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Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, today, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I am proud to introduce the Veterans' Educational Transition Act of 2013.
My colleague and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Senator Burr, joins me in introducing this important legislation.
The Department of Defense estimates that approximately 250,000 to 300,000 servicemembers will separate annually for the next 4 years. That is more than one million brave men and women who will face the harsh reality of transitioning back to civilian life. Many of them will elect to further their education by using the most lucrative benefit afforded to them since WWII--the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Since 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA, has paid nearly 1 million Post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiaries more than $28 billion.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill stands as a testament of our willingness to invest in our newest generation of veterans. Unfortunately, this investment often falls short of what they need to complete a post-secondary education and successfully transition back to civilian life. They deserve better.
Given the nature of our Armed Forces, servicemembers have little to no say as to where they serve and where they reside during their military service. Thus, when transitioning servicemembers consider what educational institution they want to attend, many of them choose a school in their home State or a State where they previously served.
I have heard from too many veterans that many of these public educational institutions consider them out-of-State students. Given that the Post-9/11 GI Bill only covers in-State tuition and fees for public educational institutions, these veterans are left to cover the difference in cost between the in-State tuition rate and the out-of-State tuition rate. In some States, this difference can be more than $20,000 per year. As a result, many of our Nation's veterans must use loans to cover this difference and in the process become indebted with large school loans that will take years to pay off.
I applaud the States that have taken initiative to assist our veterans by recognizing them as in-State students for purposes of attending a public educational institution. Yet, there are too many States that still require transitioning veterans to meet stringent residency requirements before they can be considered in-State students. Recently separated veterans may not be able to meet such requirements because of their military service, and once enrolled, they cannot legally establish residency because of their status as full-time students.
The Veterans Educational Transition Act of 2013 would require States, as a condition for course approval under the Post-9/11 GI Bill or Montgomery GI Bill, to recognize certain veterans and their dependents using these education benefits as in-State students for purposes of attending a public institution. The veteran must be within 2 years from the date of discharge, and the individual using the benefit must live in the State while attending the school.
This legislation would help our brave men and women who have sacrificed so much in defense of our country transition to the civilian workforce by giving them a fair shot at attaining their educational goals without incurring an additional financial burden simply because they chose to serve their country.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.
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