H.R. 2302: To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to notify Congress of conferences sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs

H.R. 2302

To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to notify Congress of conferences sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs

Date
October 12, 2011 (112th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, October 11, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2302 under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for passage.  H.R. 2302 was introduced by Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) on June 22, 2011, and was referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Bill Summary

H.R. 2302 would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide both the Senate and House Committees on Veterans' Affairs a quarterly accounting of actual expenses related to conferences hosted or co-hosted by VA with attendance of 50 or more individuals, or that cost in excess of $20,000. The report would be required within 30 days of the conclusion of each quarter and must also include an estimate of actual conference expenses for the current quarter. 

Section 2 would clarify that a request by a covered Member of the House or Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs is a covered disclosure under the Privacy Act and a permitted disclosure under Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  The section would also clarify that a covered Member of either Committee includes the Chairman or Ranking Member of the House or Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, a Chairman or Ranking Member of a Subcommittee of the House or Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, or the designee of such Chairmen or Ranking Members.  Lastly, the section requires that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs also submit a copy of the information requested by a covered Member of the Committee to the Chairman of the full Committee when submitting such information. 

Section 3 would require the Secretary of Labor to establish a public website for the purpose of disclosing certain information from contractors with contracts over $100,000.  Under current statute, these contractors are required to take “affirmative action” to “employ and advance in employment qualified covered veterans.”  The contractors are required to report on various aspects of their affirmative action program to hire veterans.  (The reports are commonly referred to as the VETS 100 and VETS 100A reports.)

Background

Section 1--Quarterly reports to Congress on conferences sponsored by the department

Current law does not require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide Congress with detailed financial data related to functions such as conferences and other large-scale meetings. Typically, VA holds several of these types of meetings annually, which is partially reflected in the significant increase in the VA's budget request for travel from $289 million in FY 2011, to $394 million in FY 2012.

Section 2--Submission of certain information by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Currently, VA's Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs (OCLA) inconsistently applies an unwritten policy regarding the types of information requests from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs that require a signed letter from the Chairman of the Committee or a Chairman of a Subcommittee.

Section 3--Publication of data on employment of certain veterans by Federal contractors

Section 4212 of title 38, United States Code, requires companies with Federal contracts worth $100,000 or more to have an affirmative action plan to hire veterans and to report certain veteran-related employment data annually to the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL).   There is doubt that DoL does indeed enforce the requirement to submit these reports. Because these reports are not made public, there is no proof that Federal contractors are taking the necessary steps to employ qualified veterans or that their Federal contracts include an affirmative action clause. 

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that any costs associated with implementing H.R. 2302 would be insignificant over the 2012-2016 period.  Enacting H.R. 2302 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.