CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, July 25, 2011, the House is scheduled consider Senate amendments to H.R. 1383 under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. The resolution was introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) on April 6, 2011, and referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs. The House passed H.R. 1383 on May 23, 2011 by a vote of 389-0. The bill was amended in the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and passed in the Senate by unanimous consent on July 21, 2011.
H.R. 1383 as passed in the House would make the amount payable for programs of education at nonpublic institutions of higher education pursued by individuals enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) post-9/11 educational assistance program (post-9/11 program) during the period beginning on August 1, 2011, and ending on July 31, 2014, the greater of $17,500, or the established charges payable under a VA maximum payments table published on October 27, 2010.
The Senate amendment to the bill would change the effective date—or the “grandfather clause”—to a student enrollment date of “since January 4, 2011” from “on or before April 1, 2011.”
The Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33 of title 38 United States Code) was signed into law by President Bush as section 5003(a)(1) of title V of Public Law 110-252 on June 30, 2008, and was effective August 1, 2009. Under the new program, VA would pay 100 percent of the maximum in-state undergraduate tuition and fees on behalf of a veteran with at least 36 cumulative months of active duty service since September 11, 2001. The maximum payment would apply to veterans attending both public and private degree-granting institutions of higher learning.
The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-377), which was enacted on January 4, 2011 made several changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Those changes included a reduction of tuition and fee payments for veterans attending non-public institutions to an annual maximum of $17,500 effective August 1, 2011. P.L. 111-377 also reduced tuition and fee payments for non-resident veterans attending public institutions at the out-of-state rate to the actual in-state rate charged by the institution.
Despite these very generous benefits, some tuition and fees at some schools, both public and private, exceed the state-based formula. Prior to enactment of P.L. 111-377, VA made tuition and fee payments in excess of $20,000 per school year for veterans attending some private institutions. Many of those students will fall under the new $17,500 cap set by Public Law 111-377. The failure to “grandfather” affected veterans will create an inequity since many of the veterans enrolled in those high cost schools based on the presumption that they would receive at least the highest in-state tuition and fee rate. This grandfathering provision would apply to veterans who began their enrollments since January 4, 2011.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates bill would decrease direct spending by $5 million over the 2012-2016 and 2012-2021 periods. Pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) procedures apply because enacting the legislation would affect direct spending. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues.
As noted in the House Report (112-081) accompanying the bill, to meet statutory PAYGO offset requirements, the bill would freeze the monthly living stipend for all Post-9/11 participants at the rates in effect for the 2010-2011 academic year for a period of 24 months beginning October 1, 2011. In the past, Congress has used similar offsets when used to improve veterans' benefits as is being done in H.R. 1383, as amended. For example, Public Law 111-377 saved nearly $4 billion in veterans benefits by capping tuition and fee payments and eliminating monthly living stipend payments during semester intervals.