Representative Mikie Sherrill Testifies In Front of House Veterans’ Affairs Committee for GI Bill NEED Act
GI Bill NEED Act Would Ensure Veterans Don’t Lose Access to Educational Benefits As Result of National Emergencies
Washington, DC — Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) yesterday testified in front of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to advocate for the consideration and passage of her recently introduced GI Bill NEED Act, which seeks to protect veterans from losing their educational benefits as a result of national emergencies outside of their control.
H.R. 2167, the GI Bill National Emergency Extended Deadline Act (GI Bill NEED Act) would allow the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to pause the 10 or 15 years’ time-limit to use GI Bill benefits during times of national emergency and other crises, and restart the clock after it’s safe for veterans to return to school. This past year has been a challenge for all Americans, including those veterans who answered the call to serve and are now pursuing the education and skills advancement needed to find success in civilian life. The GI Bill NEED Act is a simple common sense solution to ensure those who answered the call to serve receive the benefits they’ve earned.
In today’s hearing, the Student Veterans of America (SVA) and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) also spoke in support of the GI Bill NEED Act.
Watch Rep. Sherrill’s testimony here. Full written remarks included here:
Thank you to the chairman of the full committee, Chairman Takano.
Thanks to Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Moore, and members of the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee for providing me the opportunity to speak with you today.
I’d also like to thank you for the hard work you are doing for our veterans in these challenging times. The whole country has struggled to find their way through this painful year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and our veterans have really suffered as well. The critical work you are doing to reinvest in the economic future of those who have served will be key to not only rebuilding their lives, but the broader economy as well.
One of the challenges of this past year is that in too many ways we’ve all had to put our lives on hold. Schools and workplaces have closed, weddings postponed, and people have dipped into their savings or gone into debt to make ends meet. During my meetings with the veterans community of New Jersey’s eleventh district, one of the chief concerns they’ve highlighted is how this year has put on hold on their capability to invest in their education with their GI Bill benefits.
Our veterans earned their educational benefits through years of service. The GI Bill, and other educational benefits, empower them to be successful in the civilian workforce and contribute to their communities and the national economy. However, those same benefits still have an expiration date for many veterans, and they are now faced with the challenge of having one less year to use those benefits through no fault of their own.
It’s important to note that under Chairman Takano’s leadership that the entire Veterans’ Affairs Committee has taken strides to protect these benefits, such as in the Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020. However, the last year has shown that since that legislation was passed our veterans need additional protections for their benefits.
Current legislation only protects veteran benefits if they couldn’t go to their chosen program of education because their institution was closed, and only offers protection for the duration of the Coronavirus national emergency. But veterans in my district, and throughout the country, have had to forgo their education for a host of other reasons brought on by this national emergency, whether to care for their children, rejoin the workforce to make up for lost wages, or because pre-existing conditions prevent them from returning to in-person learning without serious risk to their lives. Those veterans need their benefits protected as well.
We also must ask “what about the next emergency?” If a veteran can’t use their benefit because of a natural disaster in their community, is that all that different from not being able to attend class because of a pandemic?
Which brings me to the reason I am testifying today. H.R. 2167, the GI Bill National Emergency Extended Deadline Act, or GI Bill NEED Act. This will empower the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs to protect veterans’ education benefits and keep them from expiring when a veteran is prevented from pursuing their education through no fault of their own, because of a national emergency or any other reasons as determined by the Secretary. I would also like to take this opportunity to publicly thank my Republican colleague and fellow veteran, Congresswoman Miller-Meeks, for her partnership in supporting this common-sense bipartisan solution.
I hope that this important legislation receives the subcommittee’s full support. Our veterans have earned these benefits through service to this nation and we can’t let COVID-19 take them away.
Before I conclude my remarks, I’d like to draw your attention to another important issue brought to my attention by representatives of the Student Veterans of America, who are also testifying today. Just as GI Bill benefits have an expiration for many of our veterans, so too does the Veteran Readiness and Employment benefits, or VR&E benefits, which enable our disabled veterans to effectively reenter the workforce. I plan on submitting similar legislation in the coming weeks to provide protections to keep these benefits from expiring when our disabled veterans are prevented from accessing them because of a national emergency or some other reason. I look forward to again working with this subcommittee in protecting those benefits as well.
Again, I want to thank the entire subcommittee for their continued service to veterans, the Veteran Service Organizations for their consistent advocacy, and in particular the Student Veterans of America for working with me to get the GI Bill NEED Act across the finish line. Last, I would also like to offer my thanks to all our veterans for their service to this country and to all of us.
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.