Congress at Work: Benefits for Veterans, More Money to Counteract Gun Violence and a Higher Loan Limit for Small Business Loans
VA MISSION Act of 2018 (S. 2372) – This bill was introduced by Sen. John Isakson (R-GA) on Feb. 5 and signed into law by the president on June 6. This legislation permits veterans to seek care from private doctors and hospitals. It eliminates the previous rule stating that they could seek care outside the VA only if they live more than 40 miles away from or are unable to get into a VA facility within 30 days. The legislation also :
- Expands the VA Caregiver Program to include veterans (and families) who were active before 9/11
- Creates a new system of community care, enabling veterans to have access to walk-in community clinics outside the VA system
- Provides incentives to promote the use of telemedicine to help treat veterans
- Authorizes resources to modernize VA facilities and hire new doctors, nurses and staff
Veterans Cemetery Benefit Correction Act (H.R. 4910) – Introduced by Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), this bill assures that all veterans and their families receive the burial benefits they have earned regardless of where they are laid to rest. It instructs the U.S. Department of the Interior to provide burial vaults for veterans buried in national cemeteries managed by the National Park Service. Of the 14 national cemeteries controlled by the NPS, two are still active: Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia and Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Tennessee. The bill was introduced on Jan. 30 and signed into law by the president on June 15.
Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 3249) – This bill updates previous legislation to launch a nationwide law enforcement program focused on the reduction of violent crime. The new legislation allocates $50 million for fiscal years 2019-2021 and prioritizes the investigation and prosecution of targeted individuals who have an aggravating or leadership role in criminal organizations. In addition, the bill designates funds to be used for the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, which uses evidenced-based programs to reduce gun crime and gang violence. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) in July 2017 and signed into law by the president on June 18.
Small Business Investment Opportunity Act of 2017 (H.R. 2333) – Sponsored by Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA), this bill amends the Small Business Investment Act of 1958 by increasing the Individual Leverage Limit from $150 million to $175 million. The Individual Leverage Limit stipulates how much capital can be deployed to a small business by a Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program that has only one fund under management. It was last increased in 2009 from $137 million to $150 million. The bill was introduced on May 3, 2017. It has passed in both houses of Congress and is awaiting signature by the president.