Weekly Columns

Student veterans will have new education benefits to use this school year as they pursue their career goals. This investment in our veterans provides them with more tools and resources to prepare them for civilian life. 

In 2017, Congress approved and the president signed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (Forever GI Bill). The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continues to implement these education benefit improvements designed to better serve veterans’ needs today.  

Several provisions took effect at the beginning of August, including making post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients eligible for full education benefits for up to three years, updating eligibility requirements for Guard and Reservist service and reallocating education benefits to surviving family members. 

We’ve worked to modernize the education benefit and equip members of the workforce with the skills they need for 21st century jobs. That’s why the Forever GI Bill updates include opportunities to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, computer programming and career technical training. 

I was pleased to author a provision in the legislation to open doors to training and jobs for veterans reentering the workforce. Promoting technical skills such as computer coding and programming is a win-win for veterans and employers.

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am monitoring the VA’s implementation of the Forever GI Bill and I will continue to provide oversight to ensure veterans have access to the lifetime education benefits they earned. 

We know that there is still work to do to break down barriers standing between veterans and their education benefits. Delays in the processing of tuition payments - by the VA’s unintentionally slow processing or errors by school certifying officials - have caused some student veterans to endure financial hardship and be denied access to higher education. That’s why I introduced the Servicemembers Improved Transition through Reforms for Ensuring Progress (SIT-REP) Act. 

Our veterans deserve certainty when it comes to their education benefits. Eliminating financial burdens and ensuring access to school facilities is a commonsense step in supporting our student veterans. This bipartisan legislation will prevent veterans from being held responsible for fees and penalties associated with delays in the processing of tuition payments and allow them to focus on their education rather than financial obligations.

This is especially important given that the implementation of the Forever GI Bill may result in a higher volume of claims that must be processed by the VA and schools.  

Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in May. I am hopeful that we can continue that momentum by passing this legislation in the Senate. 

We have a responsibility to honor our promise to those who stood in defense of our nation. Updates to veterans’ education benefits help empower these men and women in their transition to civilian life. I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue our commitment to improve veteran resources.