By Matt Saintsing
The largest expansion of veteran education benefits in a decade was unveiled Thursday—removing a 15-year time limit to use benefits and increasing funds for those serving in the Reserves and National Guard, among other changes.
A deal brokered between House Republicans and Democrats is a sweeping effort to adapt the post-9/11 GI Bill to the rapidly changing job market. Student veterans pursuing studies in science, technology, and engineering will receive additional payments.
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 provides veterans the opportunity to use educational benefits later on in life, as well as fixing problems that advocates say hurt those who deserve their benefits the most.
The new bill expands full educational benefits for all Purple Heart recipients. Veterans who received the Purple Heart and who were subsequently medically retired may not have reached the requisite time in service to receive full GI bill benefits. This bill closes that loophole.
“If anybody deserves to receive these benefits, it’s some who gave blood to this nation. That included in here makes good sense and we appreciate the advocacy”, said Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn), ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs committee.
Additionally, this bill restores benefits for those who lost them due to their school closing down permanently. ITT Tech and other for-profit institutions collected millions of dollars in GI Bill benefits only to leave thousands of student veterans stranded and unable to use their full educational benefits.
This bill expands the Yellow Ribbon Program, which provides funds for attending private colleges to surviving family members of service members who are killed in action.
This bill showcases the productive and bipartisan environment on Capitol Hill recently.
“We applaud the House for putting together a bill that addresses so many of our veterans’ and surviving families’ most urgent needs in the Post-9/11 GI Bill,” said Sens. Johnny Isakson and Jon Tester, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, in a statement.
Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate to further enhance the post-9/11 GI Bill.