Veterans Package Clears House

February 12, 2016

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the Veterans Employment, Education, and Health Care Improvement Act (H.R. 3016) which, among other things would:  

  • Extend the recently enacted Gunnery Sgt. Fry Scholarships to surviving spouses who lost their military spouse between 2001 and 2006.  This group of survivors will have until 2021 to use GI Bill-equivalent benefits to complete college or job training.
  • Make this same group eligible for matching additional funds by private colleges and the VA under the Yellow Ribbon program
  • Raise Medal of Honor recipients to the first enrollment priority group and exempt them from all co-payments for inpatient, outpatient, long-term care, and prescriptions.
  • Authorize newborn child care for women veterans receiving VA maternity care with post-delivery services for 14 days if the veteran delivered the child in a VA facility or contracted VA facility.
  • Cap flight training payments paid through the Post-9/11 GI Bill to the same cap in place for tuition and fees at all private and for-profit colleges.
  • Extend service credit for GI Bill eligibility purposes for time spent in medical hold by wounded, ill, and injured reservists who now may spend as much as a year or two in this status without GI Bill service credit.
  • Increase the service requirement for eligibility to transfer GI Bill benefits to a spouse or child by requiring completion of 10 years plus a commitment to serve 2 more years (vs. the current 6 years plus 4 more).
  • Reduce the housing allowance by 50 percent for dependent children whose sponsors transfer GI Bill benefits to them in the future (military spouses with transferred benefits will retain the full housing benefit).

The last item proved controversial, as the savings from this reduction is what funded the other improvements in the bill.  

Last year, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission Report recommended abolishing the housing allowance for GI Bill benefits transferred to spouses and children. Part of the rationale was that the benefit is set at the Basic Housing Allowance rate for an E-5 “with dependents” residing at the location of the college or university. The commission questioned whether that is appropriate when the spouse may remain at home or for a single child age 18-22.  

Some lawmakers expressed concern that since transferability is open to all servicemembers who sign up for the additional service, it is perceived by military families as an earned benefit, rather than as the intended retention incentive it was designed to be, like reenlistment bonuses.  

In the end, House members preserved the full housing allowance for spouses, who may need to use the benefit after the servicemember's separation.  

But a majority felt the 50 percent allowance reduction for dependent children was not out of line, since most students are single and have roommates when they enter college, and the savings from the change was needed to fund the other important improvements.  

MOAA would have preferred to find another way to pay for the other fixes, but appreciates the reduction would grandfather existing transferred contracts and apply only to new GI Bill transfers executed more than 180 days after the change is enacted.  This will allow eligibles who haven't yet transferred benefits to a child time to do so without incurring the allowance reduction.

 

Join Today


Not a member of MOAA? When you join MOAA, you become part of the strongest advocate for our military's personnel and their families. The stronger our membership is, the stronger our voice becomes. Consider joining today because every voice counts.

Rate this content