August 16, 2017
CHAMBERLAIN, SD – U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today made the following statement after President Trump signed into law the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, which includes three provisions introduced by Rounds:
“Our veterans have made incredible sacrifices for our country, and they should be able to fully use the benefits they’ve been promised when they enter civilian life,” said Rounds. “I’m pleased that this important, bipartisan legislation was signed into law today.”
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 passed the Senate on Aug. 2, 2017, and includes the following provisions introduced by Rounds:
· A bill he introduced with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to add all Purple Heart recipients, regardless of length of time spent on active duty, to the list of eligible veterans who can access full Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits was included in the bill.
· The Veterans TEST Accessibility Act, introduced by Rounds and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), to help returning veterans transition into civilian life by making sure they aren’t forced to exhaust a full month of GI Bill benefits in order to be reimbursed for a low-cost certification or test.
· A provision to allow for more flexibility in allocating Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to survivors of deceased service members.
Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 makes much-needed updates for reservists, Purple Heart recipients, veterans who face school closures while enrolled and surviving family members. The legislation also provides increased resources and authority for educational assistance to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, computer programming and career technical training.
Most significantly, this bill recognizes our country’s need for an agile and adaptable workforce and that American workers need to be lifelong learners. For that purpose, this bill eliminates the arbitrary 15-year period within which a veteran is required to use their GI Bill so they can use their benefits at any time in their professional career.
· Provides GI Bill eligibility for reservists mobilized under selected reserve orders for preplanned missions in support of the combatant commands or in response to a major disaster or emergency;
· Provides GI Bill eligibility for reservists undergoing medical care;
· Provides full GI Bill benefits for Purple Heart recipients regardless of length of service;
· Extends Yellow Ribbon Program benefits to Fry scholarship recipients; and
· Increases GI Bill payments by $2,300 per year for veterans with less than 12 months of active service.
The legislation is named in honor of Harry Walter Colmery, an Army Air Service veteran and former national commander of the American Legion who drafted the original GI Bill in 1944 to improve the transition for World War II veterans back to civilian life.