What is the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018 (US)?

Introduction

This Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-407) updated various Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and programmes in areas including education, transition assistance, and civil relief.

The Act was signed into law by then President Donald Trump on 31 December 2018.

Refer to The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (2003), Military Lending Act (2006), and Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (2009).

What Did the Act Change?

  • It made a number of changes to educational benefits:
    • Adjusted assistance limits for veterans participating in a VA vocational rehabilitation programme who are called to active reserve duty in certain instances.
    • Required the VA to electronically provide documentation verifying the amount of their housing stipend to recipients of Post-9/11 educational assistance and requires the VA to disapprove courses of education at educational institutions that have certain payment policies in place.
    • Required the VA to make prompt payments of educational assistance funding and to provide information on whether a postsecondary education institution requires a covered individual to take certain actions to stay enrolled pending a receipt of educational assistance.
    • Updated the basic housing allowance amounts for veterans enrolled in high technology programmes pursuant to the VA pilot programme.
  • Changes regarding memorial affairs for veterans, including:
    • Requiring the VA to furnish, when requested, headstones or markers for the unmarked graves of any eligible individuals (including those whose remains are unavailable) buried in a veterans cemetery owned by a tribal organisation or on land owned by or held in trust for a tribal organisation.
  • Amended several sections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, including to allow:
    • A surviving spouse of a deceased servicemember who died while in military service to terminate a lease without penalty within one year of the servicemember’s death;
    • The spouse of a servicemember to elect to use the same residence as the servicemember for the purposes of taxation and voting; and
    • A servicemember to terminate a commercial mobile, telephone exchange, internet access or programming service contract after the service member receives military orders to a location that does not support such contracts.
  • With regard to transition assistance, the Act required the VA to identify and publish a list of community-based programmes operated by non-profit entities that provide transition assistance to members of the Armed Forces who are retired, separated, or discharged.
  • Addressed a variety of VA administrative issues:
    • Specifically, it directs the VA to prohibit employees who have knowingly misused VA purchase cards from serving as purchase card holders or approving officials.
    • It also required the VA to make changes to its information technology systems so that changes to information about a person’s dependent is reviewable and revisable by that person.
    • The VA must submit certain documents to Congress related to the Electronic Health Record Modernisation Programme.
    • In addition, the VA had to develop a standard letter to be provided to individuals who owe debts to the VA and to develop a method by which individuals can elect to receive such notice electronically.
  • Several other changes to a variety of VA programmes, projects, and benefits:
    • Specifically, it authorised specific major medical facility projects and requires VA medical facility directors to submit plans to improve facilities.
  • Expanded eligibility for homeless veterans reintegration programmes to other veterans, including include veterans who are transitioning from being incarcerated and others.
  • The VA must award contracts to multiple regional prime vendors instead of a single nationwide prime vendor for the Medical Surgical Prime Vendor programme.
  • Requires the VA to report on the feasibility and advisability of expanding access to dental care for eligible veterans.
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