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Witness Testimony of Mr. Jack McCoy, Veterans Benefits Administration, Associate Deputy Under Secretary for Policy and Program Management, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on three bills under consideration today.

H.R. 585

H.R. 585 would remove the geographic requirement for eligibility for retroactive Traumatic Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) benefits.  It would extend eligibility for retroactive benefits for traumatic injury protection coverage under TSGLI to all members of the uniformed services who sustain a qualifying loss from a traumatic injury between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005, regardless of geographic location.   

Section 1032 of Public Law No. 109-13 authorized the payment of TSGLI to any servicemember insured under Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance who sustains a serious traumatic injury that results in certain losses.  Under section 1032(c) of Public Law 109-13, TSGLI also was authorized for members of the uniformed services who incurred a qualifying loss between October 7, 2001, and December 1, 2005, provided the loss was a direct result of injuries incurred in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).  Section 501(b)(1) of the Veterans’ Housing Opportunity and Benefits Improvement Act of 2006, Public Law 109-233, subsequently narrowed eligibility for retroactive TSGLI to apply only to servicemembers who suffered scheduled losses as a direct result of a traumatic injury incurred in the theater of operations for OEF or OIF beginning on October 7, 2001, and ending at the close of November 30, 2005.  Section 1 of H.R. 585 would amend section 501(b)(1) by extending eligibility for retroactive TSGLI to servicemembers whose injuries occurred between October 7, 2001, and December 1, 2005, outside of the OEF or OIF theater of operations. 

VA estimates that enactment of section 1 would result in 695 additional TSGLI claims and would cost $47.7 million.  This estimate is based on the assumption that section 1 of this bill would authorize TSGLI payments for claims pending on the date of enactment of the provision as well as for claims for retroactive TSGLI that were previously denied because the servicemember's injury occurred outside of the OEF or OIF theater of operations.

VA defers to the Department of Defense (DoD) on the merits of the proposed bill, because DoD will bear the costs associated with its enactment. 

H.R. 156

Chapter 13 of title 38, United States Code, currently provides for the payment of dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) to survivors of former prisoners of war (POWs) who died after September 30, 1999, and who were rated as totally disabled due to service-connected disability for at least one year immediately preceding death.  H.R. 156 would amend chapter 13 to authorize payment of DIC to the survivors of former POWs who died on or before September 30, 1999, under the same eligibility conditions applicable to payment of DIC benefits to the survivors of POWs who died after September 30, 1999. 

We regret that due to the short notice we received concerning this hearing we do not yet have cleared views and estimates concerning H.R. 156, but we will be providing them for the record.

H.R. 704

Section 1(a) of H.R. 704 would amend eligibility requirements for certain survivor benefits for remarried surviving spouses.  Under current law, a surviving spouse who remarries is not eligible for DIC, medical care, educational assistance, or housing loans based on a prior marriage to a deceased veteran unless the surviving spouse remarries after age 57 (after age 55 in the case of medical care).  Section 1(a) of H.R. 704 would reduce from 57 to 55 the age after which a surviving spouse may remarry without losing eligibility for DIC, educational assistance, and housing loans.  Section 1(b) would specify that this amendment shall take effect on the later of the first day of the first month that begins after the date of enactment of this bill or the first day of the fiscal year that begins in the calendar year of enactment of the amendment.  Section 1(c) would prohibit the payment of any benefit based on the amendment for any period before the effective date of the amendment.  Section 1(d) would permit an individual who remarried before the bill’s enactment and after age 57 to apply for reinstatement of benefits before the end of the one-year period beginning on the date of enactment.

We regret that due to the short notice we received concerning this hearing we do not yet have cleared views and estimates concerning H.R. 704, but will be providing them for the record.

This concludes my statement, Mr. Chairman.  I would be happy now to entertain any questions you or the other members of the Committee may have.