(July 25, 2017) National Guardsmen who mobilize through the controversial 12304b status will earn GI Bill benefits under legislation approved Monday by every lawmaker in the House.
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act will be discussed Wednesday by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Quick action by the entire Senate is expected.
The legislation is named for the American Legion commander who penned the first GI Bill in 1944.
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the bill’s sponsor, said, “I’m especially proud of the bipartisan work we’ve done to pass legislation to expand the education benefits veterans earn through the GI Bill and, for the first time in history, allow them to utilize these benefits throughout their entire lives.”
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the committee’s ranking member, called the legislation “a real historic piece of work.”
Retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president, says the bill is a testament to cooperation by veterans service organizations, professional staffs on Capitol Hill and lawmakers to get something substantial done and done quickly.
“This bill is important in what it does for National Guardsmen and other service members,” he said today. “But it also proves that decision makers and advocates can work together to accomplish big things.”
The legislation would make several substantive changes to the GI Bill, but for Guardsmen and Reservists the most significant may be the change to the mobilization status. Reserve-component members who take part in planned operations under 12304b receive less compensation than their active-component counterparts serving with them. This legislation would provide the education benefit now missing from their benefits package under that status.
But it also makes other changes that will benefit service members. It has been dubbed the “Forever GI Bill” because it does away with a 15-year deadline to utilize the benefit.
It also guarantees full GI Bill benefits to all Purple Heart recipients regardless of the amount of time they served on active duty. This could affect thousands of service members, including many Guardsmen.
Veterans who are attending a for-profit school that closes will be able to recover their lost benefits. Also, survivors of GI Bill users will qualify for benefits through the Yellow Ribbon program.