NAICU Washington Update

House Committee Approves Post-9/11 GI Bill "Hold-harmless" Legislation

May 17, 2011

The House Veterans' Affairs Committee has approved the "Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011" (H.R. 1383), providing a "hold-harmless" for veterans who would otherwise see their post-9/11 GI Bill tuition-and-fee benefits reduced under legislation enacted last December. (See Washington Update, 12/20/10.)

The earlier legislation established a $17,500 annual cap on the tuition-and-fee benefits provided to veterans attending private postsecondary institutions, replacing the existing state-by-state calculations. While the cap means higher benefits for veterans in many states, veterans in some states will see their benefits drop when the cap takes effect this August 1 unless further legislation is enacted.

As introduced, H.R. 1383 would have maintained veterans' current tuition-and-fee benefits for three years for those enrolled in private institutions in seven states:  Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.  However, to address Department of Veterans Affairs concerns, the committee instead raised the cap in those states to $27,000 for three years, for currently enrolled students. While this change may ease the VA's administrative concerns, it also means that the hold-harmless won't fully protect some students.

The bill as amended was approved by a vote of 13 to 6 on May 12. Opposition to the bill was based largely on the plans for offsetting its projected $50 million cost.  The savings for the offset would be achieved by freezing housing allowance adjustments for post-9/11 GI Bill recipients for a two-year period.

A date for full House consideration of the measure has yet to be set. Related Senate legislation, S. 745, has been introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and is pending before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

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