Opening Statement of Hon. Walt Minnick, a Representative in Congress from the State of Idaho
Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Boozman, and members of the subcommittee, I thank you for allowing me to join this hearing today. I would also like to thank our panel of representatives from the American Legion, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Modern Warfare, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. I thank them for their military service and for their insight into what must be done to improve and simplify the new GI Bill which this Congress passed with strong bi-partisan support last year.
I’d like to make a few brief remarks about the importance of this process and this bill, HR 5933, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act.
In 1945 the House Committee on Veterans Affairs conducted a lengthy hearing to review the effectiveness of the first GI Bill which was intended to give returning World War II veterans a college education in return for their service in saving the nation from foreign aggression. As we are doing today, members of that Committee listened to veteran’s groups request upgrades to the first version of the bill so that the benefits would be extended to things like vocational schools and correspondence courses.
And now, two generations later, we are doing the same thing today. Just as the WW II GI Bill was upgraded to help educate what is often referred to as the “greatest generation,” we must upgrade and improve the new GI Bill to make it workable so it can fully satisfy the educational needs of a new generation of returning veterans. As a veteran myself of the Vietnam Era, I have many friends who volunteered to serve in that war so they could go to college after they left the military and with their GI benefits obtain the education necessary to launch successful civilian careers.
Having listened to many veteran service organizations and veterans from my home state of Idaho and elsewhere, I have introduced HR 5933 to offer the comprehensive improvements needed to make the new GI Bill fill the needs of this generation’s returning veterans.
To provide a brief example, students enrolling in an excellent private college in my district, Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, will directly benefit from this bill in several ways. By raising the maximum tuition cap to $20,000 per year, H.R. 5933 will significantly increase the tuition benefits available for veterans attending Northwest Nazarene--and other excellent, but expensive, private colleges.
The bill will also afford a living allowance to veterans opting to pursue their degrees online - a benefit they were previously denied. It will also reimburse travel costs for distance learners and includes a new $1,000 allowance for increasingly expensive student books, hard copy and electronic. This bill will also make the educational benefits available for those veterans electing to pursue vocational education or other technical training.
My offices in Idaho and Washington, have listened to stories shared by veterans who have been unable to take full advantage of the new GI Bill’s benefits. Benefits Congress intended to confer with last year’s legislation. Many others have had their benefits reduced by unnecessarily limiting regulations.
To fulfill the promise we make to today’s young people who volunteer to put their lives in harm’s way to serve in the military and preserve our way of life, we much provide them with the education they need to after their military service to be successful in today’s high tech world. This bill makes the corrections to last year’s landmark GI bill required for us to redeem this promise.
In closing I’d like to thank Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin for her support in this effort and very much look forward to working with her, Chairman Filner, the Ranking Member and my Republican colleagues in moving this bill through to passage in the remaining days of this Congress.
Thank you and I yield back.