WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today regarding enactment of S. 3023, the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008.
"Veterans have earned these benefits and more through their honorable service to our country and I am proud that this legislation to improve veterans' housing, disability claims processing, judicial review and employment rights is now law," said Akaka.
S. 3023 is an omnibus veterans' benefits bill that includes a wide range of provisions, including claims processing improvements, compensation enhancements, employment and education assistance, and housing benefits for veterans. These provisions include:
Claims Assistance: Simplification of letters to veterans claiming disabilities, so as 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 expiring authority for VA to guarantee 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' right 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, 2008, then passed by the full Senate unanimously on September 15. It was amended in the House and passed by that body on September 24, then passed by the Senate again. President Bush signed the bill into law on October 10, 2008.
October 10, 2008