Tester, Moran’s Bill to Cut Administrative Red Tape at Schools Nationwide Unanimously Clears Senate

Senators’ bipartisan, bicameral Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act one step closer to becoming law

(U.S. Senate) – The U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan, bicameral legislation yesterday introduced by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jon Tester and Ranking Member Jerry Moran to streamline the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) 85/15 Rule—a school reporting requirement that prohibits VA from paying benefits to students enrolling in education programs where more than 85 percent of the students in that program use the G.I. Bill or other funding from the Department.

VA recently rescinded all exemptions for schools where the number of students receiving VA assistance is less than 35 percent of the total campus population, placing many schools’ ability to enroll veterans in jeopardy due to burdensome administrative red tape. The Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act of 2022 will clarify the requirements of the 85/15 rule, ensuring education programs can continue accepting veterans while maintaining oversight to prevent fraudulent programs from taking advantage of veterans.

“Our bill is now one step closer to removing roadblocks standing in the way of our veterans and their families getting the quality education they deserve at colleges and universities in Montana and across the country,” said Chairman Tester. “No veteran should ever cut through bureaucratic red tape to access their hard-earned education benefits, and I urge my House colleagues to follow in the Senate’s footsteps and pass this bill without delay.”

“The GI Bill has made it possible for thousands of veterans to pursue a college degree after their military service,” said Ranking Member Moran. “This legislation will make it easier for colleges and universities that serve student veterans to have a standard and simplified process to enroll students using the GI Bill and help them get their benefits. I am pleased the Senate acted quickly on this legislation and I urge the House to do the same.”

Last November, the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee leaders expressed their concerns with the Department’s latest interpretation of the law and requested VA take action to remove barriers for both schools and veterans utilizing their earned VA education benefits.

The Senators’ bill received strong backing from Veterans Service Organizations and stakeholders nationwide.

“We deeply appreciate the efforts of Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Moran to craft S. 4458 and commend them on guiding it to passage in the Senate,” said Ted Mitchell, President of the American Council on Education (ACE). “This important legislation clarifies the 85-15 rule and helps ensure that veterans can continue to enroll in a quality higher education program of their choosing. We look forward to the bill’s passage by the House and its swift implementation by the Department of Veterans Affairs, in order to minimize any disruptions for student veterans this fall.”

“APLU applauds Senators Tester and Moran for their leadership in passing the Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act to ensure student veterans maintain the ability to use their GI Bill benefits for programs of their choice,” said Peter McPherson, President of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). “We also greatly appreciate the attention this issue received during the U.S. Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing earlier this month. This legislation strikes an important balance of maintaining guardrails that provide protection from predatory programs that target student veterans, while ensuring that high quality programs at reputable institutions are not closed off to these students. We strongly encourage House leaders to urgently take up and pass this important legislation ahead of the August recess to ensure student veterans do not lose access to their hard-earned education benefits for the programs of their choice when they return to campus in the fall.” ?

“The Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act directly addresses many of the issues facing approved colleges and universities as it relates to 85/15 compliance, makes the process more streamlined and fair, and maintains the spirit of the law in protecting veterans using their hard-earned educational benefits,” said Joe Schumacher, Director of Veteran Services at Montana State University. “We thank Chairman Tester and Ranking Member for their efforts to protect student veterans with this bill, and look forward to its passage and implementation as it will aid us in our efforts in serving those who have served.”

“With the passage of S. 4458 (companion bill H.R. 8198), student veterans will be able to continue enrolling in meaningful, high-quality programs of their choice in pursuit of a higher education,” said Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., President of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU). The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) is grateful to the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee leadership, Senators Tester and Moran, and Representatives Takano and Bost for introducing and championing this legislation. We urge swift passage in the House to ensure that the best educational opportunities are available to our nation’s veterans.”