Blumenthal Introduces Bill to Repeal Restrictive, Unfair and Arbitrary Barriers for Veterans Pursuing Higher Education

(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced today he has introduced new legislation to repeal restrictive, unfair and arbitrary time limits currently in place for veterans seeking to take advantage of Montgomery G.I. Bill higher education benefits. The Veterans Back to School Act of 2013 would provide veterans the flexibility, opportunity and support to further their education, repealing existing time limits on Montgomery G.I. Bill Benefits and reestablishing the Veterans Education Outreach Program.

Since 1987, over 2.5 million veterans have used Montgomery G.I. Bill-Active Duty benefits to receive college degrees and crucial training for long term careers. Service members currently pay $1,200 while serving in order to obtain these benefits as veterans. However, these important benefits expire ten years after separation of service, regardless of whether they have been used, cutting off access to vital education opportunities for many veterans. Currently, more than two million veterans have passed their ten year deadline without using all of the benefits to which they would have been entitled.  

“The G.I. Bill has provided millions of veterans vital educational opportunities to improve their lives and careers, enriching our economy and strengthening communities at the same time. However, millions of veterans are currently denied these opportunities due to restrictive, unfair and arbitrary time limits now in place,” Blumenthal said. “Given the changing nature of today’s job market and economy, many veterans are now choosing to go back to school and receive additional training and expertise more than a decade after separating from the military. These wise decisions should be supported for all veterans. The Veterans Back to School Act provides a simple fix to eliminate the unjust and unfair restrictions, and allows current and future generations of veterans to use these hard-earned benefits whenever it makes best sense for their futures, families and careers,” Blumenthal said.    

Additionally, the bill would reinstate the Veterans Education Outreach Program, once a highly successful program in the post-Vietnam Era to provide grants to educational institutions to create offices of student veterans’ affairs. The program was eliminated after the Cold War, but is needed as much as ever today.  

“Reestablishing this once successful program will allow colleges and universities to provide critical support for veteran students, including counseling and readjustment assistance. These programs would be responsible for providing targeted support to veteran students, as well as outreach and recruitment to provide valuable information to veterans who may be considering returning to school. We owe it to all of our brave service men and women to ensure that they have the best supports available as they pursue new civilian careers and opportunities,” Blumenthal said.  

 Sarah L. Hamby was honorably discharged from the Army in 1999, and intended to take advantage of benefits available to her under the G.I. Bill. However, as a single mother, she was unable to begin her studies until this year, when she began pursuing an Associate’s degree at Quinebaug Valley Community College using benefits from the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which provides 12 months of education assistance for unemployed veterans attending school full time. Despite earning straight A’s in her first semester, she is faced with a pending expiration of her benefits and worries she will not be able to complete her program. She recently reached out to Senator Blumenthal for assistance.  

“As an Army veteran, honorably discharged in 1999, I fully intended to take advantage of the G.I. Bill - a program I contributed to while serving on active duty. However, as a single parent, I entered the work force and did what I could to provide for my daughter, instead of pursuing an education. Time passed and eventually my opportunity to use this incredible benefit did, as well. I know that this happens to other soldiers - to so many who put their lives on hold to take care of their families or to put their lives back together after returning from a deployment that can take time to recover from. The Veterans Back to School Act of 2013 is legislation I have been asking for - the repeal of time limits currently placed on the use of the Montgomery G.I. Bill. The elimination of this time limit will, I know, allow many service men and women the opportunity to go to college. To learn new skills and to gain the knowledge necessary to enter today's job market. To better support their families. And almost more importantly, to instill in them the self-confidence and pride they deserve as protectors of our country,” said Hamby.