WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), joined U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Jon Tester (D-Montana) in introducing the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017; broad, bipartisan legislation that will improve veterans’ education benefits and enhance the post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

This legislation includes an Inhofe provision, S. 1356, the Veterans Education Improvement Act of 2017, which reinstates veterans’ eligibility under the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 for education benefits when pursuing post-secondary career and technical education (CTE) programs. Current law prevents veterans from using education benefits for independent study unless it is for a degree offered by an institution of higher learning, making certain CTEs ineligible. This provision will remove this obstacle allowing Oklahoma’s veterans access to more than 200 programs to obtain necessary and marketable skills.

“In protecting and serving our country, veterans rightfully deserve access to higher education opportunities and the G.I. Bill has provided this access for generations,” Inhofe said, “The reforms proposed by the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 will improve our veterans success as they transition into civilian life. One of these reforms will once again allow veterans to use their G.I. benefit to pursue accredited CTE courses, giving our veterans access to a full range of education options.”

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 also makes much-needed updates for reservists, Purple Heart recipients, veterans who face school closures while enrolled and surviving family members. The legislation also provides increased resources and authority for educational assistance to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, computer programming and career technical training.

This bill recognizes our country’s need for an agile and adaptable workforce and that American workers need to be lifelong learners. For that purpose, this bill eliminates the arbitrary 15-year period within which a veteran is required to use their G.I. Bill so they can use their benefits at any time in their professional career.

Additionally, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017:

· Provides G.I. Bill eligibility for reservists mobilized under selected reserve orders for preplanned missions in support of the combatant commands or in response to a major disaster or emergency;

· Provides G.I. Bill eligibility for reservists undergoing medical care;

·Provides full G.I. Bill benefits for Purple Heart recipients regardless of length of service;

· Extends Yellow Ribbon Program benefits to Fry scholarship recipients; and

· Increases G.I. Bill payments by $2,300 per year for veterans with less than 12 months of active service.

The legislation is named in honor of Harry Walter Colmery, an Army Air Service veteran and former national commander of the American Legion who drafted the original G.I. Bill in 1944 to improve the transition for World War II veterans back to civilian life.

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 is also co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Shelley Moore-Capito (R-W.VA,), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jerry Moran, (R-Kan.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Thom Tillis (R-N.C) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on July 13.

Background:

On June 15, the Veterans Affairs’ Committee heard S. 1356, the Veterans Education Improvement Act of 2017.

On June 14, Inhofe and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced S. 1356, the Veterans Education Improvement Act of 2017.

On Dec. 12, 2016, the Senate passed S. 3021.

On June 6, 2016 Inhofe introduced the Veterans Education Improvement Act of 2016, the basis for the legislation introduced today. Later that month, he testified in front of the Senate Veterans Affairs committee in favor of his legislation.

On April 29, Sens. Inhofe and Lankford and Rep. Markwayne Mullin sent a letter to the Obama administration questioning why CTE benefits were revoked.