PROPOSAL WITH BIPARTISAN CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT WOULD BOOST COLLEGE AID FOR VETERANS
House Republicans and Democrats unveiled legislation Thursday that would provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade, removing a 15-year time limit to tap into benefits and increasing money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.
The bipartisan agreement is a sweeping effort to fill coverage gaps in the post-9/11 GI Bill amid a rapidly changing job market. Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill gives veterans added flexibility to enroll in college later in life. Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology and engineering courses.
For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.
The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans’ group, said the plan would mean a “new era” for those who served in uniform.
“Years from now, veterans who were unable to attend institutions of higher learning during their military service or immediately afterward will be able to earn degrees and begin rewarding careers that can lead our economy,” said Charles E. Schmidt, national commander of the American Legion. The group drafted the original GI Bill of Rights in 1944 that created the comprehensive education benefit for World War II and future veterans.
The bill’s lead sponsor is Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He said he would schedule a committee vote next week. The No. 2 House leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the House would act quickly to help veterans. —AP