S 1060

112th CONGRESS
1st Session

S. 1060

To improve education, employment, independent living services, and health care for veterans, to improve assistance for homeless veterans, and to improve the administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

May 25, 2011

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


A BILL

To improve education, employment, independent living services, and health care for veterans, to improve assistance for homeless veterans, and to improve the administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.

    (a) Short Title- This Act may be cited as the `Honoring All Veterans Act of 2011'.

    (b) Table of Contents- The table of contents of this Act is as follows:

      Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

TITLE I--EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT, AND INDEPENDENT LIVING SERVICES FOR VETERANS

      Sec. 101. Increase in maximum number of participants in programs of independent living services and assistance for severely handicapped veterans.

      Sec. 102. Participation of veterans in the Transition Assistance Program of the Department of Defense.

      Sec. 103. Study on recognition of military training and qualifications of veterans by civilian employers and educational institutions.

      Sec. 104. Veterans education outreach program.

      Sec. 105. Department of Labor program to secure job opportunities for veterans.

TITLE II--ASSISTANCE FOR HOMELESS VETERANS

      Sec. 201. Repeal of sunset on extension of enhanced protections for servicemembers relating to mortgages and mortgage foreclosure under Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

      Sec. 202. Improvement of payments for providing services to homeless veterans.

TITLE III--HEALTH CARE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR VETERANS

      Sec. 301. Monitoring of referrals for mental health care.

      Sec. 302. Improvements to plans for veterans with traumatic brain injury for rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.

      Sec. 303. Counseling, training, and mental health services for families of deployed members of the Armed Forces.

      Sec. 304. Graduates of Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences permitted to perform civilian service with Department of Veterans Affairs.

      Sec. 305. Controlled substance monitoring programs.

TITLE IV--ADMINISTRATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

      Sec. 401. Monitoring of Integrated Disability Evaluation System.

      Sec. 402. Independent review of transition from receipt of benefits and services from Department of Defense to receipt of benefits and services from Department of Veterans Affairs.

      Sec. 403. Treatment of certain misfiled documents as motions for reconsideration of decisions by Board of Veterans' Appeals.

      Sec. 404. Increase in rate of pension for disabled veterans married to one another and both of whom require regular aid and attendance.

TITLE I--EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT, AND INDEPENDENT LIVING SERVICES FOR VETERANS

SEC. 101. INCREASE IN MAXIMUM NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS IN PROGRAMS OF INDEPENDENT LIVING SERVICES AND ASSISTANCE FOR SEVERELY HANDICAPPED VETERANS.

    Section 3120(e) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking `2,700' and inserting `3,000'.

SEC. 102. PARTICIPATION OF VETERANS IN THE TRANSITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE.

    (a) In General- Each veteran, during the one-year period beginning on the date on which the veteran is discharged or separated from service in the Armed Forces, shall be authorized to participate in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) of the Department of Defense.

    (b) Counseling at Military Installations- As part of their participation in the Transition Assistance Program pursuant to this section, veterans shall be authorized to receive transition assistance counseling under the program at any military installation at which transition assistance counseling is being provided to members of the Armed Forces under the program.

    (c) Memorandum of Understanding- The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall enter into a memorandum of understanding regarding the participation of veterans in the Transition Assistance Program pursuant to this section.

    (d) Veteran Defined- In this section, the term `veteran' has the meaning given that term in section 101(2) of title 38, United States Code.

SEC. 103. STUDY ON RECOGNITION OF MILITARY TRAINING AND QUALIFICATIONS OF VETERANS BY CIVILIAN EMPLOYERS AND EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS.

    The Secretary of Veterans Affairs may conduct a study on how the Secretary can improve the recognition of military training and qualifications of veterans by civilian employers and educational institutions.

SEC. 104. VETERANS EDUCATION OUTREACH PROGRAM.

    (a) Establishment- Chapter 36 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end of subchapter II the following new section:

`Sec. 3697B. Veterans education outreach program

    `(a) In General- The Secretary shall provide funding for offices of veterans affairs at institutions of higher learning, as defined in section 3452(f), in accordance with this section.

    `(b) Payments to Institutions of Higher Learning- (1)(A) The Secretary shall, subject to the availability of appropriations, make payments to any institution of higher learning, under and in accordance with this section, during any fiscal year if the number of persons eligible for services from offices assisted under this section at the institution is at least 50, determined in the same manner as the number of eligible veterans or eligible persons is determined under section 3684(c) of this title.

    `(B) The persons who are eligible for services from the offices assisted under this section are persons receiving educational assistance administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, including assistance provided under chapter 1606 of title 10.

    `(2) To be eligible for a payment under this section, an institution of higher learning or a consortium of institutions of higher learning, as described in paragraph (3), shall submit an application to the Secretary. The application shall--

      `(A) set forth such policies, assurances, and procedures that will ensure that--

        `(i) the funds received by the institution, or each institution in a consortium of institutions described in paragraph (3), under this section will be used solely to carry out this section;

        `(ii) for enhancing the functions of its veterans education outreach program, the applicant will expend, during the academic year for which a payment is sought, an amount equal to at least the amount of the award under this section from sources other than this or any other Federal program; and

        `(iii) the applicant will submit to the Secretary such reports as the Secretary may require or as are required by this section;

      `(B) contain such other statement of policies, assurances, and procedures as the Secretary may require in order to protect the financial interests of the United States;

      `(C) set forth such plans, policies, assurances, and procedures as will ensure that the applicant will maintain an office of veterans' affairs which has responsibility for--

        `(i) veterans' certification, outreach, recruitment, and special education programs, including the provision of or referral to educational, vocational, and personal counseling for veterans; and

        `(ii) providing information regarding other services provided veterans by the Department, including the readjustment counseling program authorized under section 1712A of this title and the programs carried out under chapters 41 and 42 of this title; and

      `(D) be submitted at such time or times, in such manner, in such form, and contain such information as the Secretary determines necessary to carry out the functions of the Secretary under this section.

    `(3) An institution of higher learning which is eligible for funding under this section and which the Secretary determines cannot feasibly carry out, by itself, any or all of the activities set forth in paragraph (2)(C), may carry out such program or programs through a consortium agreement with one or more other institutions of higher learning in the same community.

    `(4) The Secretary shall not approve an application under this subsection unless the Secretary determines that the applicant will implement the requirements of paragraph (2)(C) within the first academic year during which it receives a payment under this section.

    `(c) Amount of Payments- (1)(A) Subject to subparagraph (B), the amount of the payment which any institution shall receive under this section for any fiscal year shall be $100 for each person who is described in subsection (b)(1)(B).

    `(B) The maximum amount of payments to any institution of higher learning, or any branch thereof which is located in a community which is different from that in which the parent institution thereof is located, in any fiscal year is $150,000.

    `(2)(A) The Secretary shall pay to each institution of higher learning which has had an application approved under subsection (b) the amount which it is to receive under this section. If the amount appropriated for any fiscal year is not sufficient to pay the amounts which all such institutions are to receive, the Secretary shall ratably reduce such payments. If any amount becomes available to carry out this section for a fiscal year after such reductions have been imposed, such reduced payments shall be increased on the same basis as they were reduced.

    `(B) In making payments under this section for any fiscal year, the Secretary shall apportion the appropriation for making such payments, from funds which become available as a result of the limitation on payments set forth in paragraph (1)(B), in an equitable manner.

    `(d) Coordination and Provision of Assistance, Technical Consultation, and Information- The Secretary, in carrying out the provisions of this section, shall seek to assure the coordination of programs assisted under this section with other programs carried out by the Department pursuant to this title, and the Secretary shall provide all assistance, technical consultation, and information otherwise authorized by law as necessary to promote the maximum effectiveness of the activities and programs assisted under this section.

    `(e) Best Practices and Administration- (1) From the amounts made available for any fiscal year under subsection (f), the Secretary shall retain one percent or $20,000, whichever is less, for the purpose of collecting information about exemplary veterans educational outreach programs and disseminating that information to other institutions of higher learning having such programs on their campuses. Such collection and dissemination shall be done on an annual basis.

    `(2) From the amounts made available under subsection (f), the Secretary may retain not more than two percent for the purpose of administering this section.

    `(f) Authorization of Appropriations- There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section $6,000,000 for fiscal year 2012 and each fiscal year thereafter.'.

    (b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 36 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 3697A the following new item:

      `3697B. Veterans education outreach program.'.

SEC. 105. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR PROGRAM TO SECURE JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR VETERANS.

    (a) Definitions- In this section:

      (1) COVERED VETERAN- In this subsection, the term `covered veteran' means a veteran with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder.

      (2) SECRETARY- The term `Secretary' means the Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy.

      (3) VETERAN- The term `veteran' means a veteran, as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code.

    (b) Technical Assistance- The Secretary shall carry out a program through which the Secretary shall--

      (1) provide technical assistance to prospective employers and employers of covered veterans, to enable the prospective employers and employers to employ and retain covered veterans;

      (2) provide technical assistance for entities in the workforce development system, to enable the entities to help covered veterans obtain employment and succeed in that employment;

      (3) receive referrals for technical assistance described in paragraphs (1) and (2) from reserve components described in section 101 of title 10, United States Code, business organizations, and Federal agencies; and

      (4) conduct outreach concerning such technical assistance through regional offices of the Department of Labor.

    (c) Information on Best Practices- The Secretary shall disseminate information on best practices related to assisting covered veterans in obtaining employment and developing strategies to succeed in that employment. The Secretary shall disseminate the information to business organizations and employers (including veteran-owned businesses), human resource organizations, government agencies, and Federal contractors.

    (d) Interagency Working Group-

      (1) ESTABLISHMENT OF WORKING GROUP- The Secretary shall establish a working group, consisting of representatives of Federal agencies with programs that assist covered veterans in obtaining or maintaining employment.

      (2) DUTIES OF WORKING GROUP- The working group shall share information on best practices, share resources, and develop a plan, for providing such assistance to the covered veterans. The working group shall submit the plan to the heads of the Federal agencies.

      (3) FUNCTIONS OF FEDERAL AGENCIES- Each head of a Federal agency receiving the plan shall consider the plan and make appropriate changes to carry out functions that assist covered veterans in obtaining and maintaining employment.

TITLE II--ASSISTANCE FOR HOMELESS VETERANS

SEC. 201. REPEAL OF SUNSET ON EXTENSION OF ENHANCED PROTECTIONS FOR SERVICEMEMBERS RELATING TO MORTGAGES AND MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE UNDER SERVICEMEMBERS CIVIL RELIEF ACT.

    Subsection (c) of section 2203 of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (50 U.S.C. App. 533 note) is amended to read as follows:

    `(a) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (a) shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act.'.

SEC. 202. IMPROVEMENT OF PAYMENTS FOR PROVIDING SERVICES TO HOMELESS VETERANS.

    (a) Improvement of Payments- Section 2012 of title 38, United States Code, is amended--

      (1) by striking `per diem' each place it appears;

      (2) in subsection (a)(2)--

        (A) in subparagraph (A)--

          (i) by striking `daily cost of care' and inserting `annual cost of furnishing services'; and

          (ii) by striking the second sentence;

        (B) by striking subparagraph (B) and inserting the following new subparagraph (B):

    `(B) The Secretary shall annually adjust the rate of payment under subparagraph (A) to reflect anticipated changes in the cost of furnishing services and to take into account the cost of providing services in a particular geographic area. The Secretary may set a maximum amount payable to a grant recipient under this section.';

        (C) in subparagraph (C), by striking `other sources of income' and all that follows through the period at the end and inserting `the cost of services provided by the grant recipient as the Secretary may require to assist the Secretary in making the determination under subparagraph (A).';

        (D) by striking subparagraph (D) and inserting the following new subparagraph (D):

    `(D) In making the determination under subparagraph (A), the Secretary may consider the availability of other sources of income, including payments to the grant recipient or eligible entity for furnishing services to homeless veterans under programs other than under this subchapter, payments or grants from other departments or agencies of the United States, from departments or agencies of State or local governments, or from private entities or organizations.'; and

        (E) by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:

    `(E)(i) The Secretary shall authorize payments under this subsection to each grant recipient on an annual basis but shall make a payment to each grant recipient for each calendar quarter in an amount equal to a portion of the annual amount authorized for such recipient.

    `(ii) Upon the expiration of a calendar quarter--

      `(I) each grant recipient shall provide to the Secretary a statement of the amount spent by the recipient during that calendar quarter;

      `(II) if the amount spent is less than the amount provided for that calendar quarter, repay to the Secretary the balance; and

      `(III) if the amount spent by a grant recipient for such purpose for a calendar quarter exceeds the amount provided to the recipient for that quarter, the Secretary shall make an additional payment to the recipient in an amount equal to the amount by which the amount so spent exceeded the amount so provided, as long as the total amount provided to such recipient in a calendar year does not exceed the amount of the annual payment for that recipient.';

      (3) in subsection (a), by striking paragraph (3) and inserting the following new paragraph (3):

    `(3) Payments under this subsection to a grant recipient or eligible entity may be used to match, or in combination with, other payments or grants for which the recipient or entity is eligible.'; and

      (4) in subsection (c)--

        (A) by striking paragraph (2); and

        (B) by redesignating paragraph (3) as paragraph (2).

    (b) Clerical Amendments-

      (1) SECTION HEADING- The section heading for such section is amended to read as follows:

`Sec. 2012. Payments for furnishing services to homeless veterans'.

      (2) SUBSECTION HEADING- The heading for subsection (a) of such section is amended by striking `Per Diem'.

      (3) TABLE OF SECTIONS- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 20 of such title is amended by striking the item relating to section 2012 and inserting the following new item:

      `2012. Payments for furnishing services to homeless veterans.'.

TITLE III--HEALTH CARE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR VETERANS

SEC. 301. MONITORING OF REFERRALS FOR MENTAL HEALTH CARE.

    The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall jointly establish a mechanism for the monitoring and reviewing of the process by which referrals for mental health care are given to individuals who, during a post deployment health assessment administered by the Secretary of Defense, are identified as having a potential mental health condition. Such monitoring and reviewing shall identify and compare, on a regular basis, the number of individuals to whom such referrals are issued with the number of individuals who complete a course of treatment for a mental health condition subsequent to receiving such a referral.

SEC. 302. IMPROVEMENTS TO PLANS FOR VETERANS WITH TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY FOR REHABILITATION AND REINTEGRATION INTO THE COMMUNITY.

    Section 1710C(b) of title 38, United States Code, is amended--

      (1) by redesignating paragraphs (3) through (5) as paragraphs (5) through (7), respectively; and

      (2) by inserting after paragraph (2) the following new paragraphs:

      `(3) With respect to individuals who are veterans described in subsection (b) of section 3120 of this title, participation in programs of independent living services provided under subsection (a) of such section.

      `(4) Employment support services provided under section 1718(d)(2) of this title.'.

SEC. 303. COUNSELING, TRAINING, AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR FAMILIES OF DEPLOYED MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES.

    Section 1782 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

    `(e) Counseling for Family Members of Deployed Members of Armed Forces- In the case of a member of the Armed Forces who is deployed, the Secretary may provide members of the immediate family of the member of the Armed Forces such consultation, professional counseling, marriage and family counseling, training, and mental health services as are necessary in connection with that deployment.'.

SEC. 304. GRADUATES OF UNIFORMED SERVICES UNIVERSITY OF THE HEALTH SCIENCES PERMITTED TO PERFORM CIVILIAN SERVICE WITH DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

    (a) In General- Section 2115 of title 10, United States Code, is amended--

      (1) by striking `The Secretary' and inserting the following:

    `(a) In General- Except as provided in subsection (b), the Secretary';

      (2) by adding at the end the following new subsection:

    `(b) Civilian Service With the Department of Veterans Affairs- (1) The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs may enter into an agreement whereby graduates of the University may perform civilian service under subsection (a) with the Department of Veterans Affairs at community-based outpatient clinics of the Department and centers for readjustment counseling and related mental health services for veterans under section 1712A of title 38.

    `(2) The limitation in subsection (a) relating to the percentage of graduates of a class at the University that can perform civilian Federal service in lieu of active duty in the uniformed services shall not apply to graduates who perform civilian Federal service under paragraph (1) of this subsection.

    `(3)(A) The Secretary of Veterans Affairs may reimburse the Secretary of Defense for the expenses incurred by the Secretary of Defense in providing education under this chapter to a person who performs civilian service under paragraph (1).

    `(B) If the Secretary of Veterans Affairs reimburses the Secretary of Defense as described in subparagraph (A) with respect to a person, the Secretary of Defense may not recall such person to active duty in the uniformed services without the consent of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.'; and

      (3) in the heading, by striking `: limitation on number'.

    (b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 104 of such title is amended by striking the item relating to section 2115 and inserting the following new item:

      `2115. Graduates permitted to perform civilian Federal service.'.

SEC. 305. CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE MONITORING PROGRAMS.

    (a) Exception With Respect to Confidential Nature of Claims- Section 5701 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

    `(l) Under regulations the Secretary shall prescribe, the Secretary may disclose information about a veteran or the dependant of a veteran to a State controlled substance monitoring program, including a program approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Services under section 399O of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 280g-3), to the extent necessary to prevent misuse and diversion of prescription medicines.'.

    (b) Exception With Respect to Confidentiality of Certain Medical Records- Section 7332(b)(2) of such title is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:

      `(G) To a State controlled substance monitoring program, including a program approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Services under section 399O of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 280g-3), to the extent necessary to prevent misuse and diversion of prescription medicines.'.

TITLE IV--ADMINISTRATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

SEC. 401. MONITORING OF INTEGRATED DISABILITY EVALUATION SYSTEM.

    (a) In General- The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall jointly develop a systemwide monitoring mechanism to identify and address issues arising out of facilities and offices of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs involved in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System.

    (b) Elements- The monitoring mechanism required by subsection (a) shall include the following, with respect to the Integrated Disability Evaluation System:

      (1) Continuous collection and analysis of data on--

        (A) staffing levels of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs;

        (B) sufficiency of exam summaries; and

        (C) diagnostic disagreements.

      (2) Monitoring of available data on caseloads and case processing time by individual rating offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the physical evaluation boards of the Department of Defense.

      (3) A formal mechanism for agency officials at local facilities to communicate challenges and best practices to Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters.

SEC. 402. INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF TRANSITION FROM RECEIPT OF BENEFITS AND SERVICES FROM DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE TO RECEIPT OF BENEFITS AND SERVICES FROM DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

    The Comptroller General of the United States, the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, and the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs may form an independent board to review the effectiveness and efficiency of the process by which members of the Armed Forces transition from the receipt of benefits and services from the Department of Defense to the receipt of benefits and services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

SEC. 403. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN MISFILED DOCUMENTS AS MOTIONS FOR RECONSIDERATION OF DECISIONS BY BOARD OF VETERANS' APPEALS.

    Section 7103 of title 38, United States Code, is amended--

      (1) by redesignating subsection (c) as subsection (d); and

      (2) by inserting after subsection (b) the following new subsection (c):

    `(c)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), if a person adversely affected by a final decision of the Board, who has not filed a notice of appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims under section 7266(a) of this title within the period set forth in that section, files a document with the Board or the agency of original jurisdiction referred to in section 7105(b)(1) of this title that expresses disagreement with such decision not later than 120 days after the date of such decision, such document shall be treated as a motion for reconsideration of such decision under subsection (a).

    `(2) A document described in paragraph (1) shall not be treated as a motion for reconsideration of the decision under paragraph (1) if--

      `(A) the Board or the agency of original jurisdiction referred to in paragraph (1)--

        `(i) receives the document described in paragraph (1);

        `(ii) determines that such document expresses an intent to appeal the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; and

        `(iii) forwards such document to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; and

      `(B) the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims receives such document within the period set forth by section 7266(a) of this title.'.

SEC. 404. INCREASE IN RATE OF PENSION FOR DISABLED VETERANS MARRIED TO ONE ANOTHER AND BOTH OF WHOM REQUIRE REGULAR AID AND ATTENDANCE.

    (a) In General- Section 1521(f)(2) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking `$30,480' and inserting `$31,305'.

    (b) Effective Date- The amendment made by subsection (a) shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act.

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