Tester, Franken, Van Hollen, Hassan, Klobuchar Introduce Bill to Strengthen Education for America’s Troops and Veterans

Senator Jon Tester, Ranking Member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, and Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today are introducing legislation to ensure that America’s veterans have access to educational opportunities.

The Senators’ Educational Development (ED) for Troops and Veterans Act will provide education benefits to service members who often have to leave behind schools, jobs, and homes to serve their country.

“Our service members have earned a quality education and it is our duty to make sure their lives aren’t totally upended while serving our country,” said Tester. “This legislation will help our nation’s brave men and women get the education they need to transition to civilian life and provide for their families.”

“The men and women who serve our country put their lives on the line to defend our freedom, and for their duty, we owe them a debt of gratitude,” said Franken. “We also owe them the best possible benefits and services once they come home. This important bill will help make sure that veterans in Minnesota and across the country can access critical education support and career training and it needs to be passed into law.”

“Service members from Maryland and across the country put their lives on the line – and their lives on hold – when they are deployed to protect our nation. It is up to us to do everything we can to support them when they return home,” said Van Hollen. “This legislation will help ensure that they are not unduly burdened while they are deployed and that they have access to a quality education as they transition back to civilian life.”

“We know that we must do more to ensure that our service members, veterans and their families receive the benefits and support that they have earned,” said Hassan. “The Educational Development for Troops and Veterans Act includes common-sense steps such as allowing service members to defer student loan payments during training for an upcoming deployment and protecting benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserve that will help ensure that those who sacrifice bravely for our country receive the educational opportunities they need to equip themselves for successful careers in civilian life.”

“When we ask our young men and women to fight in defense of our nation, we make a promise that we will take care of them when they are on duty and when they return home,” said Klobuchar. “Our legislation will help ensure that veterans and National Guard and Reserve members have access to the education, training, and career development they need to succeed in today’s workforce. They have had our backs, and we must have theirs.”

The ED for Troops and Veterans Act will do five things:

Provide protections and benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserve who deploy. 

For those stepping away from their career to serve their country, this bill will protect them from reduced wages or even termination from their job.  And it makes sure that National Guard and Reserve members receive the same GI Bill education benefits as their active duty counterparts for time deployed overseas. 

Allow service members to defer student loan payments during training for an upcoming deployment.
Service members train for months before a deployment, and often have to relocate to do so. These folks shouldn’t face financial hardship due to their student loan payments while serving our country and they should be completely freed up to focus on readiness requirements prior to deployment.  

Establish a grant program to build, maintain and improve college veteran education centers.
A number of benefits and resources exist for student veterans, but for many it’s a complicated system that’s hard to navigate. Veteran education centers help student veterans maximize their benefits, receive academic aid, and connect with their peers on campus. 

Keep tuition assistance for members of the National Guard and Reserve competitive.
The cost of college tuition is increasing by the year, and GI Bill tuition assistance for Guardsmen and reservists shouldn’t continue to lose its value. 

Protect Reservists’ monthly housing allowance during training.
Reservists have to commit to a number of training days a month to maintain readiness. This provision will correct a discrepancy that denies reservists who train on active duty status from receiving the full housing allowance to which they should be entitled. Many of these reservists are students who greatly rely on this allowance while furthering their education. 

The bill is supported by Student Veterans of America, Veterans Education Success, Reserve Officers Association, Retired Enlisted Association, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Foundation, and the National Guard Association of the United States.

“The National Guard Association of the United States applauds the introduction of the Educational Development for Troops and Veterans Act, which would provide numerous protections and opportunities for our members. We appreciate Senator Tester’s efforts to correct the benefit disparity for members of the National Guard mobilized for pre-planned missions across the globe. We urge the Senate to pass this important bill to ensure the men and women of the National Guard accrue Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits in the same manner as their active-duty brothers and sisters. This is not just a benefit-parity issue. It’s a question of fairness,” said Major General (Ret.) Gus Hargett, President of the National Guard Association of the United States.

“Veterans Education Success, a 501c non-profit pledged to support our nation’s student veterans and to protect the new GI Bill, strongly supports Senator Tester’s legislation to establish GI Bill rights for National Guard and Reserve service men and women called up for missions that are planned and budgeted by the Pentagon under Section 12304b, 10 USC.  Since the new authority was enacted a few years ago, tens of thousands of Guard and Reserve members have performed active duty military missions under these orders, but they are prohibited from earning new GI Bill benefits while so serving.  Operational reservists deserve the same benefits as their active duty counterparts for the same service.  VES applauds Senator Tester’s leadership in sponsoring the enabling legislation and looks forward to its early enactment this year,” said Bob Norton, Senior Advisor of Veterans Education Success.

“We are pleased to see this legislation addresses important topics for SVA and those we serve. Chief among them, we are interested in your idea to correct the oversight of National Guard and Reserve members who have been denied eligibility for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. This is a legislative priority for SVA. Many of these veterans served alongside regular active duty members doing the same work. Even so, these National Guard and Reserve members receive none of the benefits due to the technical lapse which does not count their service as qualifying active duty time towards the GI Bill under VA’s authority. Other sections address protections for National Guard and Reserve members including federal student loan payment deferral while deployed, improvement of on-campus student veteran centers, GI Bill benefit parity, and pro-rated housing costs for student veterans. We look forward to discussing these ideas with the rest of Congress, and thank you for your dedication to our nation’s student veterans,” said William Hubbard, Vice President of Government Affairs of Student Veterans of America.

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