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Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of S. 3447, The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010.
I would like to thank Senator Akaka for introducing this critical legislation in the Senate and Representative Walt Minnick of Idaho who introduced the companion bill here in the House and worked diligently to refine the landmark Post-9/11 G.I. Bill enacted in 2008.
I would also like to thank Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Filner, as well as Ranking Member Buyer, for their leadership throughout the 110th and 111th Congresses on this topic in helping ensure that our Nation's veterans have access to the educational benefits they deserve and have earned.
One of the most significant accomplishments of the 110th Congress was the passage of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. That legislation offered the first update and improvement of the Montgomery G.I. Bill in over a generation, and set the Department of Veterans Affairs on the path toward providing today's veterans the educational benefits that befit their service and sacrifice.
Today, by passing S. 3447, this House can take another significant step on the ongoing journey to provide veterans with those improved educational benefits.
During the 111th Congress, I have had the honor to serve our Nation's veterans as Chairman of the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee. As part of my work as chairman, our subcommittee held six hearings on various aspects of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill program. We addressed the VA's long-term strategy to implement the benefit and investigated the reasons behind some of the processing delays that plagued the program when the VA first began paying benefits in August of 2009. In addition, our Subcommittee held an education roundtable and several legislative hearings on bills that sought to improve or expand the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill program.
During these many hearings, it became clear that, while the version of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill program the House passed in the 110th Congress was a positive step, there were also logical, commonsense, bipartisan improvements to be made to the benefit that would allow veterans greater flexibility and better meet their needs.
S. 3447 contains many of those needed improvements.
Allows veterans to use Post-9/11 benefits for Apprenticeship and On-the-Job Training programs.
Provides students pursuing education through distance learning access to the housing stipend given to traditional students.
Credits National Guard members--who are activated under Title 32 orders for national disasters--with Post-9/11 eligibility.
Improves the often confusing state cap system to expand and simplify the yellow ribbon program which allows veterans to receive funds to attend private schools.
Fully covers tuition at any public school.
Is fully offset and cost neutral thanks in part to closing several loopholes in the program.
There is historical precedence for making such changes. The 78th Congress also needed to pass several reforms to the original Montgomery G.I. Bill. Today, the Montgomery G.I. Bill is considered to be one of the most successful veterans programs in the history of our country. By passing S. 3447, we are following in that tradition.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the many Veterans Service Organizations who worked with Senator Akaka, Representative Minnick, and myself on these issues. Groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America were tireless champions on this bill and these issues. The passage of S. 3447 would not be possible without their efforts.
I also want to thank Economic Opportunity Subcommittee Ranking Member John Boozman for his leadership and effort in conducting proper oversight of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and helping to improve it. I am very proud of the bipartisan way that Representative Boozman and I approached Economic Opportunity issues and this topic was no exception. I wish him the best of luck in his work in the Senate on behalf of veterans and the State of Arkansas.
Again, I urge all my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to support this important legislation.
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