House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Passes Rep. Cook’s Legislation to Ensure Fair Housing Benefit for Student Veterans
WASHINGTON- Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) announced today that HR 3218, Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, was passed out of the Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously. Rep. Cook is a co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill which includes language from his original bill.
Cook’s original bill, the Veterans Education Equity Act, was introduced in January 2017. It fixes a problem in the way the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determines Post-9/11 GI Bill housing payments for student veterans, which prevents some veterans from receiving a fair housing payment.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a hard-earned benefit that pays for student veterans’ higher education tuition and fees, as well as a monthly basic allowance for housing (BAH) stipend. The VA determines the BAH amount based on the zip code where the school is certified, not necessarily where the school is located. This policy can result in monthly BAH payments that fall below or far exceed the actual cost of housing. This bill will fix the problem by calculating the payment based on where students attends their classes, not where the institution of higher learning is certified. This bill ensures veterans receive an adequate and fair housing allowance while eliminating fraud and waste in the program.
HR 3218 also removes time restrictions to use the GI Bill, enabling future recipients to use their GI benefits for their entire life as opposed to the current 15-year timeline. The bill also includes significant increases in GI Bill funding for Reservists and Guardsmen, dependents, surviving spouses and surviving dependents. The bill is budget neutral and includes provisions that have been proposed and prioritized by Veterans Service Organizations.
Since, 1944, The GI Bill has provided veterans the opportunity to invest in themselves and their futures through access to education benefits. It has helped millions of veterans pay for college, graduate school, and other training programs
Rep. Cook said, “This important legislation ensures that our student veterans are getting a fair and reasonable housing benefit so they can afford to complete their education. One of my top priorities in Congress is protecting the benefits our veterans have earned while defending this nation. This package of reforms makes significant improvements to the GI bill and I thank the Veterans’ Affairs committee for including my legislation in the final bill.”
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), who was a co-sponsor of Cook’s original bill, said, “This existing loophole in the GI Bill incentivizes student veterans to enroll in local schools that are headquartered in expensive cities, rather than enrolling in one of the excellent community colleges or universities headquartered here in the Inland Empire. By calculating a student’s monthly housing allowance based on the location where they attend class – not where their school is based – we will make our local institutions more competitive and incentivize students to enroll in the school that best meets their educational needs.”
A member of the House Armed Services, Natural Resources, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.