By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Today, Rep. Paul Cook (R- Apple Valley) and Rep. Mark Takano (D- California), introduced HR 245, the Veterans’ Education Equity Act. This bipartisan bill fixes a discrepancy in the way the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently determines Post-9/11 GI Bill housing payments for student veterans that prevents some veterans from receiving a fair housing payment.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a hard-earned benefit that pays for student veterans’ higher education tuition and fees, as well as a monthly basic allowance for housing (BAH) stipend. The BAH amount differs based on the cost of living in the zip code of the student’s school, with the goal of allowing the student veteran to live comfortably while undertaking his or her studies.
The VA determines the BAH amount based on the zip code where the school is certified, not necessarily where the school is located. This policy can result in monthly BAH payments that fall below or far exceed the actual cost of living. It also places schools that are both located and certified in the same zip code at a recruiting disadvantage, because local schools offer student veterans a much lower monthly BAH payment than satellite campuses of schools certified in more expensive areas.
Veterans who attend schools that offer classes located in the same zip code should receive an identical housing benefit. Current policy leaves some student veterans with housing stipends that do not cover their cost of living. In other cases, some schools take advantage of unfair recruiting practices by advertising higher BAH payments that give student veterans more than they need to live comfortably in that area. This policy results in higher than necessary taxpayer expenditures for the Post-9/11 GI Bill without resulting in better educational outcomes for student veterans.
The Veterans Education Equity Act fixes this by calculating the payment based on where students attends their classes, not where the institution of higher learning is certified. This bill ensures veterans receive an adequate and fair housing allowance while eliminating fraud and abuse of the program.
Rep. Cook said, “One of my top priorities in Congress is protecting the benefits our veterans have earned while defending this nation. This important legislation ensures that our student veterans are getting a fair and reasonable housing benefit so they can afford to complete their education.”
Rep. Takano said, “The GI Bill’s housing allowance is critical to ensuring student veterans receive the education they have earned. This technical fix to the program will provide needed support to veterans while protecting the integrity of the GI Bill.”
A member of the House Natural Resources, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.