President Signs Rep. Cook’s Legislation to Ensure Fair Housing Benefit for Student Veterans
WASHINGTON- President Trump has signed HR 3218, Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017. Rep. Cook was a co-sponsor of the legislation, which includes language from his Veterans Education Equity Act.
Cook introduced the Veterans Education Equity Act in January 2017 to fix a problem in Post-9/11 GI Bill housing payments for student veterans, which prevented 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 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determines the BAH amount based on the zip code where the school is certified as an institute of higher education, not necessarily where a campus is located. For schools with campuses in multiple locations, this policy can result in monthly BAH payments that fall below or far exceed the actual cost of housing. Cook’s Veterans Education Equity Act would fix the problem by calculating the payment based on where students attend their classes, not where the institution of higher learning is certified, ensuring veterans receive an adequate and fair housing allowance while eliminating fraud and waste in the program. While Cook’s bill did not make it through Congress, he succeeding in having the bill language included in HR 3218.
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 – later renamed the Post-9/11 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 is a package of reforms makes significant improvements to the GI bill and ensures veterans can use their education benefits whenever they choose. I’m pleased that package of reforms includes my language concerning the veterans student housing benefit, which is essential to ensuring 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, and the President did well by signing HR 3218 into law.”
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.