A Florida Republican’s proposal to make sure veterans are not financially penalized by colleges and universities as they wait for their federal education benefits is headed to President Donald Trump’s desk.
Back in January, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced the “Servicemembers Improved Transition through Reforms for Ensuring Progress (SIT-REP) Act.” Under the proposal, veterans using their GI Bill benefits will not be penalized if the VA delays payment to the school due to the time it takes to process.
The Florida Republican reeled in the support of a host of veterans groups including the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). Two fellow Florida Republicans--U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Bill Posey--are original cosponsors. Other supporters of the bill include U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-NC, U.S. Rep. Ann Kuster, D-NH, and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Tex. Bilirakis got his bill through without opposition in May.
Back in June, the Senate version was introduced by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
"All three of my brothers served in the military, and they taught me about the importance of honoring our promises to our veterans and servicemembers," Warren said on Friday. "We owe our servicemembers a quality education when they return home so they can build a future for themselves and their families. I'm glad to work with Senator Boozman to support student veterans who put their life on the line in service to our country."
"We must create certainty for our veterans who use the education benefits they earned in service to our country. This is a commonsense measure that allows veterans to eliminate the potential for financial hardships to receive the tools to help prepare them for civilian life. I appreciate Senator Warren's leadership on this issue," said Boozman.
The Senate passed Bilirakis’ bill this week as part of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s, D-Mont., “Veterans Benefits and Transition Act” which is now headed to Trump.
Bilirakis weighed in after the vote.
“I filed this common sense bill in response to several student Veterans who were subject to punitive action by their school because it received payment from the VA after a certain deadline. This legislation is very timely given the recent delays by the VA in processing payments. I am continuing to closely monitor that situation, and have been assured that all Veterans will receive the full amount they are due. However, my bill will guarantee, moving forward, that Veterans will not lose access to education or charged with additional fees from the schools. Veterans should never experience financial harm or denial of access to education due to bureaucratic red tape in processing paperwork at the VA or school. The GI Bill is already a wonderful benefit that our veterans have earned and this legislation makes the program better,” said Bilirakis.
The bill does have the support of a host of veterans organizations and groups that help their families including the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) which helps surviving spouses and families.
“TAPS is grateful to Representative Bilirakis for promoting this legislation which would provide students receiving VA payments the same protections as those who receive Title IV funding such as Pell Grants and Federal student loans. Student survivors and veterans should not be financially handicapped because of VA and higher education bureaucracy,” said Kathleen Moakler, the director of survivor advocacy for TAPS.