H.R. 3949: Veterans' Small Business Assistance and Servicemembers Protection Act of 2009

H.R. 3949

Veterans' Small Business Assistance and Servicemembers Protection Act of 2009

Date
November 2, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

H.R. 3949 is expected to be considered under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) on September 28, 2009. The Committee on Veterans' Affairs marked up the bill, and ordered the bill to be reported by voice vote on September 28, 2009.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3949 would authorize the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs to access personal information in order to verify the information in a veteran's application for small business ownership.

The bill would prohibit a small business from being included in the VA's database until the Secretary confirms that the small business is owned and controlled by a veteran or service disabled veteran. The bill would require the Secretary to notify small businesses currently listed in the database no later than 60 days after enactment that the Secretary is required to verify veteran status. Each application for inclusion will grant the Secretary the authority to access personal information maintained by the Secretary to verify the information in the application.

The bill reauthorizes the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education through 2015.

H.R. 3949 allows a servicemember to terminate certain service contracts if they received military orders to deploy for a period of no less than 90 days, or change of duty station that does not support such service.

With regard to certain household contracts, the bill allows the servicemember to keep a cell phone number to the extent practicable with applicable law for up to 90 days after deployment or change of duty station. The bill covers contracts that include cellular telephone service (including family plans with the servicemember), telephone service, multi-channel video programming service, internet service, and home water-electricity, home heating oil, and natural gas services. The bill requires the servicemember to deliver a written notice of termination of service contract and military order to the service provider, and terminate the service contract on the date that such notice is delivered. The bill would prevent the service provider from imposing an early termination charge but allows for the service provider to collect appropriate tax, obligation or liability under the contract. The bill would allow the servicemember to re-subscribe, without reinstatement charges within 90-days after deployment or change of duty station has concluded. The bill also requires the service provider to return any advance payment fees within 60-days after the termination date.

H.R. 3949 prohibits a lessor from charging an early termination charge with respect to a residential, professional, business, or agricultural rental lease or a motor vehicle lease entered into by a person who subsequently enters military service, or for a servicemember who has received orders for permanent change of station or for deployment in support of a military operation. The bill requires the lease amounts for a period preceding the lease termination to be paid on a pro-rated basis and other unpaid lease charges shall be paid by the lessee.

The bill authorizes the Attorney General to bring a civil action in U.S. district court including: restraining orders and injunctions, damages, and penalties. The bill authorizes a private cause of action for such enforcement by a servicemember, dependent, or other protected person under the Act.

H.R. 3949 requires the Secretary to establish, and annually review, a plan to coordinate outreach activities within the Department; specifically among the Office of the Secretary, Office of Public Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefits Administration, and National Cemetery Administration. The bill would also establish a program for the Secretary to provide assistance to States for outreach to veterans and their families in order to inform them about benefits and programs for which they are eligible, and to assist them in applying for these benefits and programs.

The bill would require the Secretary to direct assistance to areas with a large and growing veteran population. The bill would authorize the Secretary to enter into cooperative relationships with State veterans agencies to improve outreach to veterans.

H.R. 3949 would establish a grant program for the Secretary to provide resources to States for outreach activities, cooperative relationships and to develop benefit claims. The bill would allow State veterans agencies to award a portion of grants to local governments for outreach purposes, and prohibits any portion of the grant to be used by the State for administrative purposes. The bill would limit the use of the grants to States to less than 50 percent of the cost of State and local government outreach activities, and prohibit grant funds from supplanting existing State and local funds for such activities. H.R. 3949 would require the Secretary to allocate grants based on veteran populations; allow for grants to be used to establish a local government veterans service program; allow State veterans agencies to perform outreach activities in a local government's jurisdiction if that local veterans service agency elects not to participate in this grant program; allow for funding from grants to be used for education and training for State and local government employees for accreditation to provide outreach services; and allow the Secretary to develop and provide the grant recipient written guidance on annual outcome measures, Department policies, and procedures for applying for grants.

The bill would establish a separate account in the Department's budget for this outreach program and authorizes $25,000,000 annually for fiscal years 2008 through 2010.

H.R. 3949 direct the VA Secretary to establish a scholarship program for students seeking a degree or certificate in vision impairment rehabilitation under the "Health Professional Education Assistance Program." The bill requires students to work for three years in a VA health care facility, and mandates that the Secretary shall provide financial assistance to students enrolled in a program of study leading to a degree or certificate in a U.S. state, provided that they agree with applicable requirements. The bill also requires that individuals who do not satisfy the requirements of the agreement repay the unearned portion of the assistance to the Secretary.

The bill would allow the interment of certain parents of eligible deceased servicemembers. H.R. 3949 would require the VA Secretary to determine that there is available space in a gravesite cemetery for the interment of the biological or adoptive parent(s) of the servicemember; that the servicemember died while engaged in combat, hostile action, or training related injuries; and, at the time of their death, there were no other eligible dependents, such as a spouse or dependent child. Finally, the bill would require the VA Secretary in consultation with the DoD Secretary to develop guidance by which the parent may be designated eligible for interment in a national cemetery.

 

Cost

According to CBO, implementing this legislation would cost $81 million over the 2010-2014 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. The bill also contains provisions that would increase both direct spending and revenues, but CBO estimates that those impacts would be insignificant. H.R. 3949 would impose intergovernmental and private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA). CBO estimates that the costs of the mandates would not exceed the thresholds established in UMRA for intergovernmental or private sector mandates ($69 million and $139 million, respectively, in 2009, adjusted annually for inflation).