Senate Unanimously Passes Tester’s Bipartisan G.I. Bill Reform

Tester Sends Another Major Bipartisan Veterans Bill to Trump to be Signed into Law

(U.S. Senate) – The U.S. Senate today unanimously passed Senator Jon Tester’s bipartisan bill to modernize and strengthen G.I. Bill education benefits for Montana veterans, Reservists and their families.

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act is one of Tester’s several major bipartisan veterans bills passed by Congress this year.

It amends the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill by striking down the arbitrary 15-year window for veterans to use their G.I. Bill education benefits.

“This bipartisan bill will help Montana’s service members transition back to civilian life by opening doors for their future success,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “It also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing and healthcare that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”

Today’s passage follows last week’s unanimous approval from the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act does the following:

  • Allows veterans who are studying science, technology, engineering or math additional benefits if their field of study requires additional credits. 
  • Permits members of the National Guard and Reserve who are training, deployed, or undergoing certain medical treatment related to their service to accrue benefits like active duty service members. 
  • Allows veterans to use education benefits to pay for education through area career and technical schools and postsecondary vocational institutions. 
  • Extends the Yellow Ribbon Enhancement Program, which provides education benefits to survivors of those who died in the line of duty. 
  • Transfers benefits to a dependent if a service member dies before being able to use them.
  • Restores benefits to student veterans who received credits or training from certain educational institutions that subsequently close.
  • Reinstates the Reserve Educational Assistance Program for Reservists.
  • Prorates licensing and certification benefits, rather than charging veterans a month’s worth of benefits.
  • Extends full education benefits to recipients of the Purple Heart.
  • Provides more on-campus educational and vocational counseling services for veterans.

Veterans, educators and advocates praised the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act.

“As a surviving child of an Army veteran, I’m elated to see that Senator Tester is focusing on surviving families and their educational benefits,” said Weston Haycock, Montana State University student, Fry Scholarship recipient and Gold Star son. “Having chosen an out of state school, the Yellow Ribbon Program would help relieve the burden of securing the difference in cost between in state and out of state tuition.”

“This common-sense package of reforms to the Post-9/11 GI Bill strengthens education benefits for troops in several important ways,” said Jon Byerly, an Iraq and Afghanistan student veteran from Lewistown. “Senator Tester’s bill would cover the additional field study requirements that my major requires and ensure that Purple Heart recipients whose time in service was cut short due to injury will receive full GI Bill coverage. On behalf of current and future GI Bill recipients, thank you to Senator Tester for your commitment to our post-service success.”

“Veterans of the past helped to pave the path to the present, through the power of education, and the veterans of the present will pave our path to the future, through the power of education,” said Daryl Lee, School Certifying Official at the University of Montana Veteran’s Education and Transition Services Office. “We the American people need to ensure we are providing all tools necessary to make our veterans successful and Senator Tester’s bill will do exactly that. A guiding hand is really what most people need and the career counselling and peer support services will provide that much needed resource for our veterans.”

“As a retired USAF officer and a university president, I know the singular importance of higher education to the future careers of our veterans,” said Dr. Tony Aretz, President of the University of Providence in Great Falls. “The biggest barrier for this education, as for any student, is the cost of attendance. Senator Tester’s bill is simply a welcome thank you for the selfless service and sacrifice that veterans provided to our nation. They deserve our support and this bill fixes many of the issues with the current legislation.”

“As a Purple Heart University, the University of Montana prides itself in the service we provide to our student veterans,” said Dr. Sheila Stearns, President of the University of Montana. “We welcome any assistance that will expand access, eliminate barriers to receiving education benefits and improve educational opportunities for our deserving American servicemen and women.”

“Passage of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act will open more doors for veterans seeking to improve their lives and the lives of their families through a college education,” said Montana State University President Waded Cruzado. “Additionally, the act will support veterans in completing their degrees so they can embark on new, post-service careers.”