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Clinton Improves Vets' Benefits

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 1998 – President Clinton signed a new law this month improving veterans' benefits and programs.

The Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998 expresses the nation's continued gratitude to America's veterans, the president said after signing the legislation Nov. 11.

"This nation owes no greater debt of gratitude than to our veterans, particularly those who have suffered disability or who made the supreme sacrifice while defending our freedoms," Clinton said.

Under the new bill, about 2.3 million disabled veterans and 300,000 surviving family members of military men and women whose deaths were service related will get a 1.3 percent increase in compensation payments starting Dec. 1. Veterans receiving military pensions and Social Security recipients will also receive the same pay increase, Clinton noted.

The bill extends the existing authority for providing priority health care to Gulf War veterans through Dec. 31, 2001. Outreach efforts are enhanced and the public's access to federally sponsored research is broadened under the new legislation.

The bill also bolsters efforts by the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services to study and treat Gulf War veterans' illnesses in a "scientifically sound and effective manner," Clinton said.

The bill expands veterans options for on-the-job training programs and for meeting requirements for Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits. It also reinforces and expands veterans rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re- employment Rights Act to return to a civilian job after military service.

Pensions paid to Medal of Honor recipients will increase from $400 to $600 a month. Veterans with terminal illnesses will now be allowed to receive part of their life insurance benefits as "living benefits" to help meet medical and living expenses during their time of special need.

One provision of the bill restructures and streamlines VA housing loan operations. Another provides new VA scholarships for professionals recruited for certain hard- to-fill healthcare positions. The bill also expands a variety of benefits affecting memorial affairs, housing, construction and facilities matters.

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