10.10.08

Veterans’ Bills Signed Into Law

Provisions in the new law include aid to fight homelessness and improvements to Veterans’ benefits

Today, U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, welcomed President Bush's signing of S. 2162, the Veterans' Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008 and S. 3023, the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008. These bills were signed into law by the president earlier today.

"The president's signature today on these bills will help give our veterans the tools and resources they need to live full and productive lives when they return home, and that always should be our top priority for those men and women who served," Burr said.

S. 2162, the Veterans' Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008, has several provisions authored by Senator Burr, including the provision of supportive services to keep low-income veterans in permanent housing so they are less likely to fall into homelessness. Veterans will now have greater access to housing assistance, physical and mental health services, health insurance, and vocational and financial counseling. The new law also includes coordinated treatment for veterans suffering from substance abuse and mental health disorders.

S. 3023, the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008, will improve many benefits programs that our veterans now enjoy, including provisions that were introduced by Senator Burr that touches on employment, education, vocational rehabilitation, and disability compensation. This new law will require that the head of each federal executive agency provide training for their human resources personnel on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, to ensure that veterans are able to resume their Federal civilian jobs when they return from service with no delays or frustrations. It also doubles the time from 10 to 20 years for spouses of severely disabled veterans to be able to receive VA education assistance, giving these spouses more time to focus on caring for their injured loved ones. Additionally, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be required to provide Congress with a plan for updating its current disability rating schedule, which was developed in the early 1900's and is riddled with outdated criteria.