Kaine, Isakson, Tester introduce GI Bill reforms

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Jon Tester (D-MT) to introduce bipartisan legislation that seeks to improve veterans’ education benefits and enhance the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 will further invest in the proven educational success of our veterans and help propel them toward becoming our nation’s civic, business and public leaders.

tim kaine“Improving educational programs for our nation’s veterans has been a priority of my work in the Senate whether through ensuring quality job training opportunities, or through improving the GI Bill.  I’m proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation that will improve areas of the GI Bill like ensuring access to benefits for Gold Star families, Purple Heart recipients and our Guard and Reservists,” said Kaine. “I am especially proud that key provisions were included from the Veterans Education Experience Improvement Act of 2017, which I introduced with Senator Tillis to provide appropriate resources and training for the officials at educational intuitions who serve student veterans.  The GI Bill is one of the best tools to help servicemembers make a successful transition into the civilian world and we need to make sure it’s as useful as it can be into the future.”

The bill makes much-needed updates for reservists, Purple Heart recipients, veterans who face school closures while enrolled and surviving family members. The legislation also provides increased resources and authority for educational assistance to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, computer programming and career technical training.

Most significantly, this bill recognizes our country’s need for an agile and adaptable workforce and that American workers need to be lifelong learners. For that purpose, this bill eliminates the arbitrary 15-year period within which a veteran is required to use their G.I. Bill so they can use their benefits at any time in their professional career.

Additionally, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017:

  • Provides G.I. Bill eligibility for reservists mobilized under selected reserve orders for preplanned missions in support of the combatant commands or in response to a major disaster or emergency;
  • Provides G.I. Bill eligibility for reservists undergoing medical care;
  • Provides full G.I. Bill benefits for Purple Heart recipients regardless of length of service;
  • Extends Yellow Ribbon Program benefits to Fry scholarship recipients; and
  • Increases G.I. Bill payments by $2,300 per year for veterans with less than 12 months of active service.

Kaine joined Isakson, Tester, and a bipartisan group of 32 senators in introducing the legislation. A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here.

The legislation is named in honor of Harry Walter Colmery, an Army Air Service veteran and former national commander of the American Legion who drafted the original G.I. Bill in 1944 to improve the transition for World War II veterans back to civilian life.