October 27, 2010

Gillibrand, Maffei Announce New Effort To Strengthen GI Bill, Expand Education Opportunities To All Members Of Military

New Legislation Would Provide Access to More NY Veterans, Create More Opportunities For Veterans to Find Good Paying Jobs

Rochester, NY – As recent veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle to find jobs, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Dan Maffei today announced a new push for legislation to expand the landmark G.I. Bill, provide better higher education opportunities for more recent veterans, better preparing new veterans for the difficult economy.  

The Post-9/11Veterans Educational Assistance Act would:

  • Expand the benefits of the existing G.I. Bill for National Guard and Reserve members who have been deployed during domestic emergencies;
  • Improve tuition benefits of the G.I. Bill to cover the full cost of a public, four-year institution;
  • Expand coverage to include online learning and worker training programs;
  • Cover the cost of books for active duty personnel, along with licensing and certification exam costs; and
  • Allow veterans to transfer benefits to their family members.

“In this very difficult job market, too many veterans in the Rochester / Finger Lakes Region are struggling to find good-paying jobs that can support a family,” Senator Gillibrand said. “These men and women sacrificed for our country, and now it’s time to fulfill our duty to them by giving them every opportunity to succeed. This legislation builds on the promise we made to our veterans, opens more doors to higher education and training opportunities, and prepares more of our recent veterans for the jobs of the future so they can succeed in the new economy.”

“It is critical that a nation that demands so much sacrifice from our troops and their families take every opportunity to afford them the access to quality higher education and training they deserve. The University values the service provided by our brave men and women in uniform and believes there is no better way to express our profound gratitude than by enhancing the educational benefits made available to them when they return home.  As one of the most comprehensive participants in the Yellow Ribbon Program, we are a strong supporter of the assistance it provides and deeply appreciate the leadership of Senator Gillibrand in trying to strengthen and expand this program for our veterans,” said University of Rochester President Joel Seligman.

“Every day I see the value of improved educational opportunity for veterans and their family members right here in Rochester.  With more than 1,300 enrolled veteran students and countless more family members studying across this community's great educational institutions, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is providing the means for our returning veterans to achieve their greater good beyond the battlefield.  These young men and women - and their family members - will become tomorrow's leaders because of investments made today in their education,” said Jim McDonough, President & CEO of Veterans Outreach Center.

Nearly 560 veterans under the age of 30 in the Rochester / Finger Lakes Region are unemployed, according to data from the New York State Department of Labor. The Post-9/11Veterans Educational Assistance Act would make the following key changes to improve and expand benefits for service members today returning home to their families.

  • Expand Coverage for Service during Domestic Emergencies
    The bill would allow active duty service activated by State governors in response to natural disasters and other emergencies to count towards GI bill benefits.  This restriction in the existing legislation prevents about thirty thousand National Guardsmen from receiving benefits.  
  • Simplify Tuition Benefits
    The legislation would simplify tuition benefits to cover the full cost of an education at all public four-year institutions in a state.  The simplified formula would make it easier for veterans to understand their benefits and make it easier for the VA to ensure the effective delivery of benefits. 
  • Support for Online Learning
    Under the existing Post 9/11 GI bill, veterans enrolled in a distance learning or online education course would be eligible for housing assistance based on the zip code of their residence. 
  • Expand Benefits for On-the-Job and Apprenticeship Training
    Under the current Post 9/11 GI bill, on-the-job and apprenticeship training are not covered by benefits.  The new legislation would expand benefits to support veterans pursuing a new career that requires non-academic training, like a mechanic or EMT. 
  • Expand coverage for books for active duty personnel
    Currently, GI bill beneficiaries still on active duty cannot receive the programs stipend for books and other course materials.  Under the new legislation, these service members would be able to receive that benefit.
  • Coverage for Licensing and Certification Exams
    The legislation would pay for multiple licensing and certification exams.  Current GI bill benefits will only pay for one such test. 
  • Better Enable Veterans to Transfer Benefits to Family Members
    Under current law, veterans cannot designate a new beneficiary of their benefits after being discharged from the Armed Forces.  The new legislation would allow individuals who have exited service to designate new beneficiaries.