The Veterans Benefits and Transition Act

Updated: April 15, 2021

In this Article

    The Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018 was passed by the 115th Congress on Dec. 31, 2018, when the measure became Public Law No: 115-407.

    This legislation provides needed relief for students attending classes on the GI Bill, requires a VA-provided proof-of-income for GI Bill students who are looking for housing, and requires standardized VA indebtedness information for those who may be required to repay a debt to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Breakdown Of the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018

    Veterans Benefits & Transition Act There are also provisions for memorial benefits affecting veterans and immediate family members. This legislation was created to improve the quality of life for veterans and includes seven “Titles” with individual sections containing new or modified regulations:

    Title I: Education

    Title II: Memorial Affairs

    Title III: Civil Relief

    Title IV: Transition Assistance

    Title V: Departmental Administration

    Title VI: Medical Facilities

    Title VII: Other Matters

    Title I Education Benefits

    There are some basic provisions under Title I of the Act you should know including:

    • Includes “certain additional periods of active duty service” related to the suspension of charges “to entitlement during periods of suspended participation in Department of Veterans Affairs veteran rehabilitation programs.”
    • There is a requirement for “monthly housing stipend information under Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program”–that documentation can help GI Bill students find housing and prove income from the GI Bill housing stipend.
    • Disapproval of “certain courses of education that do not permit individuals to attend or participate in courses pending payment.” This is a change in the GI Bill program that requires schools to create or continue to use admissions policy that does not impose financial penalties for the student when there is a payment delay of education benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    This rule applies when payments have not been received within 90 days of the beginning of the term. This rule does NOT apply when the student owes additional funds beyond the amount of the VA benefits payments.

    • The amount of the monthly housing stipend for the “high technology pilot program” is now based on the location of the campus where the student attends classes.
    • The Act clarifies the rules for using VA benefits for independent study programs at institutions that are not technically classified as “institutions of higher learning.” This provision is aimed at the Forever GI Bill and provides increased flexibility to use GI Bill funds for independent study. It also ensures “that flexibility extends to all GI Bill programs and not just the Post-9/11 GI Bill.”

    Title II: Memorial Affairs

    Under Title II, there are expanded VA memorial benefits for spouses and children of vets who are buried in tribal cemeteries. The VA has expanded authority “to provide headstones and markers to eligible spouses and dependents in tribal veterans cemeteries.”

    Another change in this area requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to “inter deceased spouses and dependents of active duty servicemembers” in national cemeteries–a requirement that lasts until Sept. 30, 2024.

    Title III: Civil Relief

    Civil relief in this case includes provisions for military spouses who need to terminate leases after the service member has died on active service. The mechanism for this required an amendment to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or SCRA.

    That isn’t the only area of the SCRA to be amended by the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018. Under Civil Relief we also find the following measures:

    Tax-related state-of-residence rules for military spouses: SCRA is now amended “to allow the spouse of a servicemember to elect to use the same state of residence as the servicemember for state or local tax purposes” without inquiry to when or where the couple were married.

    Voting Address Rules For Military Spouses: the spouse of a servicemember now has the option to choose the same residence as the military member for voting on the state or local level. This rule applies even when the couple is out-of-state due to military duty requirements.

    Termination Of Service Contracts: servicemembers now have the option under amended SCRA guidelines to terminate “a commercial mobile, telephone exchange, Internet access, or multichannel video programming service contract” any time after the soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, or Coast Guard member gets military orders to relocate “for at least 90 days to a location that does not support such service contract.”

    Title IV: Transition Assistance

    This section is for VA internal use involving studies of community-based military transition assistance programs. It permits the VA as a government agency to “contract with a non-Federal entity” to study transition training at the community agency level.

    Title V, Title VI, and Title VII

    The information contained in Title V through Title VII have more to do with the inner workings of the Department of Veterans Affairs than with changes to veteran benefits and program operation you should know about. There are some exceptions, including the following:

    • For some VA contracting requirements, the Department of Veterans Affairs is now, thanks to the Act, allowed to make certain purchases up to $10,000 using a government purchase card instead of awarding a contract to a third-party vendor. However, VA acknowledges the elevated risk of abuse for these cards. The rules of the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018 state that the VA Secretary has the authority “to revoke the purchase card or purchase card approval authority from any employee who is found to have knowingly misused it.”
    • The VA is now required to allow the updating of depending information in the VA system via electronic means.
    • The VA must partner with Veteran Service Organizations to develop a new “standard format for notification letters” that explain a veteran’s indebtedness to the VA where applicable, why the debt exists, and “clearly explain” how the veteran can either dispute or pay the debt.

    The Act also expands and clarifies who qualifies for assistance under the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program; the purpose of this is to “ensure that all recently homeless veterans and participants in other VA and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) homeless prevention and grant programs would be eligible for services under this program.”

    Affected programs and individuals include:

    • Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH)
    • Supportive Services for Veteran Families
    • HUD-VASH for Native American veterans
    • Services for veterans transitioning from incarceration
    • Recently homeless veterans

    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News


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