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Gus Bilirakis Looks to Ensure Student Veterans Not Penalized by Colleges, Universities

January 22, 2018 - 6:00am
Gus Bilirakis
Gus Bilirakis

Last week, a Florida Republican congressman introduced a proposal to make sure veterans are not financially penalized by colleges and universities as they wait for their federal education benefits. 

On Thursday, 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. 

Bilirakis explained why he introduced the legislation. 

“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,” Bilirakis said. “Veterans should never experience financial harm or delays in 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 just makes the program better.”

The Florida Republican reeled in the support of a host of veterans groups including the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

“TAPS  is grateful to Representative Bilirakis for introducing 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.

Bilirakis’ bill was sent to the House Veterans Affairs Committee. 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. So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. Senate. 

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