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VA benefits expand. (Legislation).

Here are the highlights of major veterans-related legislation approved by the House in 2001. In some cases, the bills ave been signed into law by the President. In others, they're awaiting his signature or further Senate action.

H.R. 2716--Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act (P.L. 107-95)

Authorizes $1 billion to aid homeless veterans and prevent veterans from becoming homeless.

Status: signed into law Dec. 21, 2001.

* Authorizes 2,000 Sec. 8 HUD low-income housing vouches for homeless veterans.

* Authorizes 10 new domiciliaries for homeless veterans programs.

* Authorizes $285 million for the Homeless Grant and Per Diem program.

* Authorizes $250 million for Labor's Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program.

* Requires the VA to provide technical assistance to non-profit community-based organizations seeking federal funding for homeless programs.

* Requires the VA to provide mental health programs wherever primary care is provided.

* Earmarks $10 million for medical care for homeless veterans with special needs, including older veterans, women and substance abusers.

H.R. 1291--Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act

Authorizes more than $3.1 billion over five years to expand and increase educational, housing, burial and disability benefits.

Status: awaiting the President's signature.

* Boosts the MGIB College Education Benefit amount by record 46% over two years.

* Restore lost MGIB benefits for Reservists and National Guardsmen called to active duty.

* Increase grants for specially adapted housing for severely disable veterans from $43,000 to $48,000.

* Increase the Automobile and Adaptive Equipment Grant for Severely Disabled Veterans.

* Increase burial and funeral expense benefits by 25% and doubles burial plot allowances.

* Adds Diabetes Type II to list of service-connected conditions for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

* Adds undiagnosed conditions, such as fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and chronic multi-sympton illness to list of service-connected conditions for Gulf War veterans.

H.R. 2540--Veterans Compensation Rate Amendments of 2001 (P.L. 107-94)

Boosts compensation payments for disabled veterans by $2.5 billion over the next five years.

Status: signed into law Dec. 21, 2001.

* For 100% disabled veterans, the average increase would be $738 per year.

H.R. 3447--Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Programs Enhancement Act

Increase spending on health programs for veterans by $1.4 billion.

Status: passed in the House and Senate, awaiting the President's signature.

* Lowers out-of pocket hospitalizations expenses for lower income veterans by 80% to compensate for regional differences in the cost-of-living.

* Requires the VA to establish chiropractic care programs nationwide.

* Authorizes service dog programs for paralyzed and other severely disabled veterans.

* Requires the VA to maintain specialized medical programs--such as for mental illness, spinal cord injuries and prosthetics--in each of the 21 VA regions.

H.R. 801--Veterans Survivors' Benefits Improvements Act (P.L. 107-14)

Adds $100 million in the new health care benefits for surviving spouses of veterans, and extends life insurance coverage to spouses and children of servicemembers.

Status: signed into law June 5, 2001.

* Expands CHAMPVA to surviving spouses of veterans who die of service-connected disability.

* Expands Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) to include spouses and children of servicemembers; $100,000 for spouses and $10,000 for children.

* Makes retroactive to Oct. 1, 2000, increase in the maximum SGLI benefit for servicemembers killed in the line of duty to $250,000.

H.R. 811--Veterans Hospitals Emergency Repair Act

Authorizes $550 million over two years to repair, renovate and rebuild dilapidated VA medical facilities.

Status: passed the House only.

* Provides the VA with authority to award grants up to S30 million per medical facility:

H.R. 3423--Reforming Burial Rules at Arlington National Cemetery

Reforms the law on in-ground burials for members of the National Guard and Reserves at Arlington National Cemetery.

Status: passed the House, pending in Senate.

* Removes the age requirement for retired Reserve members

* Makes eligible all National Guardsmen and Reservists who die in the line of duty.

Source: House Veterans Affairs Committee
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Author:Dyhouse, Tim
Publication:VFW Magazine
Date:Feb 1, 2002
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