U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick testified before a House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee to push his bill to boost educational benefits for military servicemen and servicewomen today.
This summer, Minnick introduced the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, which he crafted in response to calls from veterans and veterans groups to improve the landmark the New GI Bill (which went into effect in 2009).
To see Minnick's remarks, click here: http://video.house.gov/cao/hrs/Rep.Minnick.html.
"Just as the WW II GI Bill was upgraded to help educate what is often referred to as the "greatest generation,' we must upgrade and improve the new GI Bill to make it workable so it can fully satisfy the educational needs of a new generation of returning veterans," Minnick told the committee. "As a veteran myself of the Vietnam Era, I have many friends who volunteered to serve in that war so they could go to college after they left the military and with their GI benefits obtain the education necessary to launch successful civilian careers."
Veterans groups, such as the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA) are working hard to make Minnick's bill law.
"IAVA would like to thank Congressman Minnick for sponsoring H.R. 5933. This legislation will help the National Guardsmen cleaning up oil in the gulf and injured veterans forced to take online classes get the diploma they have earned. This bill shows today's veterans that Congress has their back," said IAVA Legislative Associate Tim Embree.
Minnick's veteran education bill will improve several key deficiencies of the New GI Bill:
* Help pay for students studying at vocational schools;
* Grant National Guard members full GI Bill credit for responding to national disasters;
* Provide living allowances for veterans in distance learning programs;
* Simplify tuition and fee programs (Yellow Ribbon Program);
* A $1000 book stipend for active duty students;
* Raises the national baseline tuition to $20,000 a year for private schools and full-tuition for public schools.
Minnick's bill stands to be a historic piece of veterans related legislation, with the goal of honoring our nation's commitment to men and women who have volunteered for military service.
Text of U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick's Remarks
THE U.S. HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
"OVERSIGHT HEARING ON THE POST-9/11 G.I. BILL"
Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Boozman, and members of the subcommittee, I thank you for allowing me to join this hearing today. I would also like to thank our panel of representatives from the American Legion, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Modern Warfare, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. I thank them for their military service and for their insight into what must be done to improve and simplify the new GI Bill which this Congress passed with strong bi-partisan support last year.
I'd like to make a few brief remarks about the importance of this bill, HR 5933, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act.
In 1945 the House Committee on Veterans Affairs conducted a lengthy hearing to review the effectiveness of the first GI Bill which was intended to give returning World War II veterans a college education in return for their service in saving the nation from foreign aggression. As we are doing today, members of that Committee listened to veteran's groups request upgrades to the first version of the bill so that the benefits would be extended to things like vocational schools and correspondence courses.
And now, two generations later, we are doing the same thing today. Just as the WW II GI Bill was upgraded to help educate what is often referred to as the "greatest generation," we must upgrade and improve the new GI Bill to make it workable so it can fully satisfy the educational needs of a new generation of returning veterans. As a veteran myself from the Vietnam Era, I have many friends who volunteered to serve in that war so they could go to college after they left the military and with their GI benefits, obtain the education necessary to launch successful civilian careers.
Having listened to many veteran service organizations and veterans from my home state of Idaho and elsewhere, I have introduced HR 5933 to offer the comprehensive improvements needed to make the new GI Bill fit the needs of this generation's returning veterans.
To provide a brief example, students enrolling in an excellent private college in my district, Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, will directly benefit from this bill in several ways. By raising the maximum tuition cap to $20,000 per year, H.R. 5933 will significantly increase the tuition benefits available for veterans attending Northwest Nazarene--and other excellent, but expensive, private colleges.
The bill will also afford a living allowance to veterans opting to pursue their degrees online - a benefit they were previously denied. It will also reimburse travel costs for distance learners and includes a new $1,000 allowance for increasingly expensive student books, hard copy and electronic. This bill will also make the educational benefits available for those veterans electing to pursue vocational education or other technical training
My offices in Idaho and Washington have listened to stories shared by veterans who have been unable to take full advantage of the new GI Bill's benefits. Benefits Congress intended to confer with last year's legislation. Many others have had their benefits reduced by unnecessarily limiting regulations.
To fulfill the promise we make to today's young people who volunteer to put their lives in harm's way to serve in the military and preserve our way of life, we must provide them with the education they need to after their military service to be successful in today's high tech world. This bill makes the corrections to last year's landmark GI bill required for us to redeem this promise.
In closing I'd like to thank Chairwoman Herseth-Sandlin for her support in this effort and very much look forward to working with her, Chairman Filner, the Ranking Member and my Republican colleagues in moving this bill through to passage in the remaining days of this Congress.
Thank you and I yield back.