The changes to education benefits for veterans in a new House bill are numerous, including the end of a 15-year deadline for veterans to use their GI Bill after leaving the service, reimbursements for veterans whose schools abruptly close and boosts in aid for Purple Heart recipients, dependents, technical education and members of the National Guard and Reserve.
Altogether, HR 3218 combines 18 different bills and about 30 provisions put forth by Democrats and Republicans.
Though the scope of the legislation is large, nothing in it prompted opposition or controversy Monday night, during a hearing that will be the House’s closest examination of the bill. Sixteen people testified, and all but one of the 24 members on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs waived their usual five minutes to ask questions.
Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., asked Curtis Coy, a Department of Veterans Affairs undersecretary, the biggest challenges in implementing the legislation.
“I think across the board when you talk to the people who work at the VA, this bill is an exciting bill for lots of reasons,” Coy said. “Probably my biggest concern is [information technology]. Almost all of these sections require some degree of changes in our IT system, and that’s what concerns me the most.”
VA Secretary David Shulkin expressed his support for the GI Bill expansion earlier Monday on Twitter, saying it would "strengthen an important benefit used by many."
The committee is set to vote Wednesday morning on the bill. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Monday that he wanted to schedule the bill for a vote on the House floor within the next week.
McCarthy, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., the committee chairman, and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the committee’s ranking Democrat, lauded the process as the way Congress should work.
“This committee has shown time and again a bipartisan way on how to govern. It’s an example for all of our committees and a model for our colleagues,” McCarthy said.
The legislation was put together by lawmakers over the last several weeks. Negotiations were reignited by a group of veterans organizations, primarily Student Veterans of America, following a rift between organizations in April about how to pay for the GI Bill expansion. Walz said it was almost a “death knell” for the bill.
The expansion is estimated to increase GI Bill costs by $3 billion in 10 years. To pay for it, the proposal now calls for decreasing living stipends to GI Bill recipients to fall in line with active-duty servicemembers’ basic housing allowance. The change would not apply to people currently using the GI Bill.
“We’ve had a hiccup or two getting where we are tonight,” Roe said. “Wednesday we’re going to mark this up and hopefully get unanimous consent.”
After the House committee introduced the legislation Thursday, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, announced their intent to follow with their own version. A bill had not been introduced in the Senate as of Monday.
“If student veterans sat down to write a bill, it would look like this,” said Will Hubbard, vice president of Student Veterans of America. “We look forward to similar success in the Senate.”
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Karl Munson pilots a 26-foot boat while Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabriel Diaz keeps an eye on a boarding team who is inspecting a 79-foot shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of New Orleans, La., on April 27, 2005
Radio transmissions to the U.S. Coast Guard are usually calls for help from boaters, but one captain got on the radio recently just to say thanks to the men and women who are currently working without pay.
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday to receive the remains of four Americans killed in a suicide bombing in northern Syria.
Trump, locked in a battle with congressional Democrats that has led to a nearly month-long partial government shutdown, announced his trip via a pre-dawn tweet, saying he was going "to be with the families of 4 very special people who lost their lives in service to our Country!"
Former President George W. Bush is calling for an end to the partial government shutdown, which is about to hit the one-month mark and is currently the longest shutdown in US history.
In an appeal made on Instagram, the 43rd president called on "leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown." The caption was posted with an image of him and former First Lady Laura Bush giving pizza to their Secret Service detail.