WASHINGTON, DC -- The House of Representatives has passed the "GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act" (H.R. 357), a bipartisan bill that would require schools eligible for GI Bill education benefits to give all veterans in-state tuition rates even if they are not residents of the states where the schools are located. H.R. 357 was introduced last year by House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Ranking Member Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME).
"Given the nature of military service, veterans often have a difficult time establishing residency for purposes of obtaining in-state tuition rates," said Michaud. "This bipartisan bill finally helps ensure that the benefits of the GI Bill go further for our veterans attending public colleges and universities."
The bill's requirements go into effect on August 1, 2015. There is a hold harmless clause in the bill to ensure that if a school chooses to not provide in-state tuition, and then becomes ineligible for GI Bill benefits, students currently attending that school would be able to continue going there until they graduate or until August 1, 2019, whichever occurs first. H.R. 357, which was amended during committee consideration last year, also includes the following provisions:
Would clarify that veterans who are homeless and participating in the HUD-VASH voucher program, and those who are transitioning from being incarcerated are eligible for services under the Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program (HVRP). HVRP is a grant program, funded and run by VETS, which gives money to homeless veteran providers to fund job training programs for homeless veterans.
Would extend the delimiting date for a veteran to use their Voc Rehab benefits from 12 years to 17 years following their last discharge or when they became eligible for Voc Rehab benefits.
Would extend VA's work study program till June 30, 2018.
Would codify the major duties of the Directors and Assistant Directors (DVET/ADVET) of Veterans Employment and Training using the essential functions contained in the position description for DVETs that we received from VETS. Their basic responsibilities would be to track the funding and performance of Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialists (DVOPS) and Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVERS) who are funded through the Jobs for Veterans State Grant Program (JVSG). They would also be responsible for monitoring and advising state and local workforce agencies on all other VETS programs such as the HVRP.
Would require that if a servicemember plans to use their education benefits following discharge they would be required to take the education track as part of the mandatory portion of TAP. This training would include information about the education benefits available to servicemembers, testing for academic readiness, information about financing the education or training, and training on matching a school to the servicemembers' interests. This section would also require that TAP instruction also cover topics related to disability-related and education protections provided to disabled veterans. The section also requires that VA conduct a feasibility study to determine if they could contract out for TAP instruction like DOL currently does.
Would round down to the nearest dollar COLA increases for disability compensation and other benefits for FY 2013.
Would eliminate all bonuses for Senior Executive Service employees at VA for fiscal years 2014-2018.
Would require VA to submit semiannual reports to Congress on foreign travel by VA employees and travel funded by non-Federal sources. The reports would include the purpose of the travel, the destination, the name and title of each employee traveling. For travel funded by non-Federal sources, the report also would include the entity or individual funding the travel.
Would require VA to report infectious diseases diagnosed at VA medical facilities in accordance with the laws of the state the facility is located.
Would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to prescribe regulations to ensure that any visual recording made of a patient during the course of furnishing care through VA is carried out only with the full and informed consent of that patient or, in appropriate cases, a representative thereof. This section would allow the Secretary to waive such requirement if the recording is made: (1) upon a determination by a physician or psychologist that the recording is medically necessary, (2) pursuant to a warrant or order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or (3) in a public setting where a person would not have a reasonable expectation to privacy and the recording is for general security purposes not particularized to the patient.
Would extend the authorization for a veteran to use the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) from March 31, 2014 to May 31, 2014 to better align the program with the traditional academic period/semester.