Isakson, Tester Applaud Committee Approval of Comprehensive G.I. Bill Reforms

Bipartisan legislation seeks to improve veterans’ education benefits, enhance post-9/11 G.I. Bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today applauded the bipartisan committee approval of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, legislation to improve veterans’ education benefits and enhance the post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

“This important legislation will make necessary improvements to the G.I Bill for reservists, veterans and their families,” said Isakson. “This legislation has received broad support from our colleagues in the House and Senate as well as from veteran, military and higher education groups. I thank our committee for supporting this bipartisan, bicameral legislative package, and I urge the Senate to quickly approve this legislation to enhance educational benefits for our veterans.”

“This bipartisan bill invests in the future and helps create opportunities for the brave men and women who have served our country,” said Tester. “Our bill strengthens education benefits for veterans and service members, and better allows them use their benefits in a way that makes the most sense for them and their families. This bill is a testament to what’s possible when Republicans and Democrats work together.”

Following today’s voice vote, the legislation now moves to the full Senate for a vote.

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 makes much-needed updates for reservists, Purple Heart recipients, veterans who face school closures while enrolled and surviving family members. The legislation also provides increased resources and authority for educational assistance to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, computer programming and career technical training.

Most significantly, this bill recognizes our country’s need for an agile and adaptable workforce and recognizes that American workers need to be lifelong learners. For that purpose, this bill eliminates the arbitrary 15-year period within which a veteran is required to use their G.I. Bill and instead allows them to use their benefits at any time in their professional career.

Additionally, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017:

  • Provides G.I. Bill eligibility for reservists mobilized under selected reserve orders for preplanned missions in support of the combatant commands or in response to a major disaster or emergency;
  • Provides G.I. Bill eligibility for reservists undergoing medical care;
  • Provides full G.I. Bill benefits for Purple Heart recipients regardless of length of service;
  • Extends Yellow Ribbon Program benefits to Fry scholarship recipients; and
  • Increases G.I. Bill payments by $2,300 per year for veterans with less than 12 months of active service.

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Isakson and Tester on July 20. A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here.

Along with Isakson and Tester, 45 other senators are cosponsors of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 including U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., John Boozman, R-Ark., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Shelley Moore-Capito, R-W.V., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Susan Collins, R-Maine, John Cornyn, R-Texas, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Al Franken, D-Minn., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Tim Kaine, D-Va., John Kennedy, R-La., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., John McCain, R-Ariz., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Patty Murray, D-Wash., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Mark Warner, D-VA. and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The legislation is named in honor of Harry Walter Colmery, an Army Air Service veteran and former national commander of the American Legion who drafted the original G.I. Bill in 1944 to improve the transition for World War II veterans back to civilian life.

Companion legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives was passed by the U.S. House on Monday, July 24.

###

The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress.Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.