Housing, Health and Funeral Benefits Extended
In what may be its last bipartisan act before election season, Congress passed a bill in late September that improves and 'modernizes' benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The Veterans' Benefit Act of 2010 represents a compromise between the House and the Senate that includes measures from several previous smaller benefits bills. Provisions include stepped-up homeless prevention efforts, extended health insurance, increased benefits for assisted-living and low-income housing, protections for service members called back into combat and investment in medical research for Gulf War veterans.
The bill also extends funeral benefits. It encompasses the Corey Shea Act, named for an army specialist killed in Iraq whose mother petitioned Congress to be buried next to her son in the Bourne National Veteran's Cemetery. The law had previously stated that only veterans, their spouses and their minor children were eligible, but the new Act allows parents to be buried with veteran children if a veteran has no living spouse or child of his or her own.
Act Improves Education and Employment Opportunities
The Veterans' Benefit Act of 2010 also has good news for education and job seekers. The bill extended the life of the Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education, which offers short- and long-term recommendations for improving military and veterans' education benefits. Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick noted that 'The new G.I. Bill marks a great victory for our Veterans, but passing that legislation is just part of repaying the debt we owe them. The next step is ensuring that these benefits work for our Veterans, and this committee is a valuable tool in that effort.'
In addition, the Act reauthorized the VA's recently expired work-study program and expanded the types of eligible jobs. Veterans can now receive credit for working in state veterans' agencies, congressional offices or any other position offered jointly by the VA and a postsecondary institution.
Other new employment benefits include the pilot 'Veterans' Energy Related Employment Program,' which provides competitive grants to states to reimburse energy sector employers who provide on-the-job training for veterans. The move supports the administration's efforts to increase job opportunities in clean energy.
Veterans: Still looking for the right college or university? Don't miss the 2011 Guide to Military Friendly Schools.