Senate Democrats

S. 1315, the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007

Summary

S.1315, the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 would, among other things, enhance life insurance programs for disabled veterans; provide increased benefits for education programs; improve housing programs for disabled service members; and modify pay and service requirements for judges of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The bill also would grant limited pension benefits to Filipino World War II veterans.

Major Provisions

Title I – Insurance Matters

Level-premium term life insurance for veterans with service-connected disabilities. The bill would establish a new program of insurance that would provide up to $50,000 in life insurance for any veteran who is less than 65 years of age and who has a service-connected disability. (Section 101)

Administrative costs of the Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance program. The bill would allow administrative costs for the S-DVI program to be paid for by premiums, as is done with all other National Service Life Insurance programs.

Family Service members’ Group Life Insurance coverage (SGLI). S.1315 would expand SGLI to include certain members of the Individual Ready Reserve. (Section 103)

Supplemental insurance for totally disabled veterans. The bill would increase the supplemental insurance available to totally disabled veterans under the Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance program from $20,000 to $30,000. (Section 104)

Retroactive benefits for traumatic injury.S.1315 would expand the number individuals qualifying for retroactive benefits from traumatic injury protection coverage under the Traumatic Service members’ Group Life Insurance program, to include all service members, not just those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. (Section 105)

Coverage against loss of dominant hand. The bill would direct the Secretary of the VA to consider the loss of a dominant hand in determining the severity of loss under the Service members’ Group Life Insurance. (Section 106)

Designation of a fiduciary for traumatic injury protection coverage under Traumatic Service members’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) in case of lost mental capacity or extended loss of consciousness.S.1315 includes a provision that would require DOD, in consultation with the VA, to develop a form for the designation of a fiduciary to administer TSGLI funds, in cases where the service member is mentally incapacitated or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness. (Section 107)

Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI). The bill would increase VMLI from $90,000 to $150,000, and provide for a further increase effective January 1, 2012 from $150,000 to $200,000. VMLI provides mortgage insurance to certain severely disabled veterans. (Section 108)

Title II – Housing Matters

Home improvement and structural alteration payments for totally disabled service members. The bill would expand eligibility for home improvement and structural alteration assistance to permanently disabled members of the Armed Forces before discharge or release from the Armed Forces. Under current law, this benefit is available only to those discharged from active service. The VA would determine the amount of assistance, up to $4,100. (Section 201)

Adaptive housing benefits. S.1315 would provide eligibility for certain specially adapted housing benefits to members of the Armed Forces with service-connected disabilities and individuals residing outside the United States. (Section 202)

Adaptive housing assistance for individuals with burn injuries. The bill would provide eligibility for specially adapted housing assistance to service-disabled veterans and qualified service members with severe burn injuries. (Section 203)

Assistance to individuals residing temporarily in family-provided housing. S.1315 would extend until December 31, 2011, VA’s authority to assist severely disabled service members temporarily residing in housing owned by a family member with housing adaptation grants. (Section 204)

Supplemental specially adapted housing grant for disabled veterans. The bill would create a supplemental specially adapted housing grant that would provide $10,000 in additional benefit for veterans currently eligible for the $50,000 adapted housing grant and $2,000 in additional benefit for those veterans eligible for the current $10,000 grant. (Section 205)

VA reporting requirements. The bill would require VA to report on the adequacy of existing specially adapted housing grant and assistance authorities for disabled individuals. It also would require a report on the need for specially adapted housing assistance for individuals who reside on a permanent basis in housing owned by a family member. (Section 206 and Section 207)

Title III – Labor and Education Matters

Coordination in the administration of education benefits. The bill includes a provision that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to coordinate with the Departments of Labor and Education to reduce overlap and duplication with respect to approvals of programs of education and to report to Congress on establishing outcome-oriented performance measures for State approving agencies. (Section 301)

Rate of reimbursement of State and local agencies administering veterans’ education benefits. S.1315 would restore the funding cap for state and local approving agencies to $19 million. (Section 302)

Residency requirement for State Directors of Veterans’ Employment and Training (SDVET). The bill would grant the Secretary of Labor the authority to waive, on a case-by-case basis, the residency requirement for SDVET. (Section 303)

Special Unemployment Study. The bill would modify the Special Unemployment Study required to be submitted by the Secretary of Labor to Congress to cover veterans of Post-9/11 Global Operations and also require that the report be submitted on an annual, rather than biennial basis. (Section 304)

Benefits for apprenticeship and on-the-job training.S.1315 would provide a two year extension an increase in monthly educational assistance allowance payable for individuals pursuing apprenticeship or on-job training under educational benefit programs administered by VA. The extension would apply to the months beginning on or after January 1, 2008 and before January 1, 2010. (Section 305)

Title IV – Filipino World War II Veterans Matters

Pension benefits for Filipino World War II veterans. S.1315 would deem certain service before July 1, 1946, in the organized military forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Scouts as active military service for purposes of eligibility for veterans’ benefits. Pension benefits for those veterans living in the Philippines would be paid at a reduced rate.

Title V – Court Matters

Recall of retired judges of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). The bill would eliminate current restrictions on how many days per year a retired judge of the CAVC may voluntarily serve in recall status; modify the retirement pay structure for certain CAVC judges; and exempt retired judges from involuntary recall once they have served an aggregate of five years of recall service. (Section 501)

CAVC fees. S.1315 would grant the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims additional discretion in the imposition of practice and registration fees. (Section 502)

Reporting requirements. The bill would require the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to submit annual reports to Congress on its workload. It also would require the General Services Administration to study and report on the feasibility of expanding the facilities of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. (Sections 503 and 504)

Title VI – Compensation and Pension Matters

Osteoporosis. S.1315 would add osteoporosis to the disabilities presumed to be service-connected in former prisoners of war with post-traumatic stress disorder. (Section 601)

Survivor benefits. The bill also would provide an annual cost-of-living increase for additional dependency and indemnity compensation paid to certain surviving spouses with dependent children under the age of 18. (Section 602)

Restoration of Congressional Intent. The provisions in S.1315 would be paid for by an offset that restores the original intent of Congress, which was wrongly interpreted in a recent court decision, to provide certain VA benefits on the basis of disability and not age. Aged veterans who are seriously disabled would not be deprived of special benefits, but would continue to be eligible for them under the same conditions as applied to younger veterans. (Section 603)

Title VII – Burial and Memorial Matters

Supplemental funeral and burial expenses. S.1315 would authorize supplemental benefits for funeral and burial expenses for veterans who die from service-connected disabilities. It would add a $2,100 benefit above the current $2,000 benefit. Additionally, the bill would authorize a supplemental benefit of $900 above the current $300 benefit for veterans who die from a non-service-connected disability. (Section 701)

Supplemental plot allowances. The bill also would authorize the creation of a $445 supplement allowance in addition to the current $300 allowance for veteran burial plots. (Section 702)

Title VIII – Other Matters

S.1315 includes several additional provisions that would expand assistance to certain disabled veterans and service members. Specifically, it would:

Bookmark and Share