The U.S. Senate has approved a sweeping expansion of GI Bill education benefits that will add more than $3 billion to veterans’ benefits over the next decade. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent following a 405-0 vote by the House of Representatives last month.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin had encouraged passage of the bill and expects President Trump to sign it into law.
The bill would remove the 15-year limit for new enlistees on when recipients must use their GI Bill benefits. This provision is intended to give veterans more flexibility to attend higher education institutions and obtain new skills to make them more employable later in life.
The legislation also boosts education assistance for National Guard and Reserve troops. It would also grant full eligibility for student aid to Purple Heart recipients regardless of their length of service, and for the dependents of fallen troops. It also would include funding to nontraditional education providers, as well as restoring GI Bill education benefits for vets who were affected by the collapse of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech.
Passage of the benefit expansion, which had been long sought by many veterans’ groups and education advocates, was met with universal praise by both Democrats and Republicans. Education benefits are popular among veterans who have accessed more than $70 billion so that they and their families can attend universities, colleges and training programs.
Since the Department of Veterans Affairs started paying benefits in 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill has served over one million veterans, with more than half of degree-earners graduating from business, STEM or health-related programs.