House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) announced that the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve two bills to strengthen benefits and services for America's veterans and their families.
S. 3447 (Akaka) builds on the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which was enacted in June 2008 and provides education benefits for veterans at World War II levels, recognizes the sacrifice of our 1.8 million Reserve and National Guard troops by better aligning their educational benefits with their length of service, and also allows unused education benefits to be transferred to spouses and children. S. 3447 seeks to rectify many of the ongoing technical concerns that were highlighted after passage of the bill. First, the bill would address a major shortfall expressed by the veterans' community by those who would prefer to attend a non-college degree program that would meet their professional goals. This bill seeks to expand on the eligible programs of education to include apprenticeship and on-the job training, in addition to flight training and non-college degree programs of education. This legislation would also provide veterans with a housing stipend when taking courses strictly through long distance learning and would allow student veterans to use their education benefits for pay for national tests, and licensure and certification tests. Finally, this bill seeks to recognize a families' role of caring for an injured veteran by extending the period that a family member can use his or her education benefits.
"Returning veterans have shown their commitment to our country by their service and it is important to provide to our most dedicated citizens an opportunity to receive the education and training they missed while serving in the military," said Chairman Filner. "Providing veterans with the means to better themselves through educational opportunities has been a goal of this nation since 1944, when the first G.I. Bill of Rights laid a foundation for veterans to have the support necessary to readjust to civilian life. The changes approved by the House today will help make more veterans part of the economic recovery. Again, this Congress, under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, has come together to fully invest in the future of our heroes and support those who have borne the heaviest burdens of war."
S. 3860 (McCaskill) addresses recent reports which identified a number of troubling problems at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). The bill requires reports to Congress on the management of ANC, including gravesite discrepancies, the management and oversight of contracts, and the implementation of recent Army directives. This comprehensive survey will further investigate reported burial errors, determine the full scope of the problem, and provide the first step to a concrete solution.
Filner offered the following statement on the Floor of the House: "Arlington National Cemetery is our most hallowed ground, the final resting place of many of our heroes. Every year, nearly 4 million people visit the cemetery. Because of the importance of Arlington to our national memory the American people expect Arlington to be run reverently and meticulously, but as we all know, this has not been the case. The Committee on Veterans' Affairs has worked closely with our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee to get answers and find a way forward. We will continue to work closely with our colleagues on Armed Services, with the Administration, and with our Senate colleagues in the months ahead to fix what is wrong at Arlington and to ensure that the operation of this national shrine honors the men and women who lie at rest there."