Congress Continues Effort to Fix GI Bill
The House Sub-Committee on Economic Opportunity heard testimony September 23 from representatives from several veterans’ organizations about ways to improve the current Post-9/11 GI Bill.
The hearing focused on House Bill H.R. 5933, which mirrors the Senate version of the Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 (the “New GI Bill 2.0”).
Like previous hearings held in the Senate, this one centered on major fixes and unintended impacts of the current GI Bill. All members and witnesses present at the hearing support the concept of fixing the GI Bill.
Testimony and questions from committee members indicate that the big issue moving forward will be how to pay for the changes and ensure they are cost-neutral.
Tim Embree, a policy associate for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, testified that costs for a new bill could be offset by reducing expenses in other program areas. For example, basing housing stipends on a student’s school enrollment status (part-time, half-time, or full-time) could save over one billion dollars.
Following is a quick list of some proposed changes/fixes:
- Guard members called to active duty since 9–11 by the President or Secretary of Defense under Title 10, Title 32, and those who serve full-time under the Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) program, would be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
- Benefits would fully cover tuition and fees for all in-state degree programs, including doctorates or graduate degrees.
- Payments to private or non-state colleges would be simplified by using a $20,000 cap across all states. It would be adjusted every August 1 to reflect nationwide changes in education costs.
- Online students with more than “half-time” status could receive 50% of the national average monthly living allowance.
- Post-9/11 students on active duty and their enrolled spouses would qualify for the $1000 annual book stipend
- Veterans enrolled in a qualified on-the-job (OJT) or apprenticeship training would be paid 100% of the applicable living allowance for the first six months. Allowances would be scaled to 80 percent for the second six months, 60 percent for the third six months, 40 percent for the fourth period, and 20 percent for any subsequent six-month periods of training.
- GI Bill benefits would be available to veterans seeking vocational training.