S. 927: Veterans’ Outreach Act of 2013

113th Congress, 2013–2015. Text as of May 09, 2013 (Introduced).

Status & Summary | PDF | Source: GPO and Cato Institute Deepbills

II

113th CONGRESS

1st Session

S. 927

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

May 9, 2013

introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs

A BILL

To require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a demonstration project to assess the feasibility and advisability of using State and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations to increase awareness of benefits and services for veterans and to improve coordination of outreach activities relating to such benefits and services, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Veterans' Outreach Act of 2013 .

2.

Demonstration project to increase coordination of outreach efforts between the Department of Veterans Affairs and Federal, State, and local agencies and nonprofit organizations

(a)

Demonstration project required

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall carry out a demonstration project to assess the feasibility and advisability of using State and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations—

(1)

to increase awareness of veterans regarding benefits and services for veterans; and

(2)

to improve coordination of outreach activities regarding such benefits and services between the Secretary and Federal, State, and local government and nonprofit providers of health care and benefit services for veterans.

(b)

Duration

(1)

In general

The demonstration project shall be carried out during the two-year period beginning on the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(2)

Authority for extension

The Secretary may extend the duration of the demonstration project for an additional two years.

(c)

Grants

(1)

In general

The Secretary shall carry out the demonstration project through the award of grants to State and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations to carry out projects that—

(A)

increase the awareness of veterans regarding benefits and services for veterans; and

(B)

improve coordination of outreach activities regarding such benefits and services between the Secretary and Federal, State, and local government and nonprofit providers of health care and benefit services for veterans.

(2)

Application

(A)

In general

A State or local government agency or nonprofit organization seeking a grant under the demonstration project shall submit to the Secretary an application therefor in such form and in such manner as the Secretary considers appropriate.

(B)

Elements

Each application submitted under subparagraph (A) shall include the following:

(i)

A description of the consultations, if any, with the Department of Veterans Affairs in the development of any proposal under the application.

(ii)

A description of the project for which the applicant is seeking a grant under the demonstration project, including a plan to coordinate under the demonstration project, to the greatest extent possible, the outreach activities of Federal, State, and local government agencies that provide health care, benefits, and services for veterans and nonprofit organizations that provide such care, benefits, and services to enhance the awareness and availability of such care, benefits, and services.

(iii)

An agreement to report to the Secretary standardized data and other performance measures necessary for the Secretary to evaluate the demonstration project and to facilitate evaluation of individual projects for which grants are awarded under the demonstration project.

(iv)

Such other information as the Secretary may require.

(3)

Considerations

In awarding grants under the demonstration project to carry out projects, the Secretary shall consider where the projects will be carried out and which populations are targeted. In particular, the Secretary shall consider the advisability of awarding grants for projects—

(A)

carried out in areas with populations that have a high proportion of veteran representation;

(B)

carried out in a variety of geographic areas, including urban, rural, and highly rural areas; and

(C)

that target a variety of veteran populations, including racial and ethnic minorities, low-income populations, and older populations.

(4)

Use of funds

The Secretary shall establish appropriate uses of grant amounts received under the demonstration project.

(5)

Limitation

In a fiscal year, not more than 20 percent of all grant amounts awarded in that fiscal year may be awarded to a single State entity.

(d)

State matching requirement

The Secretary may not make a grant to a State under subsection (c) unless that State agrees that, with respect to the costs to be incurred by the State in carrying out the program or activities for which the grant was awarded, the State will make available (directly or through donations from public or private entities) non-Federal contributions in an amount equal to 50 percent of Federal funds provided under the grant.

(e)

Annual report

(1)

In general

Not later than 120 days after the completion of the first calendar year beginning after the date of the commencement of the demonstration project, and not less frequently than once every year thereafter for the duration of the project, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report evaluating the demonstration project and the projects supported by grants awarded under the demonstration project.

(2)

Elements

The report required by paragraph (1) shall include the following:

(A)

The findings and conclusions of the Secretary with respect to the demonstration project.

(B)

An assessment of the benefit to veterans of the demonstration project.

(C)

The recommendations of the Secretary as to the feasibility and advisability of continuing or expanding the demonstration project.

3.

Cooperative agreements between Secretary of Veterans Affairs and States on outreach activities

(a)

In general

Chapter 63 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 6306 the following new section:

6306A.

Cooperative agreements with States

(a)

In general

The Secretary may enter into cooperative agreements and arrangements with various agencies and departments of States to carry out this chapter and to otherwise carry out, coordinate, improve, or enhance outreach activities of the Department and the States.

(b)

Annual report

Not less frequently than once each year, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report that describes the agreements and arrangements entered into by the Secretary under subsection (a) during the most recent one-year period.

.

(b)

Clerical amendment

The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 63 of such title is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 6306 the following new item:

6306A. Cooperative agreements with States.

.

4.

Budget transparency for outreach activities of Department of Veterans Affairs

(a)

In general

Chapter 63 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 6308 the following new section:

6309.

Budget transparency

(a)

Budget requirements

In the budget justification materials submitted to Congress in support of the Department budget for a fiscal year (as submitted with the budget of the President under section 1105(a) of title 31), the Secretary shall include a separate statement of the amount requested for such fiscal year for activities of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs as follows:

(1)

For outreach activities of the Department in aggregate.

(2)

For outreach activities of each element of the Department specified in subsection (b)(1).

(b)

Procedures for effective coordination and collaboration

(1)

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of the Veterans' Outreach Act of 2013 , the Secretary shall establish and maintain procedures for the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs to ensure the effective coordination and collaboration of outreach activities of the Department between and among the following:

(A)

The Office of the Secretary.

(B)

The Veterans Health Administration.

(C)

The Veterans Benefits Administration.

(D)

The National Cemetery Administration.

(2)

The Secretary shall—

(A)

beginning after the date on which the Secretary establishes procedures under paragraph (1), not less frequently than once every two years conduct a review of the procedures established and maintained under paragraph (1) to ensure that such procedures meet the requirements such paragraph;

(B)

make such modifications to such procedures as the Secretary considers appropriate based upon reviews conducted under subparagraph (A) in order to better meet such requirements; and

(C)

not later than 45 days after completing a review under subparagraph (A), submit to Congress a report on such review.

.

(b)

Clerical amendment

The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 63 of such title is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 6308 the following new item:

6309. Budget transparency.

.

5.

Advisory committee on outreach activities of Department of Veterans Affairs

(a)

Establishment

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall establish an advisory committee on outreach activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

(b)

Membership

The advisory committee shall be composed of individuals selected by the Secretary from among the following:

(1)

To the maximum extent practicable, individuals who are eminent in their respective fields of public relations.

(2)

Representatives of organizations with offices that focus on communications and distribute messages through major media news outlets and social media.

(3)

To the maximum extent practicable, individuals with experience communicating financial results and business strategy for purposes of shaping a confident brand image.

(4)

To the maximum extent practicable, individuals with experience with consumer and lifestyle imaging and creating publicity for a particular product or service.

(5)

To the maximum extent practicable, veterans who have experience in press and public relations.

(c)

Duties

The advisory committee shall collaborate with the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

(1)

to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is strategically and effectively—

(A)

engaging the public and Department stakeholders to increase awareness nationally regarding benefits and services furnished by the Department;

(B)

explaining new or changing policies of the Department;

(C)

improving the image and reputation of the Department; and

(D)

coordinating and collaborating with national community-based organizations, nonprofits, and State and local government agencies; and

(2)

to assist the Secretary in conducting such other press or public relations activities relating to outreach activities of the Department as the advisory committee considers appropriate.

(d)

Consultation

The Secretary shall consult with and seek the advice of the advisory committee not less frequently than quarterly on matters relating to the duties of the advisory committee under subsection (c).

(e)

Quarterly reports

(1)

In general

Not less frequently than once every 90 days, the advisory committee shall submit to Congress and to the Secretary a report on outreach activities of the Department.

(2)

Recommendations

Each report submitted under paragraph (1) shall include such recommendations for legislative and administrative action as the advisory committee considers appropriate to improve the press and public relations of the Department relating to outreach.

(f)

Termination

The advisory committee shall terminate on October 1, 2015, and the requirements and authorities under this section shall terminate on such date.

(g)

Outreach defined

In this section, the term outreach has the meaning given the term in section 6301 of title 38, United States Code.

6.

Advisory boards on outreach activities at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers

(a)

Establishment

For each Department of Veterans Affairs medical center, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall, acting through the director of such medical center, establish not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act an advisory board at such medical center on matters relating to outreach activities of the Department at such medical center.

(b)

Membership

Each advisory board established under subsection (a) at a Department medical center shall be, to the maximum extent practicable, composed of individuals selected by the Secretary from among the following:

(1)

Individuals who are eminent in their respective fields of public relations.

(2)

Representatives of organizations with offices that focus on communications and distribute messages through major media news outlets and social media.

(3)

Individuals with experience communicating financial results and business strategy for purposes of shaping a confident brand image.

(4)

Individuals with experience with consumer and lifestyle imaging and creating publicity for a particular product or service.

(5)

Employees of the Department who are involved in press and public relations strategy at the medical center.

(6)

To the maximum extent practicable, veterans who have experience in press and public relations.

(c)

Duties

Each advisory board established under subsection (a) at a Department medical center shall collaborate with the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

(1)

to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is strategically and effectively—

(A)

engaging the public and Department stakeholders to increase awareness nationally regarding benefits and services furnished by the Department;

(B)

explaining new or changing policies of the Department;

(C)

improving the image and reputation of the Department; and

(D)

coordinating and collaborating with national community-based organizations, nonprofits, and State and local government agencies; and

(2)

to assist the director of such medical facility in conducting such other press or public relations activities relating to outreach activities of the Department as the advisory board considers appropriate.

(d)

Consultation

Each director of a Department medical center shall consult with and seek the advice of the advisory board established at such medical center not less frequently than once every two months on matters relating to the duties of the advisory board under subsection (c).

(e)

Annual reports

Not less frequently than each year, each advisory board established under subsection (a) shall submit to the Secretary a report with such information as may be beneficial to the Secretary in preparing the reports required by section 6308 of title 38, United States Code.

(f)

Termination

Each advisory board established under subsection (a) and the authorities and requirements of this section shall terminate on October 1, 2015.

7.

Modification of requirement for periodic reports to Congress on outreach activities of Department of Veterans Affairs

(a)

In general

Section 6308 of title 38, United States Code, is amended—

(1)

in subsection (a), by striking even-numbered; and

(2)

in subsection (b)

(A)

in paragraph (1), by striking biennial;

(B)

in paragraph (2), by inserting for legislative and administrative action after Recommendations; and

(C)

by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

(3)

Recommendations that such administrative actions as may be taken—

(A)

to maximize resources for outreach activities of the Department; and

(B)

to focus outreach efforts on activities that are proven to be more effective.

.

(b)

Clerical amendments

(1)

Section heading

The heading for section 6308 of such title is amended by striking Biennial and inserting Annual .

(2)

Table of sections

The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 63 of such title is amended by striking the item relating to section 6308 and inserting the following new item:

6308. Annual report to Congress.

.