The largest expansion of veteran education benefits in nearly a decade has passed the Senate—its last step before being sent to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed into law.
“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career. I thank Congress for quickly approving this bipartisan, bicameral legislative package. This is a great victory for our veterans and their futures,” said Isakson.
“This bipartisan bill will help our nation’s service members transition back to civilian life by opening doors for their future success,” added Sen. Jon Tester D-Mont., the Senate committee’s Ranking Member. “It also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and healthcare that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law,” said Tester.
The widely supported bipartisan legislation will end the 15-year limit for veterans to use their GI Bill, expands full benefits to Purple Heart recipients who have not met the requisite time in service requirements, reinstate benefits to veterans whose schools and programs closed unexpectedly.
“This bill, as currently written, will launch a new era for all who have honorably served in uniform, and for the nation as a whole. It will close current gaps in the existing Post 9/11 GI Bill and guarantee that veterans have access to their hard-earned GI Bill benefits beyond the current 15-year time limit,” said Charles Schmidt, National Commander of the American Legion.
The bill’s namesake is the architect of the original GI Bill and is a past National Commander of the American Legion.
The bill was introduced July 13 in the House and sailed through the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on July 19. The House passed the bill on July 25 with a 405-0 vote.
The Senate first introduced the legislation July 20, and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee voted unanimously to approve the measure on July 26.
However, the bill, which combines 18 pieces of legislation into one, was all but dead in April following a disagreement among veterans service organizations on how to fund the initiative. The expansion of benefits is expected to cost $3 billion over the next 10 years.
The bill enjoys broad support from veterans and education organizations. It has been dubbed the ‘Forever GI Bill due to the elimination of the 15-year time limit many veterans thought of as arbitrary. An amendment added to the legislation also removes the time limit for veterans who were discharged on or after January 1, 2013.