Saturday, June 25, 2011

Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010

by Rob Sabo
November 03, 2010

Veterans recently received significant boosts in many of their benefits with the passage of the Veterans Benefits Act of 2010. President Obama signed the bill (known as H.R. 3219) into law in mid-October. The new law enhances a number of veterans' benefits including new opportunities for employment, increased care for homeless veterans, expanded insurance limits, and updated military education benefits. The bill also reduces VA benefits delays to severely injured veterans, and provides better financial and legal protection for deployed troops.

Smaller provisions are included in the bill as well, such as increased auto grants for disabled vets, childcare services for homeless veterans, and termination of family plan cell phone contracts for servicemembers who are deployed.

House Veteran's Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-California) praised Congress' ability to work toward improving the lives of veterans. Filner introduced the bill to Congress on July 15, 2009. "This new law is the result of numerous productive hearings and markups, meaningful oversight and bi-partisan compromise," Filner said in a press release announcing the passage of the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010. "These improvements will make a big difference in the lives of America's brave veterans."

A Breakdown of the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010

A number of the bill's most salient points include:

  1. Increased Insurance Limits. Totally disabled veterans now can receive an additional $10,000 ($30,000 total) of supplemental insurance. Additionally, Service Members Group Life Insurance coverage is extended to last until two years from a totally disabled veteran's date of separation from active duty. The bill also allows for a $25,000 increase every five years for Veterans Group Life Insurance Coverage beginning on the one-year anniversary of his or her eligibility date. This is available to veterans under age 60. Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance program limits are also being increased to $150,000 or $200,000 after Jan. 1, 2012.
  2. Burial and Cemetery Benefits. Under the new law, $700 is available for burial and funeral expenses incurred by veterans who die in a VA hospital or are interred in a VA cemetery.
  3. General Benefits. Disabled veterans and members of the Armed Forces who have severe burn injuries are now authorized for vehicles and adaptive equipment assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Automobile assistance also increases from $11,000 to $18,000. Additionally, the number of veterans eligible for independent assisted living services increases to 2,700.
  4. Enhanced Employment Opportunities. The recently expired VA work-study program is now being extended, and the list of the types of jobs that are included the program is also growing. The expansion will now let veterans complete their work-study programs in congressional offices, state veteran agencies, or any program that is a joint venture between the VA and a post-secondary institution. One of the main educational benefits for veterans comes in the form of increased job opportunities in the energy sector. Energy employers now can be reimbursed for on-the-job training of veteran employees.
  5. Prevention of Homeless Veterans. The Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program was reinstated through the 2011 fiscal year, with an additional $1 million being allocated to services for homeless female veterans and veterans with children.
  6. Veteran Education Benefits. The bill calls for establishment of a list of organizations that provide scholarships to veterans, called the Pat Tillman Veteran's Scholarship Initiative. Once complete, veterans will be able to find a list of schools that offer scholarships to veterans on the VA's website. The Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education is also being extended.

"Our servicemembers should have access to a first-rate education that will prepare them to excel in new jobs once they leave the military," said Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona) in a press release acknowledging the transition of the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010 to the President. "The new G.I. Bill marks a great victory for our veterans. The next step is ensuring that those benefits work for our veterans."

Many of these improvements to veterans' benefits won't go into effect until Oct. 1, 2011.