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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jan 1, 2019.
Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018
This bill updates various Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and programs in areas including education, transition assistance, and civil relief.
The bill makes a number of changes to educational benefits. Among the changes, the bill adjusts assistance limits for veterans participating in a VA vocational rehabilitation program who are called to active reserve duty in certain instances. The bill also requires the VA to electronically provide documentation verifying the amount of their housing stipend to recipients of Post-9/11 educational assistance and requires the VA to disapprove courses of education at educational institutions that have certain payment policies in place.
Additionally, the bill requires the VA to make prompt payments of educational assistance funding and to provide information on whether a postsecondary education institution requires a covered individual to take certain actions to stay enrolled pending a receipt of educational assistance. Finally, the bill updates the basic housing allowance amounts for veterans enrolled in high technology programs pursuant to the VA pilot program.
The bill makes changes regarding memorial affairs for veterans, including requiring the VA to furnish, when requested, headstones or markers for the unmarked graves of any eligible individuals (including those whose remains are unavailable) buried in a veterans cemetery owned by a tribal organization or on land owned by or held in trust for a tribal organization.
The bill amends several sections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, including to allow (1) a surviving spouse of a deceased servicemember who died while in military service to terminate a lease without penalty within one year of the servicemember's death; (2) the spouse of a servicemember to elect to use the same residence as the servicemember for the purposes of taxation and voting; and (3) a servicemember to terminate a commercial mobile, telephone exchange, internet access or programming service contract after the service member receives military orders to a location that does not support such contracts.
With regard to transition assistance, the bill requires the VA to identify and publish a list of community-based programs operated by nonprofit entities that provide transition assistance to members of the Armed Forces who are retired, separated, or discharged.
The bill addresses a variety of VA administrative issues. Specifically, the bill directs the VA to prohibit employees who have knowingly misused VA purchase cards from serving as purchase card holders or approving officials. The bill also requires the VA to make changes to its information technology systems so that changes to information about a person's dependent is reviewable and revisable by that person.
Under the bill, the VA must submit certain documents to Congress related to the Electronic Health Record Modernization Program. In addition, the VA must develop a standard letter to be provided to individuals who owe debts to the VA and to develop a method by which individuals can elect to receive such notice electronically.
The bill also makes several other changes to a variety of VA programs, projects, and benefits. Specifically, the bill authorizes specific major medical facility projects and requires VA medical facility directors to submit plans to improve facilities.
The bill expands eligibility for homeless veterans reintegration programs to other veterans, including include veterans who are transitioning from being incarcerated and others.
The VA must award contracts to multiple regional prime vendors instead of a single nationwide prime vendor for the Medical Surgical Prime Vendor program; and
Finally, the bill requires the VA to report on the feasibility and advisability of expanding access to dental care for eligible veterans.