Chairman of Senate Vets Committee to introduce comprehensive GI Bill legislation

Chairman Akaka of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs started his opening statement with some good news during a hearing on the implementation of the new GI Bill. He announced, “I plan, before Memorial Day, to introduce legislation to upgrade the new GI Bill.” Ranking Member Burr followed up by saying, “I want to mention how pleased I am to be working with you on a draft bill to make technical changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. I believe that draft will be a useful starting point in discussing how we may be able to improve this program for our nation’s veterans and their families.”

IAVA is pleased to see such strong bipartisan support from the leadership-something we know will be critical to securing a streamlined and simplified new GI Bill. IAVA has been working with this committee, other veterans groups and student veterans across the country since last year to develop legislation that will include the tens of thousands of student veterans left out of the new GI Bill and ensure that all student veterans receive their benefits in a timely manner.

In order to upgrade the new GI Bill, IAVA and The Military Coalition (TMC) recommend the following key improvements:

A. Valuable Job Training: Grant Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to veterans who enroll in vocational programs, apprenticeships and On The Job training (OJT) because a veteran studying to become EMT or a mechanic is denied the generous new GI Bill.

B. Full Credit For Full Time Service: Authorize the new GI Bill for Title 32 Active Guard Reservists (AGRs) because a National Guardsman working full-time will be denied the new GI Bill while his Reservist counterpart is eligible for the full GI Bill.

C. Fairness For Disabled Veterans: Provide living allowances for full-time distance learners based on the zip code in which the veteran lives because a disabled veteran taking online classes is currently denied the means to support himself.

D. Untangle The Yellow Ribbon Program: The tuition benefit is so confusing that it would give a tax lawyer a headache to decipher. We must simplify the benefit by fully covering the cost of tuition at any public school, while setting a baseline for the Yellow Ribbon program for all private and graduate schools.