Summary: H.R.5299 — 99th Congress (1985-1986)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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House agreed to Senate amendment with amendment (10/07/1986)

(House agreed to Senate amendments with amendments)

Veterans' Benefits Improvement and Health-Care Authorization Act of 1986 - Title I: Compensation Increase and Other Compensation Matters - Increases by two percent the rates of: (1) veterans' disability compensation; (2) additional compensation for dependents; (3) the clothing allowance for certain disabled veterans; (4) dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and for children; and (5) supplemental dependency and indemnity compensation for children.

Establishes a presumption of service-connection for disability purposes for former prisoners of war suffering from the following conditions, manifest to a degree of ten percent or more after active service: (1) organic residuals of frostbite; or (2) arthritis resulting from trauma.

Includes the loss of one hand or foot and lung disabilities of 50 percent or more in the "paired organ" criteria which permits a presumption of service-connected disability for both organs when only one such organ actually has a service-connected disability.

Title II: Health Care and Medical Facilities - Part A: Health Care Programs - Authorizes the Administrator of Veterans Affairs (the Administrator), to conduct a pilot program, ending on September 30, 1989, to furnish respite care services to certain veterans with service-connected disabilities. Defines "respite care." Requires the Administrator to conduct a study concerning the furnishing of such care, and to submit the results of such study, together with any recommendations, to the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees no later than February 1, 1989.

Authorizes the Administrator to furnish home health services to a veteran in any setting in which the veteran is residing. Prohibits the Administrator from providing such services in such a manner as to relieve any other person of a contractual obligation to furnish services to the veteran. Prohibits such services from including any structural improvement or alteration if furnished in a setting other than the veterans' home.

Includes as a veterans' benefit the continued counseling services for a deceased veteran's family member for up to six months following the: (1) unexpected death of the veteran; or (2) death of the veteran while the veteran was participating in a VA hospice program.

Extends through September 30, 1989, the Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Counseling Program. Requires the Administrator's report to the Veterans' Affairs Committees on the effectiveness of such program to give particular attention to whatever information is available from a specified study on Vietnam veterans' post-war psychological problems.

Requires the Administrator's report on plans for the transition from providing readjustment counseling primarily in non-VA facilities to providing such services primarily at VA facilities to include the results of the study on Vietnam veterans' post-war psychological problems (or, if such study is incomplete, whatever information from it is then available).

Requires the Administrator, by February 1, 1989, to report to the Veterans' Affairs Committees on the way the transition plan was carried out as of September 30, 1988.

Provides that patients at veterans' hospitals shall not necessarily receive remuneration for performing certain therapeutic and rehabilitative activities.

Extends until September 30, 1989, the authority of the Administrator to contract for medical care for veterans in the Philippines. Requires the Administrator to report to the Congress by February 1, 1987, 1988, and 1989 on the use of funds provided to the Philippines for such medical care during the preceding fiscal year.

Part B: Health-Care Administration - Requires VA police officers to enforce State and local traffic laws (currently, only Federal law is enforced) on VA property.

Makes permanent the VA's Regional Medical Education program for the continuing medical education and training of VA personnel. Deletes the current requirements that training be only in-residence and for eligible medical and health personnel. Allows for such training through sharing or cooperative training agreements in the community.

Changes the method of calculating the period of obligated service required of part-time participants in the VA's Health Professional Scholarship program by requiring six months of service as a full-time employee for each calendar year or part of a calendar year in which the participant received scholarship support.

Authorizes the Administrator to employ in the Office of the Chief Medical Director certified or registered respiratory therapists, licensed physical therapists, licensed practical or vocational nurses: (1) on a temporary full-time, part-time, or without compensation basis; and (2) on a fee basis. Authorizes the Administrator to make temporary full-time appointments of such personnel for more than 90 days if the Chief Medical Director finds that other methods of obtaining the necessary services are impractical. Authorizes the Administrator to make part-time appointments of such personnel for periods of more than one year.

Authorizes the Chief Medical Officer to waive the licensure requirements for psychologists in certain circumstances.

Requires the Administrator to report to the Veterans' Affairs Committees, within 90 days of enactment of this Act, on the plans of the VA Department of Medicine and Surgery for the development, establishment, and administration of a national drug file, including an agency-wide reclassification and inventory system for all drugs used by the VA.

Amends the Veterans' Health Care Amendments of 1983 to require the Administrator to pay a stipend to participants in the VA study of Vietnam veterans' post-war psychological problems.

Part C: Facility Construction and Planning - Requires the Administrator to consider sharing health-care resources with the Department of Defense as an alternative to any construction project which is expected to cost more than $2,000,000. Requires the Administrator to include in any prospectus proposing the construction of a facility the consideration that was given to sharing health-care resources with the Department of Defense as an alternative to such construction.

Requires the Administrator's annual medical facilities construction reports to be based on the facility plans and recommendations of the Chief Medical Director.

Authorizes the Administrator to undertake the construction, alteration, and acquisition of adequate parking facilities at VA medical facilities and establish fees for the use of such parking facilities. Prohibits a fee from being charged for the accommodation of any vehicle used to transport: (1) a veteran to or from any medical facility for examination or treatment; or (2) a volunteer worker at such facility in connection with such worker performing services at such facility. Authorizes appropriations for the construction, operation, and maintenance of such parking facilities. Requires such authorized appropriations and any parking fees collected to be placed in a revolving fund. Prohibits, with specified exceptions, funds other than funds from the revolving fund from being used to construct, alter, or acquire a parking facility at a medical facility after September 30, 1986.

Authorizes appropriations for grants to States for the construction, renovation,or acquisition of State home facilities through FY 1989. Revises the conditions for approval of applications for such grants. Gives priority in the following order to applications from States which: (1) have appropriated sufficient funds for the State share of the project; (2) have no State home; (3) have a greater need for nursing home or domiciliary beds than other States; and (4) meet other specified criteria. Requires the Administrator to accord priority only to projects which would involve construction or acquisition of either nursing home or domiciliary buildings. Prohibits the Administrator from giving priority to a project which would expand a State's capacity to furnish hospital care in a State home.

Requires the Administrator to establish a list of approved projects in the order of their priority by July 1 of each year. Provides for deferring approval of a grant in certain circumstances.

Repeals the limit on the percentage of the construction costs that may be paid by such a grant. Removes the restriction that a State may receive no more than one-third of the amount appropriated in that fiscal year for grants for State home facilities.

Requires the Administrator to prescribe regulations by April 1, 1987, to implement the amendments made to the State home construction grant program.

Part D: Miscellaneous - Requires the Administrator's report to the Congress on special pay for VA physicians and dentists to be provided once every for years.

Eliminates the reporting requirement on VA provision of contract dental care if certain conditions are met.

Requires the Administrator to establish and maintain a record to be known as the Ionizing Radiation Registry containing hospital histories and medical data of each veteran exposed to ionizing radiation. Requires the Administrator to establish the Registry not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act.

Amends the Social Security Act to require non-Federal hospitals which receive Medicare payments to accept as payment for VA fee-basis patients the rate established by regulations jointly issued by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator. Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to report to the Congress periodically on the number of hospitals that have terminated or failed to renew a health care provider agreement because of the additional conditions imposed by this Act. Requires the Administrator to report to the Veterans' Affairs Committee by April 1, 1987, on the implementation of the requirement established in this paragraph. Requires the Administrator to notify such committees if a hospital terminates or fails to renew a health care provider agreement because of such requirement.

Prohibits the VA or any other Government agency from declaring as excess or taking any other action to dispose of real property at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center and the Sepulveda VA Medical Center, in California.

Requires the Administrator to report to the Veterans' Affairs Committees on the Administrator's current use of authority to: (1) contract for care and treatment and for rehabilitative services for chronically mentally ill veterans; and (2) furnish home health services to such veterans.

Designates the Phoenix Veterans Administration Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, as the Carl T. Hayden Veterans' Administration Medical Center.

Makes certain technical amendments.

Title III: Education and Employment - Part A: Education - Authorizes educational assistance for apprenticeship or other on-the-job training under the All-Volunteer Force Educational Assistance Program (the New GI Bill). Limits the amount of educational assistance payable in any one month where the individual pursuing the educational program fails to complete 120 hours of training.

Provides educational assistance under the New GI Bill for individuals who take correspondence courses.

Provides that reduction in pay that are made in connection with basic educational assistance entitlements for service on active duty or for service in the Selected Reserve shall revert to the Treasury and shall not be considered to have been received by or to be within the control of the individual eligible for such assistance.

Requires the Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education to provide advice on educational assistance furnished under the New GI Bill.

Authorizes the Administrator to withhold educational assistance from an eligible individual until proof of the individual's enrollment in and satisfactory pursuit of the educational program is received and the amount of payment is appropriately adjusted.

Bars any eligible individual from receiving assistance under two or more of the following programs: (1) training and rehabilitation for veterans with service-connected disabilities, post-Vietnam era veterans' educational assistance programs, or survivors' and dependents' educational assistance; (2) educational assistance program for members of the Selected Reserve or for persons enlisting for active duty; or (3) the Hostage Relief Act of 1980.

Bars duplication of benefits to Selected Reserve members under the New GI Bill and Reserve educational program.

Changes the delimiting period for individuals eligible for educational assistance for service on active duty or for service in the Selected Reserve if they were on active duty on October 19, 1984. Reduces the ten year delimiting period for such individuals by the amount of time that such individual was not on active duty during the period between January 1, 1977, and ending on October 18, 1984.

Provides for a work-study allowance under the New GI Bill and the post-Vietnam era veterans' educational assistance program.

Terminates the eligibility of veterans for post-Vietnam era veterans educational assistance programs on June 30, 1985. Provides that those veterans who were on active duty and were eligible for such programs on such date may enroll in such until April 1, 1987. Provides for notifying such individuals of the changed enrollment requirement.

Includes a full-time program of apprenticeship or other on-job training under the post-Vietnam era veterans' educational assistance program. Sets forth the monthly payment benefit for veterans pursuing such on-job training. Provides for administration of such programs.

Provides for an extension of the delimiting period of a veterans' eligibility for post-Vietnam era veterans' educational assistance if the eligible veteran was prevented from initiating or completing an education program because of a physicial or mental disability which was not the result of such veterans' own willful misconduct.

Requires that a veteran be provided counseling before selecting a training or education program if the Administrator has rated the veteran as incompetent.

Changes the date which an eligible person may select as the start date for the delimiting period under the survivors' and dependents' educational assistance program. Eliminates the requirement for an education plan for survivors and dependents under such program.

Sets forth the method of measuring certain noncollege degree courses for purposes of veterans' educational assistance programs and survivors' and dependents' educational assistance programs.

Changes the deadline for payment of educational assistance benefits for certain persons pursuing less than half-time training.

Prohibits any person from receiving benefits from more than one educational assistance program.

Authorizes an educational institution to delay reporting on the studies of eligible veteran or eligible person who is pursuing an independent study program on a less than half-time basis at such institution.

Permits an educational institution under certain circumstances to certify the enrollment of a veteran who is not on active duty or of an eligible person for more than one term at a time.

Establishes a Commission on Veterans' Education Policy which shall report within a specified time to the Administrator and the Veterans' Affairs Committee on the: (1) need for distinctions between certificate-granting courses and degree-granting courses; (2) measurement of courses for benefits payments purposes; (3) vocational value of courses offered through home study; (4) role of innovative and nontraditional education programs; and (5) certain other veterans' education issues. Provides for an interim report by the Administrator in response to such Commission report. Provides for a final report by the commission.

Sets forth certain technical and clerical amendments.

Part B: Employment and Other Programs - Provides protection for the employment of persons who are members of the Reserves.

Extends the authority for: (1) veterans' readjustment appointments through December 31, 1989; and (2) the program of independent living services and assistance through FY 1989.

Requires the Administrator to report to the Veterans' Affairs Committees by February 1, 1989, on statistical data regarding veterans' participation in the independent living services program during FY 1987 and 1988 and on the Administrator's recommendations for legislative and administrative changes.

Title IV: Housing Programs and National Cemeteries - Part A: Housing - Revises Federal veterans' home loans provisions to provide assistance to veterans with service-connected disabilities in acquiring a residence already adapted with special features considered necessary for such veteran.

Requires the Administrator to prescribe regulations and standards for determining the credit standing and other factors associated with veterans receiving home loan guarantees. Requires any lender submitting a loan to the Administrator which is to be guaranteed to certify that it has complied with certain credit information and loan processing standards. Provides civil penalties for false certifications made by lenders. Authorizes the Administrator to waive such prescribed credit underwriting standards in extraordinary circumstances.

Prohibits the Administrator from making a loan to finance a purchase of property acquired by the Administrator as a result of a default on a loan guaranteed under these provisions unless the purchaser meets the established credit underwriting standards.

Requires the Administrator to compile information on common factors contributing to foreclosures on guaranteed loans and submit such findings in the annual report to the Congress.

Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to transfer from the direct loan revolving fund to the loan guaranty revolving fund such amounts as the Administrator determines are not needed in the direct loan revolving fund. Requires the Administrator to submit a notice of any such transfer to the appropriate committees of the Congress within 30 days of such transfer.

Requires the Administrator to: (1) prescribe uniform qualifications for appraisers; (2) use such qualifications in determining whether to approve an appraiser; and (3) develop and maintain a list of approved appraisers for the veterans' home loan guaranty program. Directs the Administrator to select appraisers from such list on a rotating basis, and to furnish a copy of the appraisal to the lender proposing to make the loan which is to be guaranteed under the home loan guaranty program. Requires the Administrator to take into consideration both the initial appraisal and any additional appraisal furnished to the Administrator by the proposed lender in making a determination of reasonable property value and, if appropriate, issue a revised certificate of reasonable property value. Prohibits requiring a veteran to pay the cost any such additional appraisal. Requires the Administrator to consider any additional appraisal furnished by the veteran and, if appropriate, issue a revised certificate of reasonable property value. Requires the Administrator to provide real estate brokers and other real estate sales professionals information on the availability of real property for disposition by the VA under these provisions and the procedures used by the VA to dispose of such property.

Expresses the sense of the Congress that the VA loan origination fee should not be increased.

Part B: National Cemeteries - Amends the national cemeteries and memorials provisions of Federal law to require the grave markers in such cemeteries to be upright for interments that occur on or after January 1, 1987, except in certain cemeteries scheduled to be closed by September 30, 1991, or in sections of cemeteries that currently have flat grave markers.

Directs the Administrator, no later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act, and also no later than five years after such date, to report to specified congressional committees on the National Cemetery System. Outlines information to be included in each such report.

Authorizes the Secretary of the Army to set aside suitable areas in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, to honor members of the armed forces and veterans: (1) who are missing in action; (2) whose remains have not been recovered or identified; (3) whose remains were buried at sea; (4) whose remains were donated to science; or (5) whose remains were cremated and whose ashes were scattered without internment of any portion thereof.

States that the authority of the Administrator of Veterans Affairs, under specified Federal law, to develop and acquire cemeteries as a part of the National Cemetery System includes the authority to establish such cemeteries in San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; Miami, Florida; Seattle, Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; Phoenix/Tucson, Arizona; Birmingham, Alabama; and any other State in which a national cemetery is not available for the burial of veterans.

Title V: Administrative Provisions - Amends the veterans' administrative provisions to define the term "detailed plan and justification" which is a plan required of the Administrator before certain administrative reorganizations of VA facilities may occur.

Directs the Administrator, no later than March 1, 1986, to report to specified congressional committees a plan for collocating at least seven regional offices of the VA with VA medical centers on the grounds of such medical centers. Outlines information to be included in such plan. Requires such a plan to provide for the collocation of only a regional office and a medical center that are located in the same metropolitan area.

Changes the effective date of discontinuance of certain benefits paid to incompetent individuals.

Authorizes the Administrator, upon request to collect by offset of VA benefits the uncollected portion of any indebtedness associated with a veteran's participation in specified annuity plans.

Amends veterans' fiduciaries provisions to authorize the Administrator of Veterans Affairs to require the fiduciary to disclose any financial information concerning the veteran beneficiary that is within such fiduciary's knowledge.

Title VI: Exemption of Certain Programs from Budget Reduction - Exempts the following from sequestration or reduction under the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act) or any other sequestration law and from inclusion in any report specifying reductions in Federal spending: (1) benefits relating to specially adapted housing and mortgage protection life insurance for certain veterans with service-connected disabilities; (2) burial benefits for veterans who die as a result of a service-connected disability; (3) benefits relating to automobiles and adaptive equipment for disabled veterans and members of the armed forces; (4) training and rehabilitative services for veterans with service-connected disabilities (only for FY 1987); and (5) educational assistance for survivors and dependents of veterans with service-connected disabilities (only for 1987).

Exempts the following VA accounts from such sequestration, reduction, or inclusion in such report: (1) specified life insurance accounts; and (2) specified revolving funds.

Provides that certain other veterans' benefits which are subject to reduction under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act shall be determined in accordance with the sequestration order in effect on the date such benefits are accrued.

Title VII: Technical Amendments - Makes certain technical amendments to various provisions of title 38 of the U.S. Code.