S. 3447: Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010

S. 3447

Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010

Date
December 16, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

S. 3447 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House on Wednesday, December 15, 2010, under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  S. 3447 was introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) on September 28, 2010, and passed in the Senate by unanimous consent on December 13, 2010. 

Bill Summary

S. 3447, as amended, would:

Title I - Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance

(Sec. 101) Include within the definition of "active duty" for purposes for eligibility under the post-9/11(P-9/11) GI Bill of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) full-time service in the National Guard: (1) organizing, administering, recruiting, instructing, or training members of the National Guard; or (2) when authorized by the President or Secretary of Defense (DOD), for responding to a national emergency declared by the President and supported by federal funds.  Make such change retroactive as of August 1, 2009.

Include One Station Unit training and "A" School training within basic training for P-9/11 eligibility purposes.

Require, for P-9/11 purposes, service preceding any discharge or release from active duty to be characterized as honorable service.

Exclude from consideration as active-duty service for P-9/11 purposes any obligated service required in connection with attendance at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

(Sec. 102) Replace the current system of limits on payments to institutions of higher education on behalf of veterans participating in P-9/11 with a two-tiered payment system, with one tier for payments to public institutions for net tuition and fees and another for payments to non-public or foreign institutions with a cap at $17,500 a year.  The bill would make such system effective as of August 1, 2011.

Some Members may be concerned that the tuition cap does not grandfather in veterans who are currently in school and receiving more than the cap.  For example, veterans who are in a degree program with annual tuition costs of $26,000 would have their benefits reduced by $8,500 in the middle of pursuing their degree.

    Provide the monthly living allowance (stipend) under P-9/11 for: (1) more than half-time study in pursuit of a degree; (2) pursuing a program of education in a foreign country; and (3) more than half-time study solely by distance learning.

    (Sec. 103) Provide an annual rate of assistance under P-9/11 for programs of education pursued while on active duty as the lesser of $17,500 or the actual net cost for in-state tuition and fees, less any waiver or reduction in such tuition and fees, scholarship, or other assistance that the individual may be eligible for.  Allow a lump-sum quarterly payment for books, supplies, equipment, and associated educational costs.

    (Sec. 104) Include within authorized P-9/11 assistance for programs of education pursued on a half-time basis or less programs pursued while on active duty, programs leading to a degree, or programs other than degree programs.  Make the assistance amount limits under programs pursued on a half-time basis or less the same as the actual net cost limit described above (with the same reductions).

    (Sec. 105) Expand P-9/11 to non-degree granting institutions and training purposes.

    Provide for the payment of P-9/11 assistance for the pursuit of programs other than degree programs, including for programs pursued on a half-time basis or less, resident training, distance learning, apprenticeships or other on-job training, flight training, or correspondence.  Authorize, in most cases, the payment of a monthly stipend similar to that paid to individuals enrolled in degree programs.  Provide authorized charges against P-9/11 entitlement for the pursuit of such programs.

    (Sec. 106) Require monthly housing stipends payable during an academic year to be determined using rates for basic allowance for housing payable as of January 1 of such calendar year.

    (Sec. 107) Make P-9/11 assistance available for payments for multiple career licensing or certification tests.  Provide for charges against VEAP entitlement for such payments.

    (Sec. 108) Make an individual entitled to P-9/11 assistance also eligible for educational assistance for a national test: (1) for admission to an institution of higher learning; or (2) for obtaining course credit at such an institution.  Provide authorized amounts for such assistance, as well as appropriate charges against P-9/11 entitlement.

    (Sec. 109) Allow individuals who were entitled to increased educational assistance (DoD kickers) under VA programs to recruit or retain individuals with certain critical skills and who transfer to the P-9/11 program to continue to receive such increased assistance.  Provide: (1) the monthly rate of such assistance; and (2) assistance funding.

    (Sec. 110) Allow members of the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who are eligible for VEAP assistance to transfer such assistance to their spouses and children.  States as the purpose of the transferability of such assistance the promotion of military recruitment and retention, and allows the Secretary of the military department concerned to exercise such authority when authorized by the Secretary of Defense in the national security interest.

    (Sec. 111) Prohibit dependents who are eligible for educational assistance as children of members who die in the line of duty after September 11, 2001, and also eligible as educational assistance transferees under one or more other VA programs from receiving concurrent payments.  Includes within such other programs VA compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, or pension based on the death of the child's parent.  Bar also the concurrent receipt of transferred benefits based on: (1) the service of two different parents; and (2) a single event (such as accumulated active-duty service of a parent-veteran).

     

    Title II - Other Educational Assistance Matters

    (Sec. 201) Provide for an extension of delimiting dates for the use of educational assistance under both P-9/11 and the Montgomery GI Bill Educational Assistance Program in the case of individuals who could not pursue or had to interrupt a program of education in order to act as the primary caregiver for a veteran or servicemember who was or is seriously injured while on active duty on or after September 11, 2001.  Allow the same extension in the case of transferees of P-9/11 assistance and those eligible for assistance under the Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program.

    (Sec. 202) Prohibit the concurrent receipt of assistance under the National Call to Service program and other federal programs of educational assistance.

    (Sec. 203) Deem certain educational programs and courses as constructively approved for purposes of the use of VA educational assistance (thereby eliminating the need for their approval by state approving agencies) when such courses are approved by other federal entities for programs under their jurisdiction.  Authorize the VA Secretary to utilize the services of a state approving agency for compliance and oversight purposes without regard to whether such Secretary or such agency approved courses offered in the state concerned.  Allow such Secretary to: (1) approve accredited programs offered by proprietary for-profit educational institutions; and (2) disapprove any state course not found to meet VA requirements.

    (Sec. 204) Increase the amount of fees paid by the VA to participating educational institutions for providing information concerning an individual's enrollment in a program of education.  Require such institutions to use such fees solely for making such certifications or for otherwise supporting programs for veterans.

    (Sec. 205) Allow certain vocational rehabilitation participants to receive the P-9/11 monthly living stipend.

    (Sec. 206) Reduce from eight to four weeks during any year the time between educational program enrollment periods during which VA interval payments are authorized.

    Some Members may be concerned that cutting interval payments could reduce veterans’ living stipend between semesters, which can sometimes exceed four weeks, depending on the higher education institution’s enrollment calendar.

    Background

    The Post-9/11 GI Bill, as enacted by the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-252),  was designed to provide comprehensive educational benefits to members of the armed forces for service on active duty since September 11, 2001, while meeting military recruiting and retention goals.  Since enactment, there has been discussion regarding possible improvements to the program.  The Congress has held at least eight hearings to review progress and issues related to implementation, administration, and benefits.  The 111th Congress has introduced more than 27 bills (and companion bills) to amend the Post-9/11 GI Bill by revising benefit allowances, the eligible programs of education, eligibility, and transferability to dependents.

    Cost

    The Congressional Budget Office estimates that S. 3447 as amended would save $1 million from 2011 to 2015, and save $734 million from 2011 to 2020 in mandatory spending under the standard Pay-As-You-Go impact.   As a note, S. 3447 as amended contains several provisions that would both increase and decrease the costs of veterans’ education programs.