NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – As the nation pauses to observe Veterans Day, today U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was joined by New Jersey student veterans and advocates at Rutgers Veterans Services to announce the introduction of legislation that would extend education benefits for student veterans.
The Veteran Education and Transfer (VET) Extension Act would address critical gaps in current U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) education benefits, which were revealed during a roundtable discussion convened by Senator Booker at Rutgers Veterans Services last year, by expanding coverage for remedial courses, allowing veterans to transfer benefits to future dependents, and ending the restriction on education benefits transfer for longtime service members.
“We know that our nation’s veterans face unique challenges when returning to their communities, so we have an obligation to provide them the resources they have earned and deserve,” said Senator Booker. “By expanding education benefits for the men and women who served in our Armed Forces, including increased eligibility for remedial courses, we are boosting both their employment rate and earning potential after graduation. Also, allowing veterans who eventually have dependents to transfer their education benefits would put them on equal footing with veterans who had dependents while on active duty. It’s vital that we ensure our veterans are empowered for success as civilians, and this legislation takes an important step in fulfilling that commitment.”
"Rutgers is committed to ensuring that the transition of our students who have served, or are currently serving in the military, and their families, back other communities is a smooth one academically, emotionally, and mentally,” said Ann Treadaway, Director of Rutgers New Brunswick Veterans Services. “We appreciate Senator Booker's efforts and dedication to the same."
Most student veterans receive education benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which grants 36 months of educational entitlement to veterans after they separate from the military. However, those 36 months do not include the time needed for service members to take remedial courses, which are often required for students who are out of school for a period of time.
Matthew Kelly, a veteran and current student at Rutgers New Brunswick, required a year and a half of remedial classes before he could start his computer science major. In order to not run out of his GI Bill benefits, Matt was forced to take 40 academic credits in one year to accommodate the number of prerequisite remedial courses.
“I know the impact firsthand of the current limited eligibility for remedial courses,” said Mr. Kelly. “While I passed all my classes by working rigorously, my GPA was still adversely impacted by taking so many courses at once. Despite all that hard work, my GI Bill benefits will still run out before my last semester. I am grateful for Senator Booker’s efforts to address this issue and his commitment to the success of our nation’s veterans.”
Veterans can also face challenges when trying to transfer their education benefits. Under current law, if a service member separates from the military and does not have a child or spouse to sign their education benefits over to, they lose the ability to transfer those benefits.
In July 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that eligibility to transfer educational benefits to a dependent will now be limited to service members with less than 16 years of total active-duty or selected reserve service, where previously there were no restrictions.
The VET Extension Act addresses these issues by:
Extending Eligibility to Cover Remedial Courses: The legislation would increase the months of assistance available to qualifying veterans by the lesser of 15 months, or in the case of an individual who has already completed remedial courses, the full-time equivalent number of months of educational assistance that they used to complete such courses.
Expanding Ability to Transfer Benefits to Dependents: The legislation would allow veterans who did not have dependents at the time of their separation from service to later transfer the education benefits should they come to have an eligible dependent.
Ending Restriction on Benefits Transfers: The legislation would reverse the recently announced Department of Defense (DoD) policy of restricting the transfer of education benefits for service members with more than 16 years of total service, and would prevent the DoD from restricting the transfer of such educational benefits by service members to their dependents in the future.