Congress approves Veterans Benefits Act
In one of their last moves before heading into the pre-election recess, House lawmakers last night passed the Veterans Benefits Act of 2010, which includes a host of changes to VA programs and updates concerning the rights of deployed active duty troops. The White House is expected to sing the measure into law in coming days.
The bill is a compromise measure between the House and Senate which encompasses a number of smaller, stand-alone veterans benefits bills. It includes improvements to employment programs, homeless outreach efforts, disabled veterans assistance and research into future medical needs of returning troops. Here's a look at some of the highlights:
-- Prohibits early termination fees for certain contracts (like cell phone service and residential leases) after troops receive orders to relocate to and area that "does not support the contract."
-- Reauthorizes a recently expired VA work-study program, and expand the type of work available for participating veterans. Officials said the change allows for veteran students to complete work study in congressional offices, state veteran agencies, and similar opportunities.
-- Requires the VA to verify to operate a database of veteran-owned small businesses and service-connected veteran-owned small businesses, "in an effort to end contracting with businesses that fraudulently claim to be owned by a veteran."
-- Authorizes $10 million more to provide dedicated services for homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.
-- Allows 100 percent disabled veterans to receive free Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance coverage for two years following separation from active or reserve duty.
-- Increases the automobile allowance for disabled veterans from $11,000 to $18,900.
-- Allows parents whose child died while on active duty to be buried in a national cemetery with that child (provided the veteran has no living spouse or children).
-- Instructs the Institute of Medicine to carry out a comprehensive review of best treatment practices for chronic multi-symptom illness in Gulf War veterans.