In his book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, author Sebastian Junger addresses the difficulties that our country's warfighters face when they return home from service: an individualized society, far different than the close communal bonds of the brotherhood and sisterhood of war.
One way to address this, and to help ensure a seamless transition from active duty to civilian life for those who have fought for us, is easy access to earned education benefits. These benefits are essential to helping veterans unlock opportunities, create a community, and find purpose in life after service.
Today, to help ensure education benefits are readily available to those who have earned them, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee introduced the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017.
This bill would make several major reforms to modernize the GI Bill, including:
- Increased access for Guardsmen and Reservists. This legislation includes a bill that I introduced to help make educational benefits and opportunities more readily available for men and women serving in the National Guard and Reserve components of our Armed Forces.
- Lifetime access. For the first time in the history of the GI Bill, new servicemembers will be able to use the benefits throughout their lifetime (current GI Bill benefits expire 15 years after a veteran's last discharge).
- Simplified and reduced administrative costs. The bill would simplify the benefits for future servicemembers by consolidating, over time, the GI Bill into a single program - reducing VA administrative costs. The bill would also authorize funding for IT updates to streamline GI Bill claims processing.
- STEM degrees. An extra academic year’s worth of Post-9/11 GI benefits is available for over 3,300 veterans (per year) to help them finish a STEM degree. It also creates a pilot program that would pay for veterans to take certain high technology courses (coding boot camps, IT certifications, etc.) and would also provide living stipends to veterans.
Increasing accessibility to the educational opportunities that the GI Bill provides helps ensure the men and women who have worn this nation's uniform receive the benefits they have earned, and are equipped with the education they need to be successful.
I'll be sure to keep you updated as this bill moves through the House.
Yours in service,
P.S. Today I joined Chairman Roe and other members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee to talk about the importance of modernizing the GI Bill. Watch here.