Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Opening Statement of Hon. Susan A. Davis, a Representative in Congress from the State of California
The Veterans Education Tuition Support Act or H.R. 2910 addresses some of the difficulties our military personnel face when they are activated while attending college.
Thousands of military reservists have been activated to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan directly from their college campuses. In fact, students at 82 percent of colleges and universities in the United States have been called to serve since military operations began in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yet only 26 states have laws on the books to protect the interests of these students while they serve their country, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Unfortunately, as a result, students who serve in the military sometimes face unique hardships when called upon to defend the United States.
The majority of colleges and universities refund tuition and fees to students when the activation occurs during the academic calendar. However, instances have occurred when a servicemember has not been reimbursed for lost tuition and fees.
Servicemembers have also been known to face difficulties reregistering for classes after returning home after the deployment. In addition, activated military personnel have received collection notices for student loans while serving in combat zones.
Our brave men and women in uniform should not face this additional stress while serving in a combat situation.
The goal of the VETS Act is to provide servicemembers with certain rights when they delay their educational pursuits for the important cause of defending our country.
The legislation adds to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to protect the student servicemember.
Specifically, H.R. 2910 treats student loan debt the same way it treats other forms of debt by capping interest at 6 percent during deployments.
The legislation also requires colleges and universities to refund tuition and fees for unearned credit, and in addition, guarantee our servicemembers a place when they return to school.
Finally, the legislation would give servicemembers 13 months to begin paying their student loans after an activation should they decide not to return to school immediately.
The deferment will give them time to readjust back to civilian life should they decide they need extra time to go back to school. I am pleased to report that the 13-month loan deferment was included in the College Cost Reduction Act signed into law last year.
I am hopeful we can act soon to pass the other provisions of the VETS Act so servicemembers will know that they can return to school after serving their country.
The VETS Act is centered on the recommendations made by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) based on the experiences of the group's members. I am pleased to have worked with Patrick Campbell who is testifying today to make sure the bill would give our men and women in uniform the protections they need and deserve.
I would like to thank Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin and Ranking Member Boozman for bringing H.R. 2910 forward today and look forward to working with the Subcommittee on the legislation in the future.
AMENDMENT TO H.R. 2910
OFFERED BY MRS. DAVIS OF CALIFORNIA
Page 7, line 15, insert before the period the following: "that participates in a loan program under title IV of such Act (20 D.S.C. 1070 ct seq.)".