House passes various veterans measures

On July 14, the House passed H.R. 1037, the Pilot College Work Study Programs for Veterans Act of 2009, by a vote of 422-0. Introduced by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D.,  the bill directs VA to conduct a five-year pilot project to test the feasibility and advisability of expanding the scope of qualifying veterans’ work-study activities, including positions available on site at educational institutions. This legislation provides an additional avenue for a student veteran to pay for college and places them on par with other students in the same financial situation. Furthermore, these new work-study positions would provide student veterans with much-needed job skills they can use in their professional career.

On July 27, the House passed by voice vote H.R. 3155, the Caregiver Assistance and Resource Enhancement Act, introduced by Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine. The bill would provide support services to family and non-family caregivers of veterans, including educational sessions and one-stop access to support services at a caregiver-support Web site. The legislation would also make counseling and mental-health services available to family and non-family caregivers of veterans.On July 27, the House by  voice vote passed H.R. 2770, the Veterans Nonprofit Research and Education Corporations Enhancement Act of 2009. The measure would modify and update provisions of law relating to nonprofit research and education corporations.

VA nonprofit research corporations (NPCs) are independent entities that provide a flexible funding mechanism for the use of non-VA funds to conduct VA-approved research. Last year, these organizations supported more than 4,000 research and education programs to benefit veterans.

However, 20 years have passed since the law established this public-private partnership. The statute needs to remain relevant for today’s complex research and compliance requirements, and provide VA with the necessary oversight authority to simply safeguard the management of these funds. H.R. 2770 would update and modernize the law to improve the operation and strengthen the oversight of these not-for-profit entities.

A key provision of the bill would allow an NPC to be shared among a number of VA medical centers to reduce administrative costs and to allow smaller NPCs to better achieve the potential to support VA research. This bill also would provide a number of new guidance and policy requirements to improve management of NPCs and simply boost VA’s oversight capability.

On July 28, the House by voice vote passed H.R. 1803, the Veterans Business Center Act of 2009.  This measure would amend the Small Business Act to direct the administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to establish a Veterans Business Center program, headed by a director, to provide entrepreneurial training and counseling to veterans. It would also authorize the SBA director to make grants to each entity designated as a veterans business center. Further, the bill would require each center to use such funds on veteran entrepreneurial development, counseling of veteran-owned small businesses through one-on-one instruction and classes, and providing government procurement assistance to veterans.

In addition, H.R. 1803 would target populations where veterans, including those of operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom exceed the national median. It would also require the SBA director to establish, with respect to veteran-owned small businesses, grant programs for access to capita, procurement assistance and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. Finally, the bill would authorize the SBA director to conduct, every two years, a veterans entrepreneurial development summit.

These measures now go to the Senate for further action.