In a rare moment of unity, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., just passed a major expansion to the education benefits for U.S. military veterans.
The bill, called the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017, flew through both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the span of three weeks, passing both by unanimous votes. After the Senate’s vote on Wednesday, the bill is headed to President Trump’s desk, where it’s expected he’ll sign.
Veterans advocates have been pushing for improvements to the GI Bill, which was created after World War II, for a couple years. And in fact, this bill is actually the culmination of 18 separate bills.
A long-valued military benefit, the GI Bill can offer significant tuition assistance. Payments vary depending on how long a veteran served on active duty, how many credits he or she is taking, and the type of college attended—although at most public colleges, the GI Bill will cover the entire tuition bill. Since 2009, more than 350,000 veterans have earned postsecondary certificates and degrees through the GI Bill.
Lawmakers plan to pay for the expanded benefits—which will cost $3 billion over 10 years—by decreasing living stipends to GI Bill recipients so that they fall in line with active-duty service members’ basic housing allowance.
Here are the bill’s biggest changes for student veterans.
It eliminates the time limit to use benefits. In one of its most prominent changes, the bill does away with benefit expiration dates for any new enlistees—hence its