Rep. Scott Peters Announces New Benefits Available to Veterans from “Forever G.I. Bill”
SAN DIEGO – Today, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) announced new benefits available to San Diego veterans through the “Forever G.I. Bill,” a sweeping reform of veterans’ education benefits passed by Congress and awaiting the President’s signature. The bipartisan bill includes legislation written by Rep. Peters to give all eligible Purple Heart recipients the full education benefits they earned, regardless of how long they served.
During the press conference, Rep. Peters called on President Trump to sign the Forever G.I. Bill into law to extend and strengthen veterans’ education benefits. Rep. Peters is an original co-sponsor of the Forever G.I. Bill and a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. Below are Rep. Peters’ remarks as delivered during the press conference:
Good morning, and thank you to Dr. Andrews and National University for hosting today’s news conference.
We’re here today to talk about the Forever G.I. Bill that recently passed through both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and is now awaiting a signature from the President to become law.
The Forever G.I. Bill modernizes veteran education benefits for the new economy— which is particularly important to San Diego, where we are home to the third largest concentration of veterans, and the largest concentration of post-9/11 veterans in the nation. In short, this new law will give our veterans greater flexibility to use the education benefits they need to successfully transition into civilian life, when they need them.
It will strengthen veteran education benefits for this generation of veterans and generations to come.
My purpose today is to make sure every veteran watching knows that they may be eligible for expanded educational benefits. The bill makes seven general changes that could impact thousands of San Diego veterans.
First: It removes the “use it or lose it rule,” which is the 15-year time limit for G.I. Bill education benefits, for new enlistees. If you were released from active duty on or after January 1, 2013, your G.I. Bill benefits are now forever—they will no longer expire.
Second: It includes legislation I introduced that expands G.I. Bill benefits for Purple Heart recipients. Currently, Purple Heart recipients had to serve for at least three years to receive full G.I. Bill benefits.
Once this bill becomes law, any service member who receives a Purple Heart, regardless of how long they served, will be eligible for full G.I. Bill benefits.
At our time of greatest need, Purple Heart heroes fought and bled for us. Their battle scars meet the service requirement; they have unquestionably earned these benefits, and now they are going to get them.
Third: It restores benefits if a college shuts down or loses accreditation. Previously, veterans using the G.I. Bill had no recourse should a school they attended be shut down or lose accreditation—like we saw happen with ITT Tech and Corinthian.
When this happened, veterans were losing their credits and their money. Now, veterans who attended a school that shut down mid-semester will have their full benefits restored. This is also retroactive and applies to schools shut down after January 1, 2015.
Fourth: It expands benefits for our National Guardsman and Reservists by restoring the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) that had been terminated for new applicants. It also expands the number of Guardsman and Reservists who are eligible for education benefits.
Fifth: It immediately allows veterans to use their G.I. Bill benefits to pursue high-tech programs or IT certifications, and for some eligible veterans to pursue independent study programs at certain technical or vocational schools.
Sixth: Beginning in August of 2018, it expands out-of-state tuition assistance— known as the Yellow Ribbon Program— to Purple Heart recipients and to dependents and spouses of service members killed in the line of duty. And in 2022, this benefit will also become available to active duty members, which currently isn’t the case.
Seventh: It brings a common sense reform to the way student veterans determine their housing benefits. Instead of the price calculation being determined by the where the school is headquartered, it will now be determined based on where a student attends the majority of his or her classes.
Additionally, it helps reservists who are called to active duty during their studies, by pro-rating the housing benefits for that month. Previously, these students would lose the whole month of rent, even if they were on active duty for just one day.
There are many more elements and benefits that were expanded as part of the Forever G.I. Bill— too many to try and detail here today. But I encourage any Post-9/11 veteran who thinks they may be eligible for new benefits to contact their Member of Congress or the VA to find out what they may now qualify for under this new law.
Finally, I want to close by urging the President to sign this bill into law immediately – because some of these benefits will go into effect immediately.
I want to thank everyone who joined us here today:
Jack Harkins, Sean Mahoney, Cielo Villasenor, Sgt. Ben Holmes, and all the other veterans who came out today to be a part of this, and Dr. Michael Cunningham, who we’ll hear from next.