Cantwell-sponsored Bill Expanding Education Opportunities for Veterans Heads to President’s Desk

Bill will modernize, strengthen veterans’ education benefits, expand opportunities for computer science and STEM education

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United States Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to modernize and strengthen education benefits for Washington state veterans, Reservists, and their families. The legislation is now headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 will break down barriers to education benefits by getting rid of the arbitrary 15-year window, allowing veterans to use their GI Bill education benefits for life. Cantwell has worked to remove the time limit placed on accessing GI Bill benefits since 2007 when she introduced the Montgomery GI Bill for Life Act.

"For more than 70 years, the GI Bill has opened the door to higher education for millions of service members and veterans who wouldn't otherwise have had the chance to pay for college. By removing the arbitrary time limits, our veterans can get the valuable skills training and education they need to succeed in life outside the military when it is the right time for them to do so,” said Cantwell.

Of particular importance to Cantwell, the bill makes critical investments in student veterans who pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering or math fields, as well as technical and vocational careers. The bill also allows Guardsmen and Reservists to count their training, deployments, and medical treatment related to their service towards accruing education benefits like their active duty counterparts. 

“In Washington state, our tech industry is booming and creating new jobs every day,” said Cantwell. “By ensuring our veterans can access STEM education or use their on-the-job computer science training, they can fill these jobs and power the 21st century economy.”

Computing jobs are growing in every industry and in every state. There are currently more than 20,000 open computing jobs in Washington state, and more than 500,000 nationwide. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates there will be 4.4 million jobs in computer and information technology occupations by 2024. Despite the clear need for a workforce with coding and programming skills, many veterans have been unable to use their GI benefits to access coding and computer science training programs.

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act also does the following:

  • Extends the Yellow Ribbon Enhancement Program, which provides education benefits to survivors of those who died in the line of duty.
  • Transfers benefits to a dependent if the servicemember dies before being able to use them.
  • Restores benefits to student veterans who received credits or training from certain educational institutions that subsequently close.
  • Reinstates the Reserve Educational Assistance Program for Reservists.
  • Prorates licensing and certification benefits, rather than charging veterans a month’s worth of benefits.
  • Extends full education benefits to recipients of the Purple Heart.
  • Provides more on-campus educational and vocational counseling services for veterans.