CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, July 31, 2012, the House is scheduled consider a Senate amendment to H.R. 1627 under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. The resolution was introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) on April 15, 2011, and referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs. The bill was approved by the House on May 23, 2011, by a vote of 380-0, and was passed in the Senate on July 18, 2012, by unanimous consent.
The following are selected highlights from the House-Senate negotiated bill, provided by the Committee on Veterans Affairs:
Title 1 – Health Care Matters
Sec. 102 would extend hospital care and medical services coverage for certain illnesses or conditions to eligible veterans and family members who served on active duty or resided at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for not fewer than 30 days during the period beginning on January 1, 1957 and ending on December 31, 1987. Hospital care and medical services would be provided regardless of whether there is sufficient medical evidence to attribute a qualifying illness to the veteran’s or family member’s residence at Camp Lejeune.
Sec. 103 would authorize VA to waive copayments for telehealth and telemedicine visits of veterans.
Sec. 104 would direct VA to carry out a three year pilot program to evaluate the feasibility of Beneficiary Travel Reimbursement for travel to and from the Vet Center, for a veteran living in a highly rural area, as designated by VA.
Sec. 105 would allow greater flexibility in VA payments to State Veterans Homes (SVHs) by requiring VA to enter into a contract or agreement with each SVH for payment of nursing home care provided to veterans with service-connected disability rated at 70-percent or greater or in need of such care because of a service related condition.
Sec. 106 would require VA to establish a comprehensive policy on the reporting and tracking of sexual assault and other safety incidents at VA medical facilities and require a report on said policy 60 days after initial implementation and annually thereafter.
Sec. 107 would include the goal of maximizing independence and improving behavioral and mental health functioning within a program of individualized rehabilitation and reintegration for veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and require rehabilitative services be included within VA comprehensive programs of long-term care for veterans with TBI.
Sec. 108 would require VA to carry out a program of teleconsultation for the provision of remote mental health and traumatic brain injury assessments in facilities of the Department that are not otherwise able to provide such assessments without contracting with third party providers or reimbursing providers through a fee basis system.
Sec. 109 would require VA to admit service dogs, trained by an appropriately accredited organization, into any VA owned or funded facility or property.
Sec. 110 would authorize VA to establish rural health resource centers, the purposes of which are to improve understanding of the challenges facing veterans who live in rural areas, identify disparities in the availability of health care and enhance the delivery of health care for such veterans, and develop special practices and products for their benefit.
Sec. 111 would require VA to establish an improved process and system of controls to improve VA’s ability to identify billable claims and to make collections in the VA health care system under existing authorities.
Sec. 112 would extend, until September 30, 2013, VA’s authority to collect a daily copayment from a veteran who is furnished hospital care or nursing home care.
Sec. 113 would extend, until October 1, 2013, VA’s authority to recover from a third party payer the cost of certain care and services provided to a qualifying veteran.
Title II – Housing Matters
Sec. 202 would expand the eligibility for VA’s specially adapted housing assistance grants to certain veterans with disabilities due to the loss, or loss of use of, one or more lower extremities which so affects balance or propulsion as to preclude ambulating without the aid of a supporting device.
Sec. 203 would expand the eligibility for VA’s adaptive housing assistance grants to veterans with a lesser degree of vision impairment than what is required under current law.
Sec. 206 would authorize VA to guarantee home loans for the surviving spouses of veterans who were eligible for compensation, at the time of death, due to qualifying total disability rating for a period of ten years or more preceding death, or if the disability was rated totally disabling for a period of not less than five years from the date of discharge or release from active duty, or of veterans who were former prisoners of war who were totally disabled for at least one year preceding death.
Sec. 207 would allow the dependent child of a veteran who is on active-duty status as a member of the Armed Forces to satisfy the occupancy requirements necessary for a VA-backed home loan.
Sec. 208 would permanently authorize VA’s adjustable rate mortgage loan guarantee program.
Sec. 209 would permanently authorize VA’s hybrid adjustable rate mortgage loan guarantee program.
Title III – Homeless Matters
Sec. 301 would authorize grant funds to be used for transitional housing programs, new construction for homeless veterans, and as a match for funding from other private and public sources if certain conditions are met.
Sec. 302 would modify the authority for the provision of treatment and rehabilitation services to certain veterans to include provision of such services to homeless veterans who are not seriously mentally ill.
Sec. 305 would extend certain authorities and programs, including: comprehensive service programs, homeless veterans reintegration programs, financial assistance for supportive services for very low-income veteran families in permanent housing and the grant program for homeless veterans with special needs.
Title IV – Education Matters
Sec. 401 would permit an aggregate period of 81 months for the use of VA educational assistance for individuals who are entitled receive both survivors’ and dependents’ education assistance and other veterans and related educational assistance.
Sec. 402 would direct VA and DoD to submit annual reports to Congress, until January 1, 2021, on the operation of the educational assistance program, including information concerning the utilization of benefits, and how the program affects recruitment and retention. This section would also repeal reporting requirements concerning the Montgomery GI Bill educational assistance program.
Title V – Benefits Matters
Sec. 502 would authorize certain individuals to sign claims filed with VA on behalf of claimants who are under age 18, are mentally incompetent, or are physically unable to sign a form.
Sec. 503 would amend current law to authorize but no longer require VA and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to jointly prescribe forms for the application of survivor benefits.
Sec. 504 would direct VA to notify claimants by the most effective means available, including electronic communication or notification in writing, of any information or medical or lay evidence not previously provided to VA that is necessary to substantiate a claim.
Sec. 505 would require VA to make reasonable efforts to assist claimants in obtaining relevant records in support of a claim, including making at least two requests to a custodian of a private medical record, unless it is made evident by the first request that a second request would be futile.
Sec. 506 would allow up to a one year retroactive effective date for certain awards of disability compensation that are based on claims that are fully-developed when submitted to VA.
Title VI – Memorial, Burial, and Cemetery Matters
Sec. 601 would authorize certain time, place and manner restrictions for disruptions and protests at military funerals and at cemeteries under the control of the National Cemetery Administration and at Arlington National Cemetery, and imposes criminal and civil liability for violations of such restrictions.
Sec. 602 would prohibit more than one gravesite from being provided at Arlington National Cemetery to a veteran or member of the Armed Forces eligible for interment or inurnment. This provision would further prohibit a gravesite at Arlington from being reserved for an individual before that individual’s death unless the prohibition is expressly waived by the President.
Sec. 604 would allow for a monument other than one containing or marking interred remains only if the monument commemorates the military service of the individual or group whose memory is honored by the monument or a particular military event. This provision would set certain restrictions on the timing and placement of such monuments, requires that each such monument be sponsored by an appropriate non-governmental entity, and authorizes a limited waiver by the Secretary of the Army if certain conditions are met.
Title VII – Other Matters
Sec. 701 would authorize VA to award a specially adapted housing grant to a veteran whose home was previously adapted with the assistance of a grant in the event the adapted home is destroyed or substantially damaged in a natural disaster.
Sec. 702 would extend VA’s authority to guaranty the timely payment of principal and interest on pools of VA-backed mortgage loans. This provision would also modify VA’s authority to collect loan fees for guaranteed housing loans and extends the temporary adjustment of maximum home loan guaranty amount.
Sec. 703 would direct VA to submit a plan setting forth how the Secretary will assess the skills and competencies of appropriate employees and managers of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), provide training to remediate skills deficiencies, reassess the skills and competencies following training and take appropriate personnel action for those employees whose performance remains unsatisfactory.
Sec. 706 would prohibit any small business concern, and all principals involved, found to be deliberately misrepresenting their status as a small business owned and controlled by a veteran or as a small business owned and controlled by a service-disabled veteran from contracting with VA for no less than five years.
Sec. 708 would require the Department of Labor to publish online certain data reported to the Department by contractors regarding the hiring of veterans as employees by such contractors.
Sec. 710 would extend from 9 months to 12 months after military service the period of protection for a servicemember against mortgage foreclosure and the period in which a court may stay a proceeding or adjust an obligation. This provision would also require the Comptroller General to report on certain foreclosure protections, and would sunset the extension on December 31, 2014.
H.R. 1627 is a comprehensive, bipartisan, bicameral legislative package to provide for the needs of veterans, their families, and survivors through improved healthcare, housing, education, and memorial services. Designed to meet the challenges veterans face today, H.R. 1627 also expands the accountability and transparency of the Department of Veterans Affairs, ensuring VA is responsible to those it serves—America’s veterans.
For additional background information on the various titles of this bill, please refer to the Committee on Veterans Affairs website.
According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate of the statutory Pay-As-You-Go effects on mandatory spending, implementing H.R. 1627 would decrease deficits over the 2013-2022 period by $215 million. CBO also estimates that the bill would include $660 million in discretionary budget authority, resulting in $652 million in outlays, over the five year period of 2013-2017.