Legion testifies on GI Bill inequities

Legion testifies on GI Bill inequities
Economic Division Assistant Director Robert Madden testified before a House Committee on Veterans' Affairs subcommittee May 3. Photo by Craig Roberts

The American Legion expressed its concern at a congressional hearing about many student veterans being shortchanged by the GI Bill Improvement Act of 2010, and also condemned "fraudulent individuals" who misrepresent their businesses as service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs).

Robert Madden, assistant director of the Legion's Economic Division, testified May 3 on the two issues before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, chaired by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind.

The Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., would "temporarily preserve higher rates for tuition and fees for programs of education at non-public institutions of higher learning." These rates were capped for student veterans at $17,500 per academic year by the GI Bill Improvement Act, leaving many student veterans with higher out-of-pocket costs for the schools they are attending.

The American Legion welcomes the spirit of Miller's bill (H.R. 1383), but it wants the provisions extended to include student veterans attending out-of-state public institutions. Madden told the subcommittee that the $17,500 tuition cap had "unintended consequences that need to be addressed through legislative changes."

While Miller's bill helps student veterans already enrolled in private institutions, "We also need to address the out-of-state student veterans who are attending public school, but will now fall under this $17,500 cap and will be called upon to pay additional costs," Madden said.

In addition to restoring higher tuition rates to all current student veterans, Madden said in his written testimony The American Legion wants Congress to add "interval pay to include those months when veterans are between semesters, yet in need of the housing allowance to meet their financial responsibilities."

Another piece of legislation, H.R. 1657, was introduced by Stutzman to revise enforcement penalties for misrepresentation of small business concerns as being owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans.

"The minimal oversight and protection for SDVOSBs needs to come to an end," Madden said. "Time after time, federal agencies are allowing fraudulent individuals to gain contracts intended for an SDVOSB."

In a 2009 report, the Government Accountability Office estimated that more than $100 million had been awarded to firms that fraudulently claimed SDVOSB status. GAO said "significant control weaknesses" allowed ineligible firms "to receive millions in SDVOSB contracts."

The American Legion also supports H.R. 802, a bill directing the secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a VetStar Award Program to recognize the contributions of businesses in hiring veterans.

The subcommittee is also considering draft legislation on the extension of adaptive housing assistance for disabled veterans. "This aid cannot be allowed to sunset," Madden said. "The extension to this aid is needed and supported by the Legion."

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RETAIRFORCEMAN

May 5, 2011 - 9:33pm

I WANT TO TELL YOU THAT I SERVED MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS OF CONTINUOUS MILITARY HONORABLE ACTIVE DUTY SERVICE AND WAS PROMISED FOUR YEARS OF COLLEGE AFTER I WAS HONORABLY DISCHARGED. THIS TURNED OUT TO BE A LIE BY OUR GOVERNMENT AND THE AMERICAN LEGION DID NOT DO ANYTHING TO STOP THEM FROM STEALING IT WHICH WAS PROMISED TO ME. I SERVED FROM AUG 1967 TO DEC 1987. I DID NOT CONVERT TO THE MONTGOMERY GI BILL BECAUSE I WAS NOT ELIGIBLE BECAUSE OF HONORABLE DISCHARGE BEFORE JULY 1988. THE US GOVERNMENT BROKE A SOLEMN PROMISE TO ME BECAUSE OF MY REMAINING ON ACTIVE DUTY CAREER MILITARY MAN. THE AMERICAN LEGION DID NOTHING WHILE CONGRESS DISCONTINUED THE OLD GI BILL AS OF 31 DEC 1989. I WAS RAPED BY OUR GOVERNMENT AND TAKEN TO THE CLEANERS. NO ONE DID ANYTHING FOR ME. I HAD MY DRAFT NOTICE FOR THE VIETNAM WAR IN 1967. NOBODY GAVE A RATS ABOUT US VIETNAM WAR VETS WHO ARE NOW DYING FROM AGENT ORANGE EXPOSURE ON GUAM WHERE I HANDLED AND HAND SPRAYED IT FOR TEN YEARS THERE WITH AIR FORCE DOCUMENTS

antoniomerrick1

May 10, 2011 - 11:10am

Each individual veteran’s circumstances are different and the best option for you is to allow the American Legion to look into your situation. The American Legion as been fighting for veterans since their conception and is dedicated to making sure America do not forget those who born the battle. It is a wide known historical fact that politicians did not fight for returning Vietnam Veterans however, the American Legion stood their ground and fought the battle for Veterans just as they are doing today. Again, every veteran circumstance is different and it is best that you contact the American Legion directly or the veteran service organization you feel most comfortable with. I personally thank you for your service to our country. And I wish you the best of luck. Antonio Merrick Friendly Post 364

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