Senator McCaskill Introduces Bill to Increase Student Aid for Veterans
As the cost of college tuition continues to skyrocket, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today introduced a bill to help veterans receive their fair share of federal financial aid. The Student Veteran Financial Aid Fairness Act would ensure service-connected education benefits do not count against veterans when calculating the amount of addition financial aid they are eligible to receive.
Because veteran education benefits have not kept up with the rising cost of college tuition, many veterans find themselves in need of additional aid to pay for their education. McCaskill's legislation would close a loophole in federal law that reduces the amount of outside student aid veterans are qualified to receive because of their service-connected education benefits.
"Our men and women in uniform should be rewarded for their sacrifices, not punished. For many veterans, joining the military was their best opportunity to afford a college education. Yet, after years of service, they're still unable to do so," McCaskill said. "It's terrible to think that GI Bill benefits don't go far enough these days to cover tuition costs. It's even worse that they actually hurts veterans' chances of receiving the additional federal assistance they need to make up for it."
Veterans applying to college today are more likely than ever to be married, supporting a family, and having fewer resources to pay for college, and veterans often apply for federal student aid to cover their remaining tuition costs. However, G.I. Bill funds are currently considered income in their application for federal aid, meaning they are eligible for less federal aid than average applicants. McCaskill's bill would exclude service-connected education benefits from their filing for Federal Student Aid. As a result, servicemen and women would see an increase in the amount of funding they can receive when applying for Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, the Federal Work-Study Program and some Specialized Loan Forgiveness Programs.
An additional measure in the bill would allow all Reserve and National Guard members to file as independents' on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Independents' are not required to disclose parental income and are thus generally eligible for higher levels of aid. Currently, anyone who has served an active duty tour, including National Guard or Reserve members, can file as an independent. McCaskill's bill will change this to include all National Guard and Reserve members. McCaskill was made aware of this loophole during a visit to the Missouri National Guard State Conference in April of 2007.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Harry Mitchell of Arizona.