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                                                       Calendar No. 591
105th CONGRESS
  2d Session
                                 S. 730

                          [Report No. 105-339]

     To make retroactive the entitlement of certain Medal of Honor 
  recipients to the special pension provided for persons entered and 
 recorded on the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard Medal of Honor 
                                 Roll.


_______________________________________________________________________


                   IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

                              May 8, 1997

Mr. Kempthorne (for himself, Mr. Craig, Mr. Torricelli, Mr. Thomas, and 
   Mr. Enzi) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and 
             referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs

                           September 21, 1998

  Reported by Mr. Specter, with an amendment and an amendment to the 
                                 title
 [Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert the part printed 
                               in italic]

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
     To make retroactive the entitlement of certain Medal of Honor 
  recipients to the special pension provided for persons entered and 
 recorded on the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard Medal of Honor 
                                 Roll.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

<DELETED>SECTION 1. RETROACTIVITY OF MEDAL OF HONOR SPECIAL 
              PENSION.</DELETED>

<DELETED>    (a) Entitlement.--In the case of Vernon J. Baker, Edward 
A. Carter, Junior, and Charles L. Thomas, who were awarded the Medal of 
Honor pursuant to section 561 of Public Law 104-201 (110 Stat. 2529) 
and whose names have been entered and recorded on the Army, Navy, Air 
Force, and Coast Guard Medal of Honor Roll, the entitlement of those 
persons to the special pension provided under section 1562 of title 38, 
United States Code (and antecedent provisions of law), shall be 
effective as follows:</DELETED>
        <DELETED>    (1) In the case of Vernon J. Baker, for months 
        that begin after April 1945.</DELETED>
        <DELETED>    (2) In the case of Edward A. Carter, Junior, for 
        months that begin after March 1945.</DELETED>
        <DELETED>    (3) In the case of Charles L. Thomas, for months 
        that begin after December 1944.</DELETED>
<DELETED>    (b) Amount.--The amount of the special pension payable 
under subsection (a) for a month beginning before the date of the 
enactment of this Act shall be the amount of the special pension 
provided by law for that month for persons entered and recorded on the 
Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard Medal of Honor Roll (or an 
antecedent Medal of Honor Roll required by law).</DELETED>
<DELETED>    (c) Payment to Next of Kin.--In the case of a person 
referred to in subsection (a) who died before receiving full payment of 
the pension pursuant to this section, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
shall pay the total amount of the accrued pension, upon receipt of 
application for payment within one year after the date of the enactment 
of this Act, to the deceased person's spouse or, if there is no 
surviving spouse, then to the deceased person's children, per stirpes, 
in equal shares.</DELETED>

SECTION 1. INCREASE IN MEDAL OF HONOR SPECIAL PENSION.

    (a) Increase.--Section 1562(a) of title 38, United States Code, is 
amended by striking out ``$400'' and inserting in lieu thereof 
``$600''.
    (b) Annual Adjustment.--That section is further amended--
            (1) by inserting ``(1)'' before ``The Secretary''; and
            (2) by adding at the end the following:
    ``(2) Effective as of December 1 each year, the Secretary shall 
increase the amount of monthly special pension payable under this 
subsection as of November 30 of such year by the same percentage that 
benefit amounts payable under title II of the Social Security Act (42 
U.S.C. 401 et seq.) are increased effective December 1 of such year as 
a result of a determination under section 215(i) of that Act (42 U.S.C. 
415(i)).''.
    (c) Effective Date.--(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the 
amendments made by this section shall take effect on the date of 
enactment of this Act and shall apply to months that begin on or after 
that date.
    (2) The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall not make any adjustment 
under section 1562(a)(2) of title 38, United States Code, as added by 
subsection (b), in 1998.

SEC. 2. ACCELERATED DEATH BENEFIT FOR SERVICEMEMBERS' GROUP LIFE 
              INSURANCE AND VETERANS' GROUP LIFE INSURANCE 
              PARTICIPANTS.

    (a) In General.--(1) Subchapter III of chapter 19 of title 38, 
United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
``Sec. 1980. Option to receive accelerated death benefit
    ``(a) For the purpose of this section, a person shall be considered 
to be terminally ill if the person has a medical prognosis such that 
the life expectancy of the person is less than a period prescribed in 
regulations by the Secretary. The maximum length of such period may not 
exceed 12 months.
    ``(b)(1) The Secretary shall prescribe regulations under which any 
terminally ill person insured under Servicemembers' Group Life 
Insurance or Veterans' Group Life Insurance may elect to receive in a 
lump-sum payment a portion of the face value of the insurance as an 
accelerated death benefit reduced by an amount necessary to assure that 
there is no increase in the actuarial value of the benefit paid, as 
determined in regulations issued by the Secretary.
    ``(2) The Secretary shall prescribe by regulation the maximum 
amount of the accelerated death benefit available under this section 
that the Secretary finds to be administratively practicable and 
actuarially sound, but in no event shall the amount of the benefit 
exceed the amount equal to 50 percent of the face value of the person's 
insurance in force on the date the election of the person to receive 
the benefit is approved.
    ``(3) A person making an election under this section may elect to 
receive an amount that is less than the maximum prescribed by the 
Secretary under paragraph (2). The Secretary shall prescribe in 
regulations the increments in which a reduced amount under this 
paragraph may be elected.
    ``(c) The portion of the face value of insurance which is not paid 
in a lump sum as an accelerated death benefit under this section shall 
remain payable in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
    ``(d) Deductions under section 1969 of this title and premiums 
under section 1977(c) of this title shall be reduced, in a manner 
consistent with the percentage reduction in the face value of the 
insurance as a result of payment of an accelerated death benefit under 
this section, effective with respect to any amounts which would 
otherwise become due on or after the date of payment under this 
section.
    ``(e) The regulations under this section shall include provisions 
regarding--
            ``(1) the form and manner in which an application for an 
        election under this section shall be made; and
            ``(2) the procedures under which any such application shall 
        be considered.
    ``(f)(1) An election to receive a benefit under this section shall 
be irrevocable.
    ``(2) A person may not make more than one election under this 
section, even if the election of the person is to receive less than the 
maximum amount of the benefit available to the person under this 
section.
    ``(g) If a person insured under Servicemembers' Group Life 
Insurance elects to receive a benefit under this section and the 
person's Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance is thereafter converted 
to Veterans' Group Life Insurance as provided in section 1968(b) of 
this title, the amount of the benefit paid under this section shall 
reduce the amount of Veterans' Group Life Insurance available to the 
person under section 1977(a) of this title.
    ``(h) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the amount of the 
accelerated death benefit received by a person under this section shall 
not be considered income or resources for purposes of determining 
eligibility for or the amount of benefits under any Federal or 
federally-assisted program.''.
    (2) The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 19, title 38, 
United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to 
section 1979 the following:

``1980. Option to receive accelerated death benefit.''.
    (b) Conforming Amendments.--Section 1970(g) of title 38, United 
States Code, is amended in the first sentence--
            (1) by striking out ``Payments of benefits'' and inserting 
        in lieu thereof ``Any payments''; and
            (2) by inserting ``an insured or'' after ``or on account 
        of,''.
    (c) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall take 
effect 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act.
    (d) Regulations.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall prescribe 
the regulations required by section 1980 of title 38, United States 
Code, as added by subsection (a), in accordance with the provisions of 
section 553 of title 5, United States Code.

SEC. 3. COMMEMORATION OF INDIVIDUALS WHOSE REMAINS ARE UNAVAILABLE FOR 
              INTERMENT.

    (a) Headstones or Markers for Certain Members of the Armed Forces 
and Spouses.--Subsection (b) of section 2306 of title 38, United States 
Code, is amended--
            (1) in the matter preceding paragraph (1), by striking out 
        ``any veteran--'' and inserting in lieu thereof ``any veteran, 
        any individual who dies in the active military, naval, or air 
        service, and any spouse or surviving spouse (including an 
        unremarried surviving spouse whose subsequent remarriage was 
        terminated by death or divorce) of a veteran or any such 
        individual--''; and
            (2) in paragraph (2) by striking out ``the veteran's'' and 
        inserting in lieu thereof ``the individual's''.
    (b) Alternative Commemoration for Certain Spouses.--That section is 
further amended by adding at the end the following:
    ``(e) Where the Secretary has furnished a memorial headstone or 
marker under subsection (b) for purposes of commemorating a veteran, or 
has furnished a headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of a veteran 
under subsection (a), the Secretary shall, where feasible, add a 
memorial inscription to such headstone or marker in lieu of furnishing 
a memorial headstone or marker under subsection (b) for the veteran's 
surviving spouse.''.
    (c) Memorial Areas.--Section 2403(b) of that title is amended to 
read as follows:
    ``(b) Under regulations prescribed by the Secretary, group 
memorials may be erected to honor the memory of groups of individuals 
referred to in subsection (a), and appropriate memorial headstones and 
markers may be erected to honor the memory of individuals referred to 
in subsection (a) and section 2306(b) of this title.''.
    (d) Applicability.--The amendments made by subsections (a) and (b) 
shall apply to deaths occurring after the date of enactment of this 
Act.

SEC. 4. FLEXIBILITY IN DOCKETING AND HEARING OF APPEALS BY BOARD OF 
              VETERANS' APPEALS.

    (a) Postponement To Afford Hearing.--Subsection (a) of section 7107 
of title 38, United States Code, is amended--
            (1) in paragraph (1), by inserting ``paragraph (2) and'' 
        after ``Except as provided in'';
            (2) by redesignating paragraph (2) as paragraph (3); and
            (3) by inserting after paragraph (1) the following new 
        paragraph (2):
    ``(2) A case referred to in paragraph (1) may be postponed for 
later consideration and determination if such postponement is necessary 
to afford the appellant a hearing.''.
    (b) Scheduling of Field Hearings.--Subsection (d) of that section 
is amended--
            (1) in paragraph (2), by striking out ``in the order'' and 
        all that follows through the end and inserting in lieu thereof 
        ``in accordance with the place of the case on the docket under 
        subsection (a) relative to other cases on the docket for which 
        hearings are scheduled to be held within that area.''; and
            (2) by striking out paragraph (3) and inserting in lieu 
        thereof the following new paragraph (3):
    ``(3) A hearing to be held within an area served by a regional 
office of the Department may, for cause shown, be advanced on motion 
for an earlier hearing. Any such motion shall set forth succinctly the 
grounds upon which it is based and may not be granted unless the case 
involves interpretation of law of general application affecting other 
claims or for other sufficient cause shown.''.
    (c) Applicability.--The amendment made by subsection (b)(1) shall 
apply to requests for hearing received by the Department of Veterans 
Affairs on or after the date of enactment of this Act.

SEC. 5. COMMENCEMENT OF PERIOD FOR NOTICES OF APPEAL WITH COURT OF 
              VETERANS APPEALS.

    Section 7266(a)(1) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by 
striking out ``notice of the decision is mailed pursuant to section 
7104(e) of this title'' and inserting in lieu thereof ``a copy of the 
decision is mailed or sent to the claimant's authorized representative, 
or mailed to the claimant if the claimant has no authorized 
representative, pursuant to section 7104(e) of this title''.

SEC. 6. ASSESSMENT OF EFFECTIVENESS OF INSURANCE AND SURVIVOR BENEFITS 
              PROGRAMS FOR SURVIVORS OF VETERANS WITH SERVICE-CONNECTED 
              DISABILITIES.

    (a) Report on Assessment.--Not later than May 1, 1999, the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the Committees on 
Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and the House of Representatives a 
report containing an assessment of the adequacy of the insurance and 
survivor benefits programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs 
(including the payment of dependency and indemnity compensation under 
chapter 13 of title 38, United States Code) in meeting the needs of 
survivors of veterans with service-connected disabilities, including 
survivors of catastrophically disabled veterans who cared for such 
veterans at great personal sacrifice.
    (b) Report Elements.--The report on the assessment under subsection 
(a) shall include the following:
            (1) An identification of the characteristics that make a 
        disabled veteran catastrophically disabled.
            (2) A statement of the number of veterans with service-
        connected disabilities who participate in insurance programs 
        administered by the Department.
            (3) A statement of the number of survivors of veterans with 
        service-connected disabilities who receive dependency and 
        indemnity compensation under chapter 13 of title 38, United 
        States Code.
            (4) An assessment of the participation of veterans with 
        service-connected disabilities in the insurance programs 
        administered by the Department on the effectiveness and 
        administration of such programs.
            (5) Data on veterans with service-connected disabilities 
        that are relevant to the insurance programs administered by the 
        Department, and an assessment how such data might be used to 
        better determine the cost above standard premium rates of 
        insuring veterans with service-connected disabilities under 
        such programs.
            (6) An analysis of various methods of accounting and 
        providing for the additional cost of insuring the lives of 
        veterans with service-connected disabilities under the 
        insurance programs administered by the Department.

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