Sullivan Introduces Comprehensive G.I. Bill Reforms

Bipartisan measure will make necessary improvements to post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits for student veterans

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, this week co-introduced the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 with Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Jon Tester (D-MT), the chairman and ranking member of the committee. The legislation would enhance the post-9/11 G.I. Bill and improve veterans’ benefits, most notably eliminating the 15-year expiration date for veterans to use their G.I. benefits.

“The G.I. Bill has long been a meaningful incentive for enlistees who want to pursue their education and career dreams during or after their military service,” said Senator Sullivan. “At the same time, working with veterans and veterans service organizations, members of the committee have identified commonsense reforms and technical fixes that will enhance this vital benefit for veterans and service members. By creating a ‘Forever’ G.I. Bill, veterans will be able to utilize their earned benefits at the point in their lives that they determine is best for them. It is imperative that we continue to invest in those who serve and bravely sacrifice to keep us safe.”

“We have worked closely with our partners in the veterans community and with our colleagues in the U.S. House to ensure this legislation makes the necessary changes to improve the G.I. Bill and helps veterans succeed in their desired career field,” said Senator Isakson. “I am proud to introduce this important legislation with Senator Tester after the House introduced its companion legislation last week. We urge our Senate colleagues to join us in supporting these improvements to the G.I. Bill to help further our investment in the futures of our veterans.”

“The G.I. Bill has provided generations of veterans with access to higher education after they have bravely served our country,” said Senator Tester. “It’s been a pleasure working with my colleagues in the House and Senate, as well as veterans and advocates, to craft bipartisan legislation that will break down barriers to and strengthen education benefits for servicemembers, Guardsmen and Reservists. I look forward to working with Senator Isakson and our colleagues on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to ensure veterans have every shot at success.”

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017—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—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.

The bill recognizes the country’s need for an agile and adaptable workforce and that American workers need to be lifelong learners. For that purpose, the legislation 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.

A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here. 

The Act has garnered broad bipartisan support in the Senate. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Phil Roe (R-TN), and Tim Walz (D-MN), chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on July 13.

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