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House Passes the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012


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Last month, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4057, the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012. The bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop a comprehensive policy to improve outreach and transparency to veterans and members of the military regarding institutions of higher learning. The aim of the bill is to make sure veterans have all the information they need to compare schools and make an informed decision about their educational opportunities under the GI Bill. It also creates a formal process for veterans to file complaints and bars schools that pay a commission to recruiters that lure veterans to their schools from receiving tuition or fees under the GI Bill. The bill also requires the VA to establish a burn pit registry for individuals who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals from open burn pits.

We have an all-volunteer military. Men and women who choose everyday to serve without reservation or consideration of the inherent dangers that exist when they raise their right hand. As a nation it is our duty to commit whatever it takes to ensure that they are taken care of whether that is education benefits or health and safety concerns.

That's why the Democratic Congress passed the Post -- 9/11 GI Bill, which has opened the doors to educational benefits to nearly 800,000 veterans and their families. It allows veterans to make informed decisions about their education and in turn ease the burden for this generation of veterans by ensuring they receive the information they need when deciding on a post-secondary institution. We owe this to our veterans.

When I was Chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, one of our highest priorities was to address the health and exposure-related issues from previous conflicts, whether radiation testing, Agent Orange, depleted uranium shells, or the possible health effects of exposure to toxic fumes from open burn pits. Every time we send men and women into combat we need to do all we can to understand the risks associated with exposures to toxic substances. We should learn from history. It has taken years even decades to understand and assess the risks associated with exposure to Agent Orange. We should not repeat that pattern.

That is why in July 2009 I requested the General Accountability Office to help us in our efforts to better understand health risks associated with open burn pit operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We all know that preliminary reports have indicated that fumes from these burn pits produce a considerable amount of contaminants that may cause short and long-term harm to our servicemembers. I believe this provision is a very proactive measure and one that will hopefully benefit our veterans in a positive way.

I'm proud that the House has passed H.R. 4057.

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