CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, September 19, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 5948, the Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act of 2012, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. The bill was introduced on June 12, 2012, by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) and referred to the Committees on Veterans Affairs. The committee held a mark-up session on July 11, 2012, and ordered the bill to be reported as amended by voice vote.
H.R. 5948 would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to overhaul Chapter 55 of Title 38, which governs VA’s fiduciary process, to include stricter background checks on potential fiduciaries, decreased compensation for fiduciaries, and greater deference to fiduciary/Power of Attorney appointments made outside of Title 38.
The bill would also establish a Place of Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery, furnish caskets and urns for deceased veterans with no next of kin, improve communication with VA officials and funeral directors.
The bill would also exclude persons convicted of certain sex offenses from burial at VA National Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery, and would provide freedom of conscience protection for veterans funerals
The bill would also extend the authority of the Veterans Benefits Administration to use contract medical examiners, would provide access to case tracking information to certain government employees, and would allow for notifying the Secretary of VA of individuals whose sensitive personal information involved a data breach.
Lastly, the bill would establish a limitation on bonuses for certain VA employees, and would include a sense of Congress regarding the Patriot Guard Riders and Korean War Veterans.
Following the mark-up of the legislation, the bill’s sponsor stated: “This critical legislation is an important step forward to protecting America's veterans from abuses in the VA fiduciary system," Johnson said. "Our investigations showed that VA's current fiduciary system leaves many veterans vulnerable to financial risk. We performed our chief function as the oversight body for VA, found the flaws and put forth common sense legislation to tackle this very serious problem.”
There was no Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate available for this legislation.