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Larsen’s ‘GI Bill for Life’ act gets hearing

BY RECORD STAFF

Congressman Rick Larsen has introduced the GI Bill for Life Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill would remove the 10-year time limit on GI Bill benefits to improve education and job training opportunities for veterans.

Larsen, D-2nd District, said veterans should be given more time to use the benefits they have earned. A hearing was held on the proposed bill Jan. 17 in the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

“After leaving the service, many veterans who paid into the GI Bill program must postpone returning to school to care for their families or recover from service-related injuries,” Larsen said.

“Helping more veterans get a two- or four-year degree will be good for veterans, military families and our 21st century economy. The debt we owe our nation’s veterans doesn’t come with an expiration date, and neither should their GI bill benefits.”

The GI Bill provides veterans — there are roughly 670,000 veterans in Washington — who choose to participate with up to 36 months of benefits for college, technical or vocational courses and other training opportunities.

Service members agree to a $100 per month reduction in pay during their first 12 months of active service, for a total contribution of $1,200.

While money paid into the program is non-refundable, under current law veterans have a limited amount of time to use their education benefits before they expire. Those who served on active duty have 10 years to use education benefits, while reservists have

14 years.

While approximately 80 percent of service members contribute to the GI Bill program, only 59 percent take advantage of their education benefits before they expire, according to government statistics.

Larsen’s GI Bill for Life Act has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Maria Cantwell.

Larsen told the committee that because of the GI Bill, countless veterans have become teachers, scientists and engineers and made countless contributions to communities across the country.

“As more and more veterans come back from Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas of the world, we need to give them the tools they need to succeed in the next stage of their lives,” Larsen said.

“We need to give them every opportunity to transition to civilian life and take advantage of future career opportunities.

“The GI Bill for Life Act would remove current time limitations and allow our nation’s veterans to use their benefits whenever they see fit,” he said. “They paid into the program and they should be able to use the program at the right time in their lives and their careers.”

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