                         Robert A. Sunshine
                                   (For Peter R. Orszag, Director).
    Enclosure.

H.R. 674--A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to repeal the 
        provision of law requiring termination of the Advisory 
        Committee on Minority Veterans as of December 31, 2009

    The authorization for the Advisory Committee on Minority 
Veterans, which provides recommendations to the Congress and 
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on the provision of benefits 
and services to minority veterans, will expire on December 31, 
2009. H.R. 674 would repeal the provision of law that requires 
termination of the committee, thereby extending the committee's 
authorization indefinitely.
    Based on information from the Federal Advisory Committees 
Database--maintained by the General Services Administration--
the costs associated with staffing, travel, and administration 
of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans were about 
$250,000 in 2007. Assuming a similar cost in future years, CBO 
estimates that implementing H.R. 674 would result in 
discretionary outlays of about $1 million over the 2010-2013 
period, assuming availability of appropriated funds. Enacting 
H.R. 674 would not affect direct spending or revenues.
    H.R. 674 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Dwayne M. 
Wright. This estimate was approved by Peter H. Fontaine, 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                       Federal Mandates Statement

    The Committee adopts as its own the estimate of Federal 
mandates regarding H.R. 674 prepared by the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office pursuant to section 423 of the 
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

                      Advisory Committee Statement

    No advisory committees within the meaning of section 5(b) 
of the Federal Advisory Committee Act would be created by H.R. 
674.

                   Constitutional Authority Statement

    Pursuant to clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee finds that the 
Constitutional authority for H.R. 674 is provided by Article I, 
section 8 of the Constitution of the United States.

                  Applicability to Legislative Branch

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not relate to 
the terms and conditions of employment or access to public 
services or accommodations within the meaning of section 
102(b)(3) of the Congressional Accountability Act.

             Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation


Section 1. Repeal of Sunset Provision for Advisory Committee on 
        Minority Veterans

    This section amends section 544 of title 38, United States 
Code, to eliminate the termination date for, and make 
permanent, the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets and 
existing law in which no change is proposed is shown in roman):

TITLE 38, UNITED STATES CODE

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


PART I--GENERAL PROVISIONS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


CHAPTER 5--AUTHORITY AND DUTIES OF THE SECRETARY

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBCHAPTER III--ADVISORY COMMITTEES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 544. Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans

  (a) * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

  [(e) The Committee shall cease to exist December 31, 2009.]

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *