CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, February 3, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 357, the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013, as amended, under a suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on April 26, 2013 by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which ordered the bill reported by voice vote.
H.R. 357 makes a number of improvements in benefits and services to veterans, and makes additional reforms to the VA in relation to executive pay and travel. Primarily, this legislation requires public institutions to give all veterans (discharged within the last three years) in-state tuition rates as a pre-condition for receiving GI Bill education benefits. The bill also clarifies eligibility for services under the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, allowing all homeless veterans to be eligible for job-training provided by the Department of Labor through grants. Veterans receiving Department of Veterans Affairs-supported housing assistance through HUD- VASH vouchers would also be eligible for these job-training programs. Moreover, this legislation would also extend the amount of time veterans can receive vocational rehabilitation benefits by five years, and re-authorizes certain work-study provisions for an additional five years.
In addition, H.R. 357 codifies the responsibilities of state Directors of Veterans Employment and Training. This bill also amends provisions related to the Transition Assistance Program of the Department of Defense to include information about disability-related employment and education protections. Furthermore, this legislation includes a provision to limit performance awards for Senior Executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs until 2018, and requires the VA to submit semi-annual reports to Congress on foreign travel taken by VA employees. Moreover, H.R. 357 requires the VA to report infectious diseases diagnosed at VA medical facilities in accordance with the laws of the State in which the facility is located, and requires the VA to write regulations on their ability to videotape or monitor a patient without their consent. Finally, this legislation extends the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program for two months, from March 31, 2014 to May 31, 2014.
Under current law, the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill covers tuition and fees at the in-state rate of public schools. However, due to the variety of residence laws in the United States, veterans often have difficulty establishing legal residency in certain states. According to the Committee, “under current the law, veterans looking to attend a public institution outside of their state of legal residence could have to cover the balance of tuition and fees from a source other than G.I. Bill benefits.” “This bill would reduce what is often a $24,000 yearly tuition and fee bill to under $9,000 on average.” This legislation has the support of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Association of the United States Navy, Fleet Reserve Association, and the Military Officers Association of America.
CBO estimates that implementing this legislation will decrease direct spending by $153 million over the 2014-2019 period, and by $345 million over the 2014-2024 period. According to the CBO’s initial estimate, this legislation would have a discretionary cost of $132 million over the 2014-2018 period, assuming the appropriation of the estimated amounts.
For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.