This afternoon, Speaker Pelosi, House Democratic Leaders and Democratic Members of the House joined with representatives from Veterans' Service Organizations including Joy Ilam from the Disabled American Vets, Timothy Tetz from the American Legion, Todd Powers from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Brian Hawthorne from the Student Veterans of America at an enrollment ceremony for the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act:
This bill strengthens the New GI Bill for the 21st Century, which will provide a four-year college education for nearly 300,000 veterans enrolled in college this fall, by making it easier for veterans to take advantage of benefits. The bill:
Expands opportunities for training and education, covering vocational and technical schools, apprenticeships and on the job training that were not previously covered.
Gives active duty students a book stipend of $1,000 per year, like veterans under the program.
Provides living allowances for distance learners, like injured veterans forced to take online classes.
Simplifies the Yellow Ribbon Program for veterans attending private colleges and universities and taking graduate courses, eliminating the confusing state cap system, and setting a $17,500 per year cap for tuition and fees.
Grants full credit to National Guardsmen, including those called up to respond to national disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the BP oil spill, making more than 130,000 eligible for this education benefit
The Senate passed the bill earlier this week and the House passed it yesterday. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature into law.
Speaker Pelosi's remarks:
"Good afternoon. Today we come together on behalf of our men and women in uniform to honor their service, to pay tribute to their sacrifice, and to strengthen their future. Educating our nation's veterans is an investment in our troops and our economy. It is also a responsibility or a cost of war. And with Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvement Act, we once again fulfill our debt of gratitude to our service members.
"You know, we say it over and over again when we come to talk about our veterans — in the military they say: "on the battlefield we will leave no soldier behind,' and we say: "and when they come home, we will leave no veteran behind.' When this bill was first passed, I remembered so many veterans who were very young and they came and said: "Say thanks to our vets, send them to college.' I know we have some students here today and we welcome you.
"I want to also acknowledge all of the Members of Congress here for their support and their votes for this critical legislation. The Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Bob Filner of California — thank you for your leadership. Chet Edwards of Texas may be with us momentarily, but I want to acknowledge the important role that he played in this legislation. Xavier Becerra, a Member of the House Democratic Leadership, is joining us. And we're going to do it this way — Mike Michaud, a valued member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, Subcommittee Chair on the Committee who has done so much work for America's military families, for women veterans, and for all veterans. I know one person who is happy about this bill is John Hall, because he has his imprint on it — thank you John Hall for your service as well as Dave Loebsack for his important role he played in putting together the legislation, Tim Walz from Minnesota, Tim Walz is the highest ranking enlisted person ever to serve in the U.S. Congress.
"I also want to acknowledge that we are joined by some of the members of the Veterans' Service Organizations and representatives of service members whose efforts were critical to this legislations' passage. This was an outside mobilization, an inside maneuver, a wonderful support for our veterans.
"I want to acknowledge Joy Ilam from the Disabled American Vets; Timothy Tetz from the American Legion; Todd Powers from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; and Brian Hawthorne, Student Veterans of America. We have all these other students that come today.
"It is a true honor to stand side by side with the leaders of the nation's Veterans' Service Organizations. They have helped us in so many ways and they reminded us — Steve Robertson, who was going to be with us and perhaps, will join — where is Steve? Hey, Steve! Steve was a regular attendee at our meetings of the VSOs, and he told us, well, reminded us, that it was the veterans of World War I who looked after the veterans of World War II because he knew of the shortcomings of our honoring our responsibility to the World War I vets — they knew, the World War I vets. So before World War II was even over, the GI Bill was passed to help those veterans, and of course, it not only helped the veterans, it helped build our country. So to the veterans of earlier wars up to the Vietnam War, etc. were concerned about the needs of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, post 9/11 vets, and they helped construct the GI Bill for the 21st century, a very important part of that initiative, of course, was the education piece. Today, we are making some technical corrections to that.
"In enacting the bill we extend the educational benefits of the post 9/11 GI Bill to our National Guardsmen and to veterans taking advantage of online education and distance learning. In a time of economic challenge for millions of Americans, we are expanding opportunities for job training, arming our troops with the tools to contribute as workers and helping strengthen our economy, and we do so in a fiscally responsible way.
"Taking this action fulfills a solemn promise we have made and kept to our troops — as I have said earlier — to leave no veteran behind when they come home. It is in the name of all who fight for our nation's security, that I am proud to sign the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act. And I will do so surrounded by those who made it possible inside the Congress and outside the Congress — not only for this legislation, but for all they do to honor our veterans who make us the land of the brave and the home of the free.
"So let us sign this bill."