Critical response paper – The “Education For Veterans” bill introduced in the US Congress in 2021 by Senator John McCain and Representatives Barney Frank and Peter V. Gingletto would create a new grant program to help educate returning veterans on higher education. Veterans have been underserved by our education system, and this bill is a step in the right direction to correct that mistake. The bill encourages the secretaries of state to work with veterans and make the education a priority. The bill also encourages federal agencies to work with veteran student aid organizations. In addition, I believe the bill is needed because there are far too many young veterans returning from service with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a common issue in our veterans’ population, as well as other psychological issues that need to be addressed by higher education.
For all these reasons, I’ve co-sponsored the “education for veterans” bill with Representatives Jackie Walorski and Robert Weibert. Although it may seem to be an unnecessary bill with no immediate benefit to the vets, if we look at the bigger picture, this bill is needed because there are far too many returning military and veterans without the benefits from the Armed Forces or the Veterans Administration that they deserve due to their service in our nation. The VA is one of the largest recipient of veteran funding, but the funds it receives are rarely utilized. This bill provides another important venue through which these funds can be used to provide greater access to higher education for those willing to serve our country.
The education for veterans bill is reported to have several advantages for both service members and veterans. For veterans, eligibility for tuition assistance would include members of the Selected Reserve who have been honorably discharged, as well as the immediate family members of such members. It also has provisions for students who are currently enrolled in a college or university and are in high need of financial aid. The bill encourages colleges and universities to participate in a partnership with veteran schools and colleges to provide scholarships to students who demonstrate particular qualities that are necessary for higher education.
Many of these scholarships and grant money awards will be available to student veterans and their spouses who are in the process of completing a high school education. Another provision of the bill would require each participating school to provide the names of students who qualify for the award, and the number of grants awarded each year. This would increase the competition among these schools to remain a participant in the program and receive the maximum awards available. Finally, to encourage more student veterans and their spouses to return to school, the bill would also provide additional Pell Grant funds to help pay for education, contingent upon the success of returning students. These funds are currently not available.
The education for veterans program is expected to be a priority proposal for Congress in the upcoming year. Given the strained budgets that most members of Congress have in 2021, this could be a wise budgeting approach. In addition to providing funds to veteran’s colleges and universities, the funds should also be available to adult learners, adult college degrees, and technical assistance programs for veterans. The veterans benefits advisors are charged with implementing a comprehensive approach to education for veterans, and they have been urged to maximize the opportunities for funding. The success of the program depends heavily on how effectively these veterans can be reached and how effectively the counselors and schools implement the education for veterans into their programs.
The bill encourages the Secretary of Defense to coordinate with academic advisors of the United States Military Services to identify educational opportunities for military members who are eligible for benefits. These advisors would then submit a request to the Secretary of Defense for a list of eligible candidates, along with the amounts and types of educational assistance that would be provided. The assistance that is provided to eligible veterans and their spouses would cover tuition costs, credit hours, and any incidental costs. If the request for funding is denied, the funds would be retained in the designated fund for future eligibility consideration.