Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) August 14, 2017 - House lawmakers are looking to expand the GI Bill to improve education benefits for veterans. The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in July advanced a new bipartisan bill, which marks the largest expansion of college aid for veterans in a decade.
The legislation combines 18 different House bills and around 30 provisions submitted by Democrats and Republicans. One of its key improvements involves eliminating the current 15-year time limit for veterans to use their education benefits upon returning from service. It would also boost aid for National Guard and Reserve members, Purple Heart recipients and surviving dependents.
Additional payments would be given to veterans if they complete courses in engineering, computer science and technology. The legislation would also reimburse veterans whose colleges abruptly close. The protection was added following the shutdown of for-profit college giant ITT Tech, which affected thousands of individuals.
“The GI Bill is an important benefit that many former service members rely on as they transition back to civilian life. Its expansion would help those who are not ready to immediately enroll in college after their service,” commented Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “The legislation accommodates the different life choices that veterans make by allowing them the flexibility to continue their higher education and earn degrees later in life.”
The cost of the updated GI Bill is estimated to be in excess of $100 billion over the next decade. To fund the expansion, the proposal calls for reducing the housing allowances of GI Bill recipients to match those of active-duty service members. People currently using GI Bill benefits would not be affected by the change.
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., sponsored the bill. Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the House would act quickly to help veterans. The legislation’s approval means veterans could access the education benefits next year. According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a nonprofit organization, the new benefits could change the lives of hundreds of thousands of former service members.
During a House committee hearing, a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) undersecretary told lawmakers he thought information technology would be one of the biggest challenges in implementing the legislation. Curtis Coy said the VA’s IT system would “require some degree of changes” in order to be able to administer the updated benefits.
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