President Obama recently signed H.R. 3219, The Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010, into law. The Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 improves and modernizes a variety of benefits and programs for military veterans and their families.
These benefits, administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), specifically enhance the following veterans benefits: enhanced employment opportunities and small business programs, preventing and caring for homeless veterans, Increasing the scope of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, increasing insurance limits, protecting service members called to combat, honoring fallen service members and their families, strengthening education benefits, addressing housing needs of disabled veterans, and investing in research for Gulf War veterans. These benefits are broken into the following sections, or Titles, which are listed below, then in more detail.
- TITLE I—Employment, Small Business, and Education Matters
- TITLE II—Housing and Homelessness Matters
- TITLE III—Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Matters
- TITLE IV—Insurance Matters
- TITLE V—Burial and Cemetery Matters
- TITLE VI—Compensation and Pension
- TITLE VII—Employment and Reemployment Rights of Members of the Uniformed Services
- TITLE VIII—Benefits Matters
- TITLE IX—Construction
Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010
Title: To amend title 38, United States Code, and the Servicemenbers Civil Relief Act to make certain improvements in the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes
TITLE I—EMPLOYMENT, SMALL BUSINESS, AND EDUCATION MATTERS
- Extend authority for certain qualifying work-study activities for purposes of the educational assistance programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs Reauthorization of Veterans’ Advisory Committee on Education.
- Reauthorize the Veterans’ Advisory Committee on Education.
- Provide an 18-month period for training of new disabled veterans’ outreach program specialists and local veterans’ employment representatives by National Veterans’ Employment and Training Services Institute.
- Clarify responsibility of Secretary of Veterans Affairs to verify small business ownership.
- Establish a demonstration project for referral of USERRA claims against federal agencies to the Office of Special Counsel.
- Establish a pilot program for veterans’ energy-related employment program.
- Provide a list and link of organizations that provide scholarships to veterans [Pat Tillman Veterans’ Scholarship Initiative].
TITLE II—HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS MATTERS
- Reauthorize appropriations for Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program.
- Make grants to programs and facilities to provide dedicated services for homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.
- Develop new assistive technologies for specially adapted housing.
- Waive housing loan fee for certain veterans with service-connected disabilities called to active service.
TITLE III—SERVICEMEMBERS CIVIL RELIEF ACT MATTERS
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act already covers a wide range of benefits for military members, including reduced interest rates on loans when they join the military, the ability to delay civil proceedings while deployed, and other benefits. The act improves the following matters:
- Residential and motor vehicle leases.
- Allow the termination of telephone service contracts.
- Allow enforcement of the Attorney General and by private right of action.
TITLE IV—INSURANCE MATTERS
There are a variety of insurance benefits available to military members when the separate from the service. These benefits have been enhanced by the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010.
- Increase in amount of supplemental insurance for totally disabled veterans.
- Create a permanent extension of duration of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage for totally disabled veterans.
- Adjust coverage of dependents under the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance.
- Allow the opportunity to increase the amount of Veterans’ Group Life Insurance.
- Eliminate the reduction in amount of accelerated death benefit for terminally-ill persons insured under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance.
- Consider the of loss of dominant hand in prescription of schedule of severity of traumatic injury under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance.
- Enhance veterans’ mortgage life insurance.
- Expand the number of individuals qualifying for retroactive benefits from traumatic injury protection coverage under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance.
TITLE V—BURIAL AND CEMETERY MATTERS
The US Military already provides free military burial for veterans. The following benefits have been enhanced.
- Increase in certain burial and funeral benefits and plot allowances for veterans.
- Allow interment in national cemeteries of parents of certain deceased veterans.
- Report on selection of new national cemeteries.
TITLE VI—COMPENSATION AND PENSION
- Enhance disability compensation for certain disabled veterans with difficulties using prostheses and disabled veterans in need of regular aid and attendance for residuals of traumatic brain injury.
- Provide a cost-of-living increase for temporary dependency and indemnity compensation payable for surviving spouses with dependent children under the age of 18.
- Pay dependency and indemnity compensation to survivors of former prisoners of war who died on or before September 30, 1999.
- Exclude certain amounts from consideration as income for purposes of veterans pension benefits.
- Commence a period of payment of original awards of compensation for veterans retired or separated from the uniformed services for catastrophic disability.
- Apply limitation to pension payable to certain children of veterans of a period of war.
- Extend reduced pension for certain veterans covered by Medicaid plans for services furnished by nursing facilities.
- Codify pension amounts.
TITLE VII—EMPLOYMENT AND REEMPLOYMENT RIGHTS OF MEMBERS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES
Making the transition from military service to the civilian sector can be a challenge. Thankfully, military members are eligible for unemployment benefits when they separate from the military, which gives them some time to make the transition. Most State Department of Veterans Affairs offer assistance with job placement.
- Clarify that USERRA prohibits wage discrimination against members of the Armed Forces.
- Clarify the definition of ‘‘successor in interest.’’
- Make technical amendments.
TITLE VIII—BENEFITS MATTERS
- Increase in number of veterans for which programs of independent living services and assistance may be initiated.
- Allow payment of unpaid balances of Department of Veterans Affairs guaranteed loans.
- Expand eligibility of disabled veterans and members of the Armed Forces with severe burn injuries for automobiles and adaptive equipment.
- Enhance automobile assistance allowance for veterans. [$18,900 indexed to CPI-U]
- Allow for National Academies review of best treatments for Gulf War illness.
- Extend and modify National Academy of Sciences reviews and evaluations regarding illness and service in Persian Gulf War and Post 9/11 Global Operations Theaters.
- Extend authority for regional office in Republic of the Philippines.
- Extend an annual report on equitable relief.
- Authorize the performance of medical disability examinations by contract physicians.
- Authorize major medical facility leases.
- Authorize VAMC in New Orleans. [up to $995,000,000 – amending current law]
- Authorize seismic corrections on buildings 7 and 126 at the Long Beach VAMC. [up to $117,845,000 – amending P.L. 109-461]
- Authorize appropriations for major construction projects and leases authorized herein.
- Require that bid savings on major medical facility projects of Department of Veterans Affairs be used for previously authorized major medical facility construction projects of the Department.
Overall, these benefits offer greater assistance to a range of military veterans, specifically those requiring the most assistance, including those with traumatic injuries and other service connected disabilities, homeless and underemployed, and more.