The Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 (Isakson-Roe Act) was signed into law in January of 2021. This week, we’re continuing our examination of the many ways the Act improves the benefits and care Veterans receive from VA by looking at the burial needs, education opportunities, and other benefits in the law.
Expands efforts to deliver timely and accurate education benefits
The law impacts some of the benefits Veterans receive. The Isakson-Roe Act includes updates to the GI Bill enrollment process, entitlement opportunities and substantial changes to VA oversight of GI Bill approved schools.
Educational and vocational benefits are key to helping Veterans transition from military to civilian life. One such benefit that has been incredibly successful is the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses, or VET TEC.
The program is designed to help Veterans gain high-tech computer experience to start or advance careers in the industry. It boasts over 3,400 graduates with an average annual salary of over $60,000. As an acknowledgement of the program’s positive impact, the Isakson-Roe Act has increased annual funding from $15 million to $45 million.
Other Veterans benefits expanded by the Act include eligibility for educational scholarships and Veteran entitlement for the GI Bill.
Broadens home loan benefits to Veterans impacted by natural disaster
The law goes beyond improving educational benefits by also expanding access to the VA home loan benefit, while reducing financial burden to Veterans whose homes were damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster.
The Act expands eligibility for the VA home loan guaranty to members of the National Guard who have been activated to perform full-time National Guard duty.
The law allows VA home loan borrowers whose residences were substantially damaged or destroyed by a federally declared natural disaster to be charged a first-time use funding fee on a VA-guaranteed loan rather than a subsequent use funding fee.
The new loan must be for repairs or construction and be obtained within 3 years of the date that the home was damaged or destroyed.
Finally, the law revises the timeframe of eligibility for Vietnam War Era Veterans, who served in the Republic of Vietnam, expanding the start of the qualifying era from Feb. 28, 1961, to Nov. 1, 1955.
“I’m happy to report that one year after enactment, the Act has improved access to benefits, and enhanced the programs and quality of care Veterans receive from VA in a multitude of ways, especially education, home loan and burial benefits.” Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits Mike Frueh
First ever committee on Tribal and Indian Affairs
Meeting the burial needs of Veterans and their family members
As part of VA’s efforts to ensure it cares for the nation’s Veterans, VA has created its first-ever Advisory Committee on Tribal and Indian Affairs. The committee will provide advice and guidance to the VA secretary on all matters relating to Indian tribes, tribal organizations, Native Hawaiian organizations and Native American Veterans.
The group offers an unprecedented voice in how programs, policies and services may be delivered, providing for the approximately 160,00 American Indians, Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives Veterans across the country.
In just one year, the Isakson-Roe Act has allowed for significant progress toward cutting down barriers and addressing Veterans’ unique concerns. The Act serves as a clear practice of VA’s on-going commitment to ensuring Veterans have access to the best care and benefits available.
Increases support of Veteran burial needs
The Isakson-Roe Act enacted provisions for the National Cemetery Administration to improve VA’s ability to meet the burial needs of more Veterans and their family members.
Increased monetary allowances will cover transportation expenses for eligible Veterans to be interred in VA grant-funded State and Tribal Veterans cemeteries. Beneficiaries of eligible Veterans can receive increased payments for funeral expenses and plot allowances.
Families can also receive reimbursement for privately purchased outer burial receptacles for qualifying interments in VA grant-funded State and Tribal Veterans’ cemeteries.
Increased monetary support is just one way the Isakson-Roe Act is reaching more Veterans and their families. VA is also implementing program expansion to inter eligible decedents in VA grant-funded county Veterans’ cemeteries.
“The National Cemetery Administration honors the legacy of Sen. Johnny Isakson and his dedication to improving programs that support Veteran burial needs. Burial and funeral allowances were expanded to assist our Veteran community, and the Act authorized innovative ways to commemorate Veteran service and recognize their lost loved ones.” Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Matt Quinn
Accomplishes NCA’s mission to honor Veterans with lasting tributes
We have increased funding for grantee-cemetery operation and maintenance, and can authorize funding to train grantee-cemetery employees.
For families that do not opt for burial but wish to hold on to a beloved Veteran’s cremated remains, VA can furnish a commemorative plaque or cremation urn.
VA can include on an eligible Veteran’s government-furnished headstone or marker inscription information for the Veteran’s spouse or dependent child.
These additional benefits and services accomplish NCA’s mission to honor Veterans and their eligible family members with final resting places and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our nation.
Here’s the first blog post on the accomplishments of the Act.