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The Veterans Benefit Act

The Veterans Benefit Act

Congress recently enacted a comprehensive bill that is expected to assist veterans across the country. The bill, Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 (HR 3219) improves many veterans’ benefits including allowances for disabled veterans and various veterans’ insurance options. Employment protections are toughened for veterans returning to civilian jobs.
Military members moving out of phone service areas will be able to sever cell phone contracts without penalty. Federal grants will be authorized for job training and counseling, childcare services to homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.

The following highlights become effective when the bill is signed:

  1. Funeral or burying payment for veterans who die in a VA facility or who are eligible to be buried in a VA cemetery will increase from $300 to $700
  2. An automobile assistance allowance for veterans who have lost limbs or have other qualifying disabilities will increase from $11,000 to $18,000
  3. Supplemental insurance for totally disabled veterans will increase from $20,000 to $30,000
  4. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage for totally disabled veterans will be permanently extended from 18 months to two years after the veteran leaves service. This change will be applied retroactively to members who separated from service on or after June 15, 2005
  5. The maximum loan guarantee amount under the Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance program will increase from $90,000 to $150,000 and will increase to $200,000 in 2012
  6. Veterans will be able to increase Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) coverage by $25,000 every five years until reaching age 60

The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) will be modified to allow service members to terminate cell phone contracts with permanent change of station orders (PCS) for a period of 90 days or more to an area not supported by the contract. The SCRA also affords the member a “private right of action” against those who violate their legal rights. Veterans no longer have to wait for enforcement action by a federal agency. Finally, the SCRA now authorizes the Department of Justice to bring a civil action against SCRA violators and those found guilty will have to pay court costs and service members’ legal fees.
Most if not all of the improvements mentioned above will go into effect on or about October 1, 2011.