S. 1711 (104th): Veterans’ Benefits Improvements Act of 1996

Apr 29, 1996 (104th Congress, 1995–1996)
Signed by the President
Slip Law:
This bill became Pub.L. 104-275.
Robert Dole
Senator from Kansas
Read Text »
Last Updated
Sep 28, 1996
30 pages
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This bill was enacted after being signed by the President on October 9, 1996.

Introduced Apr 29, 1996
Referred to Committee Apr 29, 1996
Reported by Committee Jul 24, 1996
Passed Senate Sep 28, 1996
Passed House Sep 28, 1996
Signed by the President Oct 09, 1996
Full Title

An Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the benefits programs administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to provide for a study of the Federal programs for veterans, and for other purposes.


No summaries available.


Senate Veterans' Affairs

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Primary Source

THOMAS.gov (The Library of Congress)

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GovTrack’s Bill Summary

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Library of Congress Summary

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.

9/28/1996--Passed Senate amended.
Title I - Education Benefits Title II: Housing and Memorial Affairs Subtitle A: Housing Subtitle B: Memorial Affairs Title III: Employment and Training Subtitle A: Veterans' Employment and Training Subtitle B: Technical Amendments Relating to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 Title IV: Veterans Life Insurance Programs Title V: Department of Veterans Affairs Administrative Matters Title VI: Other Matters Title VII: Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance Veterans' Benefits Improvements Act of 1996
Title I - Education Benefits
Revises the basic entitlement requirements for disabled veterans to receive veterans' training and rehabilitation, authorizing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide such assistance to veterans who achieve a specified disability rating and are determined by the Secretary to be in need of such assistance due to a serious employment handicap.
Allows eligible veterans to receive such assistance whether or not they are in receipt of retired pay.
Requires such handicaps to be current.
Removes from the authorized scope of such assistance:
(1) job-readiness skills development and counseling for participants in training programs under the Veterans' Job Training Act; and
(2) certain independent living services and assistance as described under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Directs the Secretary, for a veteran who has a serious employment handicap and for whom current achievement of a vocational goal is not reasonably foreseeable, to determine whether such veteran is capable of participating in a program of independent living services and assistance.
Allows a rehabilitated veteran to receive a subsistence allowance for two months while satisfactorily following a program of veterans' employment services.
(Currently, such allowance is allowed for two months following the conclusion of the pursuit of a vocational rehabilitation program.) Removes the possibility of receipt of certain educational allowances for veterans with unused educational benefits under the All-Volunteer Force Educational Assistance Program. Allows employment assistance to be provided only to veterans with a service-connected disability rated at ten percent or more.
Makes eligible under a program of independent living services and assistance those veterans with a serious employment handicap resulting in substantial part from a service-connected disability rated at ten percent or more.
Section 102 -
Extends permanently a program of assistance to veterans in receiving certification as teachers and teachers' aides.
Section 103 -
Repeals current provisions concerning the period of operation for approval of the enrollment of eligible veterans in educational courses offered at educational institutions.
Prohibits the Secretary from approving the enrollment of a veteran in a course not leading to a standard college degree if:
(1) the institution has been operating for less than two years;
(2) the course is offered at a branch of such institution which has been operating for less than two years; or
(3) following either a change in ownership or a move, the institution does not substantially retain the same faculty, student body, and courses.
Prohibits similar veteran enrollment when an educational course is provided under contract by another educational institution or entity that would be barred under the above requirements or that has not obtained course approval from the Secretary. Authorizes the Secretary to approve enrollment for a course that is offered by an institution under contract with either of the Departments of Defense or Transportation and that is given on or immediately adjacent to a military base, Coast Guard station, or National Guard or Reserve facility.
Revises the recordkeeping and related requirements necessary for an institution to receive approval for the enrollment of veterans.
Section 104 -
Eliminates the distinction between education via open circuit television and independent study for purposes of their availability to veterans under veterans' (and their survivors) educational assistance allowances. (Currently, approval of a course provided by open circuit television is prohibited, with some exceptions.)
Section 105 -
Repeals provisions which limit to 80 percent of the allowance otherwise payable the monthly educational assistance benefit payable to an individual pursuing a cooperative education program. Increases the monthly benefit payable to an individual pursuing a full-time program of education which combines classroom courses with alternate phases of business or industrial training.
Section 106 -
Authorizes enrollment in the armed forces' educational assistance program (the GI Bill) for those individuals who, on the date of enactment of this Act:
(1) are participants under the veterans' educational assistance program (VEAP);
(2) are serving on active duty;
(3) have completed the requirements for a secondary school diploma or at least 12 semester hours leading to a standard college degree;
(4) are discharged under honorable conditions; and
(5) make an irrevocable decision to receive benefits under the GI Bill in lieu of the VEAP. Provides for:
(1) deductions from basic pay for enrollment costs;
(2) disenrollment from VEAP, with appropriate pro rata refunds;
(3) required notice of the availability of such enrollment, together with written acknowledgement of the receipt of such notice; and
(4) the transfer of appropriate educational assistance funds from one program to the other.
Section 107 -
Provides educational benefits eligibility under the GI Bill for members of the Army or Air National Guard first performing active duty after June 30, 1985. Outlines requirements similar to those described above with respect to the election to receive such benefits and appropriate pay deductions.
Title II - Housing and Memorial Affairs
Subtitle A - Housing
Extends through December 31, 1997, the authority of the Secretary to issue, and guarantee the payment of, certificates evidencing an interest in a pool of Department-guaranteed veterans' mortgage loans.
Section 202 -
Authorizes the Secretary to make direct loans to enable Native American veterans to refinance existing veterans' housing loans. Allows a loan fee to be charged.
Subtitle B - Memorial Affairs
Defines as a "minor child," for purposes of eligibility for burial in a national cemetery, a child either under age 21, or under age 23 and pursuing a course of instruction at an approved educational institution.
Section 212 -
Provides certain burial benefits and services to veterans who die while residing in State nursing homes. (Currently, such benefits and services are permitted only for those veterans who die in Department medical facilities.)
Section 213 -
Authorizes the Secretary to provide an outer burial receptacle (currently, only a grave liner) for each new grave in a national cemetery. Allows the survivors of deceased veterans to request either an outer burial receptacle or a grave liner (requiring survivors choosing the receptacle to pay any costs exceeding those for the provision of only a grave liner).
Title III - Employment and Training
Subtitle A - Veterans' Employment and Training
Requires each Regional Administrator for Veterans' Employment and Training appointed after the enactment of this Act to be a veteran.
Section 302 -
Directs the Secretary to assign appropriate support personnel (currently, only full-time Federal clerical support) to each State Director for Veterans' Employment and Training.
Section 303 -
Authorizes the Secretary of Labor to conduct a pilot program under which the primary responsibilities of local veterans' employment representatives will be case management and the provision and facilitation of direct employment and training services. Targets for priority service under the pilot program disabled veterans, economically disadvantaged veterans, and veterans separated from active duty within the previous four years.
Subtitle B - Technical Amendments Relating to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994
Amends the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 to: (1) remove the requirement that a veteran must have been discharged from military service under honorable conditions to be eligible for the rights and benefits provided under such Act; (2) revise generally provisions prohibiting employer discrimination and acts of reprisal against persons who serve in the armed forces; and (3) revise transition rules and effective dates.
Title IV - Veterans Life Insurance Programs
Veterans' Insurance Reform Act of 1996 - Redesignates the Servicemen's Group Life Insurance program as the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program.
Merges the Retired Reservists' Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance program into the Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI) program.
Extends the VGLI program to members of the Ready Reserve who retire with less than 20 years of service.
Authorizes an insured under:
(1) the VGLI program to convert such policy to an individual policy of life insurance with a commercial insurance company at any time; and
(2) the SGLI program to convert to such an individual policy upon separation from service.
Requires the Secretary of the military department concerned to notify affected individuals of their rights and eligibility under this title.
Title V - Department of Veterans Affairs Administrative Matters
Allows the directors of both the Center for Minority Veterans (CMV) and the Center for Women Veterans (CWV) within the Department of Veterans Affairs (Department) to be career appointees in the Senior Executive Service (currently, such directors may only be noncareer appointees).
Revises the duties of the CMV Director to:
(1) add new duties; and
(2) remove a reference to the inclusion of minorities in clinical research.
Requires the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans and the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to monitor and evaluate the activities of the CWV and the CMV, respectively, and to report results to the Secretary. Extends the latter committee through December 31, 1999.
Section 502 -
Requires the clothing allowance payable because of a service-connected disability to be reduced on a pro-rata basis for any veteran who is incarcerated for over 60 days in a penal institution that provides clothing.
Section 503 -
Amends the Veterans' Benefits Improvements Act of 1994 to extend: (1) until December 31, 1996, the due date of a required report from the Veterans' Claims Adjudication Commission; and (2) through FY 1997 the authorization of appropriations for Commission activities.
Section 504 -
Authorizes the Secretary to conduct a pilot program under which veterans' medical disability evaluation examinations are conducted by persons other than Department employees.
Section 505 -
Revises the definition of "Vietnam era" as it applies to persons who served on active duty in Vietnam to include the period beginning on February 28, 1961, and ending on May 7, 1975.
Section 506 -
Provides a death benefit for the surviving spouse of a veteran who was receiving disability compensation or veterans' pension payments at the time of death, as long as such spouse is not otherwise entitled to any other death benefits through the Department. Limits such benefit to a full month of the combined compensation and pension payment that the veteran would have received.
Section 507 -
Authorizes the payment to surviving spouses and dependents of up to two (currently one) years' monetary benefits accrued but unpaid to a veteran upon his or her death.
Section 508 -
Authorizes a claimant to give a power of attorney naming a veterans' organization as the claimant's representative in a claim filed against the Department.
Section 509 -
Authorizes the Board of Veterans' Appeals to send a copy of its written decision to a claimant by any means reasonably calculated to provide notice within the same time that a copy of such decision sent by first-class mail would be expected to reach such claimant.
Section 510 -
Prohibits Department funds from being obligated or expended before January 1, 1998, to relocate any function of, or reduce the number of staff assigned to, certain elements of the Education Service within the Veterans' Benefits Administration.
Title VI - Other Matters
Amends: (1) the Veterans' Benefits and Services Act of 1988 to extend through December 31, 1998, the authority of the Department to provide community-based residential care for homeless chronically mentally ill veterans and other veterans; and (2) the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act to extend through FY 1998 the authorization of appropriations for homeless veterans reintegration projects.
Section 602 -
Authorizes the American Battle Monuments Commission to enter into arrangements for the repair and long-term maintenance of war memorials for which the Commission assumes responsibility.
Establishes in the Treasury a fund for such repair and maintenance expenses.
Requires the Commission to prepare and submit to the veterans' committees financial statements covering contributions made to, and expenses of, the Commission in carrying out such activities.
Prohibits the Commission from withdrawing, obligating, or expending funds received as contributions before March 1, 1998.
Title VII - Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance
Establishes the Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance to review and report to the Congress on:
(1) the adequacy and effectiveness of specified programs that assist members of the armed forces and veterans in making the transition to civilian life; and
(2) proposals to improve such programs.
Requires the Commission to review primarily the programs intended to assist military personnel at the time of their separation from service, including programs designed to assist their families.

House Republican Conference Summary

The summary below was written by the House Republican Conference, which is the caucus of Republicans in the House of Representatives.

No summary available.

House Democratic Caucus Summary

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