Veterans and Advocates Support Tester’s Education Bill for Montana Troops

Tester’s Bill will Strengthen Educational Opportunities for Service Members

(U.S. Senate) – Veterans and advocates are throwing their support behind U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s legislation to ensure that service members who often have to leave behind their jobs and homes to serve their country will not lose out on educational opportunities.

Tester’s Educational Development (ED) for Troops and Veterans Act received a hearing in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee today. The bill protects troops from financial hardship that comes with deployments and ensures service men and women get the educational benefits they have earned.

“Our service members deserve the best education and job protections when they leave behind their lives to serve our country,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “This legislation will make sure that Montana’s brave men and women can seize every opportunity they have earned.” 

Tester’s ED for Troops and Veterans Act will do the following:

  • Ensure that time spent deployed by the Guard and Reserves under certain mobilizations counts toward eligibility for the GI Bill and Vocational Rehabilitation.
  • Keep tuition assistance for members of the National Guard and Reserves competitive with yearly increases in the cost of higher education.
  • Allow service members to defer student loan payments during training for an upcoming deployment. 
  • Establish a grant program to build, maintain and improve college veteran education centers where students can maximize their benefits, receive academic aid, and connect with their peers on campus. 
  • Protect members of the National Guard and Reserve who deploy from reduced wages or even termination from their job. 
  • Protect Reservists’ monthly housing allowance during required monthly training. 

In recent years, members of the National Guard and Reserves have been asked to serve more than ever before, and Tester’s bill guarantees they receive benefits that are more commensurate with their increased service.

“We are pleased to see this legislation addresses important topics for SVA and those we serve,” said William Hubbard, Vice President of the Government Affairs of the Student Veterans of America (SVA). “Many National Guard and Reserve veterans served alongside regular active duty members doing the same work. Even so, these National Guard and Reserve members receive none of the benefits. We look forward to discussing these ideas with the rest of Congress, and thank you for your dedication to our nation’s student veterans.”

“We appreciate Senator Tester’s efforts to correct the benefit disparity for members of the National Guard mobilized for pre-planned missions across the globe,” said Brig. Gen. (Retired) Roy Robinson, President of the National Guard Association of the United States. “We urge the Senate to pass this important bill to ensure the men and women of the National Guard accrue Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits in the same manner as their active-duty brothers and sisters. This is not just a benefit-parity issue. It’s a question of fairness.”

“VVA strongly supports Senator Tester’s bill to properly recognize the active service of Reservists and National Guard troops,” said John Rowan, President of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). “In recent years, the country has been asking more and more from our servicemembers, and the Department of Defense has been shamefully using loopholes to deploy troops without having to consider the costs of earned benefits. We urge the committee and Congress to quickly pass this legislation to ensure that our country fulfills its promises to these veterans. Our armed forces, regardless of branch, active duty, reserve or guard — is one team, and this is one fight — all veterans deserve equal treatment in benefits.”

“Veterans Education Success strongly supports Senator Tester’s legislation to establish GI Bill rights for National Guard and Reserve service men and women called up for missions,” said Bob Norton, Senior Advisor of Veterans Education Success. “Operational reservists deserve the same benefits as their active duty counterparts for the same service. VES applauds Senator Tester’s leadership in sponsoring the enabling legislation and looks forward to its early enactment this year.”

“The Reserve Officers Association appreciates that Senator Tester supports the same mobilization benefits for National Guard and Reserve servicemembers when they work side-by-side with active duty,” said Jeff Phillips, Executive Director of the Reserve Officers Association. “Additionally, his legislation for Veteran Student Centers is necessary since veteran students are non-traditional students. Veterans have different goals because they already have jobs and are typically married with children. The centers and trained counselors will help veteran students successfully complete their degrees.”

“After 16 years of serving as a critical part of fighting America’s longest war, it is unbelievable that members of the Guard and Reserve Components still have to also fight to receive the same benefits as their active duty counterparts,” said Larry Madison, Legislative Director at The Retired Enlisted Association. “The ED for Troops and Veterans Act (S. 473) will go a long way toward achieving that goal with regard to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. We urge the Senate to pass the bill.”

Tester’s bill has also garnered support from educators in Montana. 

“Montana State University is fully committed to the education of veterans,” said Waded Cruzado, Montana State University President. “We enthusiastically support Senator Tester’s bill and the expanding educational opportunities it provides to an increased number of our country’s veterans.”

“This bill would expand opportunities for support to current and past service members to enable them to attend and be successful in college,” said Jane Karas, President of Flathead Valley Community College.

“At Blackfeet Community College, we recognize that Native American veterans have served our country since before gaining U.S. citizenship in 1924, and continue to serve at the highest rates per capita of any ethnic group,” said Dr. Billie Jo Kipp, President of the Blackfeet Community College. “Senator Tester’s bill will provide the critical resources veterans need to open doors to higher education attainment, engage in meaningful employment and become important, productive citizens in the community.”

More information about the ED for Troops and Veterans Act can be found online HERE.