Tester giving student veterans, schools a ‘seat at the table’

Senator introduces bill to reform veterans’ education committee

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is doubling down on his pledge to support Montana’s student veterans.

Tester is introducing legislation that will give veterans a “seat at the table” to provide feedback and improve Department of Veterans Affairs’ education policies.  Tester’s reform bill will guarantee that the VA’s Advisory Committee on Education will include student veterans and college representatives.

“Veterans made tremendous sacrifices for this country and earned a seat at the table to make sure the education benefits they earned work for them,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  “My bill ensures that the voices of veterans and schools are heard and that smart, responsible decisions are being made with their input.”

Student veterans and Montana education officials tell Tester that they are rarely consulted by the VA or offered opportunities to provide feedback on VA education policies – like the distribution of G.I. Bill benefits.  Tester’s bill will require the veterans’ advisory committee to report recommendations to the VA and Congress at least twice per year. 

In addition to increasing participation from student veterans, Tester’s bill also requires input from service organizations like the American Legion and vocational schools that enroll veterans.

Tester’s reform bill comes a week after he introduced two other bills to ensure student veterans get the information they need to make smart decisions about their futures.  One, the G.I. Bill Consumer Awareness Act, will require the VA to provide G.I. Bill beneficiaries with easy-to-understand information about schools approved to accept benefits. 

“With so many Montana veterans using the G.I. Bill and other benefits, it’s critical that the VA respects what they have to say about what’s working and what can be improved,” Tester added.

The 21st Century G.I. Bill, signed into law in 2007, was one of the first bills Tester cosponsored in the Senate.  The bill fully took effect in 2009, paying for college tuition, living expenses and books for thousands of Montana veterans who have served on active duty in the military since the terrorist attacks of 2001.  In 2012, more than 590,000 beneficiaries are expected to enroll in educational institutions using G.I. Bill benefits.

Tester’s Veterans Advisory Committee on Education Reform Act is available online HERE.