Veterans Committee Passes Rep. Peters’ Bipartisan Bill to Give All Purple Heart Recipients Access to Post-9/11 GI Benefits
March 7, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs passed U.S. Congressman Scott Peters’ (CA-52) bipartisan bill H.R. 1379, which extends benefits under the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program to all honorably discharged Purple Heart recipients, regardless of duration of service.
Currently, Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits are only available if a veteran completes at least 36 months of active duty service or is medically retired; however, some Purple Heart recipients are honorably discharged before either of those qualifications are attained, making them ineligible for full payments. This could apply to an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 Purple Heart recipients who are unable to receive full educational benefits because of the 36-month active duty service requirement. It would also apply to any future veterans who fall into this category. This bill would allow Purple Heart recipients to access the benefits they earned.
“Purple Heart recipients have made some of the most tremendous sacrifices in service to our nation. They earned these benefits through their service and this critical fix helps us fulfill our promise to our nation’s heroes,” said Rep. Peters. “Whether veterans use these benefits to fund college classes, vocational school, or on-the-job training, this bill will make it easier for them to get the skills and training they need to transition to civilian life.”
This is Rep. Peters’ first bill to pass the Veterans Committee since he joined the committee earlier this year. H.R. 1379 was cosponsored by Purple Heart recipient Rep. Brian Mast (FL-18), and fellow House Veterans Affairs Committee members Ranking Member Rep. Tim Walz (MN-01), and O&I Subcommittee Chairman Jack Bergman (MI-01).
“When my tour of duty was cut short following my injuries, I was fortunate to be able to use funding from the Post-9/11 GI Bill to get my degree at Harvard. Without it, I may not be a Member of Congress right now. But there are still Purple Heart recipients that aren’t able to take advantage of this critical program for our veterans,” said Rep. Mast, a U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient. “If you’ve risked life and limb for our country, and come home with the scars to prove it, our country owes you a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid. Providing a high-quality education to these heroes is the least we can do, which is why I’m proud to lead this effort to ensure that every single Purple Heart recipient who is honorably discharged is eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill funding.”
“This legislation is a key victory in the effort to ensure our veterans get the benefits they deserve,” said Ranking Member Walz. “For far too long, veterans who received a Purple Heart have been denied full access to GI Bill benefits. Providing them with every opportunity for an education is the least we can do for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for us.”
“Purple Heart recipients know sacrifice better than anyone,” said Rep. Bergman “and we owe them a debt beyond gratitude. That’s what this bill is about—it’s about making sure our Veterans have the tools to make the successful transition from military to civilian life. These are benefits hard-earned, not benefits freely-given. It’s time we give our Purple Heart recipients the opportunities that they deserve. They’ve led on the water, in the air, and on the battlefield, and I have no doubt that this legislation will give them the tools they need to lead as civilians.”
“Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) strongly believes that when a servicemember sheds his or her blood on a Post-9/11 battlefield, they ought to be automatically entitled to the full benefit of the GI Bill that bears the name of the conflict in which they served,” said Hershel Gober, National Commander of Military Order of the Purple Heart. “MOPH deeply thanks Representative Peters for introducing this important bill to extend those benefits to all Post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients, and we are delighted that the House Veterans Affairs Committee has advanced it to the full House so swiftly.”
This bill follows Rep. Peters’ support of expanded GI Bill benefits, and leadership in the launch of zero8hundred, which is becoming a national model for helping veterans successfully transition to civilian life. Having passed the Veterans Affairs Committee, the bill will be considered for passage by the House of Representatives.