WASHINGTON, D.C. - Following successful negotiations between the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs, S. 3023, the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008, sponsored by Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), passed the Senate today by unanimous consent.
"This broad legislation will help veterans get jobs and home mortgages, simplify disability claims letters, and improve access to the veterans appeals court. I thank my colleagues in Congress for their support of this bill, which is the result of successful bipartisan negotiations between the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs. With the President's signature, we will make critical improvements to the benefits veterans receive for their honorable service to our nation," said Senator Akaka.
S. 3023 is an omnibus veterans' benefits bill that includes a wide range of provisions, including claims processing improvements, compensation enhancements, labor and education, and housing benefits for veterans. These provisions include:
Claims Assistance: Simplification of letters to veterans claiming disabilities, to provide meaningful notice of the information and evidence needed to substantiate a claim.
Veterans Housing: Enhancement of home loan refinancing options, an extended increase in the maximum loan guaranty amount, and an extension of the soon-to-expire authority for VA guaranteed adjustable-rate mortgages.
Improving Access to the Court System: Expansion in the number of judges on the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to decide the increased number of cases filed and removal of the ban on judicial review of actions concerning VA's rating schedule.
Employment Rights: Updating of veterans' rights to return to work, federal agency assistance in that effort, and more timely Department of Labor investigations of potential violations of veterans' employment rights.
S. 3023, introduced by Chairman Akaka, was reported by the Senate Committee in June, then passed by the full Senate unanimously on September 17. It was then amended in the House and passed by that body on September 24, and the amended version passed the Senate today. The bill will now be presented to the President.