Gus Bilirakis’ Proposal to Ensure Student Veterans Not Penalized by Colleges, Universities Gains Momentum

June 25, 2018
Sunshine State News

A Florida Republican’s proposal to make sure veterans are not financially penalized by colleges and universities as they wait for their federal education benefits is gaining traction on Capitol Hill.

Back in January, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced the “Servicemembers Improved Transition through Reforms for Ensuring Progress (SIT-REP) Act.” Under the proposal, veterans using their GI Bill benefits will not be penalized if the VA delays payment to the school due to the time it takes to process.

Bilirakis explained why he introduced the legislation.

“I filed this common sense bill in response to several student veterans who were subject to punitive action by their school because it received payment from the VA after a certain deadline,” Bilirakis said. “Veterans should never experience financial harm or delays in education due to bureaucratic red tape in processing paperwork at the VA or school. The GI Bill is already a wonderful benefit that our veterans have earned and this legislation just makes the program better.”

The Florida Republican reeled in the support of a host of veterans groups including the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). Two fellow Florida Republicans–U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Bill Posey–are original cosponsors. Other supporters of the bill include U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-NC, U.S. Rep. Ann Kuster, D-NH, and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Tex.

At the end of last week, the Senate version was introduced by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.

“All three of my brothers served in the military, and they taught me about the importance of honoring our promises to our veterans and servicemembers,” Warren said on Friday. “We owe our servicemembers a quality education when they return home so they can build a future for themselves and their families. I’m glad to work with Senator Boozman to support student veterans who put their life on the line in service to our country.”

“We must create certainty for our veterans who use the education benefits they earned in service to our country. This is a commonsense measure that allows veterans to eliminate the potential for financial hardships to receive the tools to help prepare them for civilian life. I appreciate Senator Warren’s leadership on this issue,” said Boozman.

For his part, Bilirakis welcomed the additional support.

“I am glad to see our Senate colleagues moving this issue forward and look forward to its expedited passage,” Bilirakis said on Monday.