President Trump signed the largest expansion of GI Bill educational benefits in nearly a decade into law Wednesday.
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (H.R. 3218), known as the Forever GI Bill, eliminates the provision that veterans have a 15-year window from their last active duty discharge date to use their educational assistance benefits for all new service members.
It also ensures full access to GI Bill benefits for recipients of the Purple Heart, and it eliminates a loophole where reservists who were deployed for disasters and overseas military support under Title 10, Section 12304 of the U.S. Code did not accrue GI Bill benefits.
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Both chambers of Congress passed the bill unanimously before members left for the August recess. At a press briefing Wednesday, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin lauded the bill’s enactment.
“1.7 million individuals have already taken advantage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and we hope that many more now will,” he told reporters. “We have spent more than $75 billion through the Post 9/11 GI Bill to support veterans and their dependents, and this is another example of bipartisan support that brought us this GI Bill expansion.”
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., introduced the legislation and thanked veterans’ groups for their advocacy on the issue.
“Today our commitment to support and care for the men and women who have served our great nation has been reinforced with the signing of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017,” Roe said in a statement. “This law would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of every veterans service organization and the bipartisan cooperation of both chambers of Congress. I’m also grateful to President Trump and Secretary Shulkin for their unfailing commitment to America’s heroes.”
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who helped shepherd the bill through his chamber, also celebrated the law.
“This is a historic day for our nation’s veterans,” he said. “This bipartisan bill will open doors for the brave men and women who put it all on the line for our freedom.”
Mark Lucas, executive director of the Koch brothers-backed Concerned Veterans for America, lauded the bill as “meaningful reform.”
“The new GI bill expands veterans’ access to education in a fiscally responsible manner, ensuring that the benefit will be available for generations to come,” Lucas said. “Many different organizations and elected officials came together to work on this bipartisan bill, and we want to commend Rep. Roe and Student Veterans of America for driving this effort from the beginning.”