U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), along with U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Todd Young (R-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide relief to veterans whose Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits are affected by the permanent closure of certain educational institutions.

In 2016, ITT Technical Institutes filed for bankruptcy and closed all 136 campuses in 38 states – after receiving $917 million in Post-9/11 GI Bill funds – leaving student veterans stranded and unable to reallocate education benefits elsewhere. The Veterans Education Relief and Reinstatement Act (VERRA) would expand the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) authority to restore the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits of veterans who are affected by the permanent closure of ITT Tech or other institutions. Currently, the VA cannot fully restore a veterans’ benefits if a school they attend permanently closes.

“I am pleased to re-introduce the Veterans Education Relief and Reinstatement Act, which ensures veterans will not lose their hard earned educational benefits when they are threatened by factors outside of their control,” said Senator Tillis. “This is yet another example of Democrats and Republicans on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee coming together to push commonsense legislation that will benefit veterans looking to further their education.”

“Our veterans have too often been left high and dry by abrupt school closures, which prevent them from completing their degrees and waste millions of dollars in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits,” said Senator Blumenthal. “This bipartisan bill is a significant step toward protecting veterans’ hard-earned education benefits as they transition from military to civilian life, providing them with peace of mind that they will not suffer the loss of educational opportunities due to unexpected school closures.”

The legislation is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The legislation is supported by the Student Veterans of America, Veterans Education Success, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the National Guard Association of the United States, and the National Association of State Approving Agencies.

Specifically, VERRA would provide the Department of Veterans Affairs with the authority to:

Restore entitlement for individuals, including student veterans affected by the ITT Technical Institutes’ collapse, who pursued a program of education with VA educational assistance and failed to receive credit – or lost training time – toward completion of the individual’s educational, professional, or vocational objective as a result of the closure of their educational institution.
Continue monthly educational assistance payments – including housing allowance – through the end of the term, quarter, or semester in which the school closes, or up to four months from the date of the school closure, whatever is sooner. These extensions would be without charge to entitlement.

“When factors outside of a veteran’s control affect their education, they deserve every protection to make sure they don’t lose access to the benefits they have earned,” said Senator Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “After putting their lives on hold to serve our country, our veterans have earned access to the best education possible when they leave the Armed Forces. This bipartisan bill will better ensure they have access to that education and the tools they need to succeed after their service.”

“The G.I. bill has helped many veterans make the leap to their next career in civilian life. However, that has not been the case for all veterans. This bill gives the VA Secretary the necessary flexibility to ensure that veterans are able to achieve their education goals despite unforeseen circumstances that are out of their control,” said Senator Young. “The discipline and work ethic of our military men and women is unmatched. They are assets to any business or organization they join and I will continue to work to ensure that they have every opportunity possible.”

“Unexpected school closures, like those recently seen in the for-profit college industry, put veterans and their families at risk of being unable to afford their housing. This bipartisan legislation would act as a safety net, allowing veterans to continue receiving critical housing benefits after their schools close. Veterans should not be put out on the streets because of the misconduct of for-profit colleges,” said Senator Durbin.

“G.I. bill benefits are critical to veterans who want to go back to school, and they should not lose this benefit and the chance to further their education just because their school shut its doors,” said Senator Heller. “Our legislation addresses the issue of veterans who – through no fault of their own – face the reality of a school closure and therefore lost opportunities. The VA must do everything it can to empower veterans with the education and skills they need to compete and succeed, and our bill addresses an important component of that mission.”



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