House to Vote on Post-9/11 GI Bill Expansion

Airman Dalton Shank, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist apprentice, reads pamphlets on the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., March 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers)
Airman Dalton Shank, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist apprentice, reads pamphlets on the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., March 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers)

A proposal that would expand the post-9/11 GI Bill to more current-era veterans while lifting a 15-year use-it-or-lose-it cap for future troops is headed to the House of Representatives for a vote.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee, headed by Rep. Phil Roe, a doctor and Republican from Tennessee, on Wednesday unanimously approved the bill, known as the "Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017," by voice vote.

The legislation, which combines 18 pieces of legislation and includes more than 25 changes to the current benefit, now heads to the full House of Representatives for debate and vote. A vote on the measure hasn't been scheduled, but is expected to take place later this month. The Senate is also expected to introduce a similar measure this week.

During Wednesday's hearing of the committee to amend, or markup, the legislation, lawmakers included a provision that would expand restitution for students attending schools that shuttered during their studies.

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A previous version of the bill called for restoring only a portion of benefits to those who attended a for-profit school that went out of business.

In 2015 Corinthian Colleges, a large for-profit school with campuses nationwide shuttered, leaving thousands of students with college credits that couldn't be transferred. In 2016, ITT Technical Institute followed suit. Those closures left users without the benefit -- and a degree or transferable credits.

The earlier bill would have allowed the user to recoup the benefit during the month the school closed. Critics said other categories of federally funded students, such as Pell Grant users, were restored their full benefit spent at the closed schools, allowing them to pursue a degree program elsewhere.

Although the bill doesn't mention Corinthian or ITT Tech, the change fully restores the benefit to GI Bill students attending schools that have gone out of business since 2015. Users whose schools go out of business after Aug. 1 of this year will have only one month restored, but will be given up to four months of additional housing allowance as a "bridge payment," lawmakers said.

"My amendment ... would ensure that we are fully covering the student affected by the closures of Corinthian and ITT Tech, by requiring that any veterans who attended these schools would be able to have any credits that were not transferable to another school fully restored for GI eligibility," said Roe, the committee's chairman.

The bill also makes a series of other reforms, including how housing allowances are calculated for users, an expansion to the Fry Scholarship for military survivors and a measure giving the GI Bill benefit to any Purple Heart recipient, regardless of his or her time in service.

While the bill isn't currently on the House schedule, lawmakers have promised swift passage.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @amybushatz.

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