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June 29, 1999

H.R. 2280 - Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 1999
(Rep. Stump (R) AZ and 22 cosponsors)

The Administration has no objection to House passage of H.R. 2280, which contains several modifications to veterans compensation, memorial affairs, and housing programs. In particular, the Administration strongly supports the bill's provision for a cost-of-living increase for the beneficiaries of veterans' disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation.

The Administration, however, has concerns about several provisions of the bill and will work with the Senate to address them. In particular, the Administration is concerned that H.R. 2280 would:

  • Authorize the use of "special borrowing authority" for the World War II Memorial. Although the Administration strongly supports extension of the authority to establish the memorial, it opposes the bill's provision for "special borrowing authority" because it would undercut the solicitation of private contributions, thereby hindering, rather than expediting, the completion of the memorial.

  • Establish a blanket presumption of service-connection for bronchiolo-alveolar cancer in radiation-exposed veterans. The Administration opposes such presumptions and believes that the better policy is to evaluate claims based on the merits of each individual case.

  • Establish a problematic system for recalling and compensating retired judges of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. For example, the Administration is concerned that the bill would provide for post-employment restrictions on judges that are inconsistent with Executive branch policies and Government ethics principles generally.

  • Extend permanently Selected Reservists' eligibility for housing loans. The Administration supports this benefit, but believes a permanent extension is premature, because current authority does not expire until September 30, 2003, and an evaluation of VA's home loan guaranty program has not been completed.

Pay-As-You-Go Scoring

H.R. 2280 would affect direct spending and receipts; therefore, it is subject to the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) requirement of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. OMB's preliminary scoring estimate indicates that the bill would result in net budget costs of $72 million in FY 2000 and a total of $85 million during FYs 2000-2004. The bill does not contain provisions to offset fully the increased direct spending. Therefore, if the bill were enacted, its net budget costs could contribute to a sequester of mandatory programs.

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