Durbin Supports Helping Illinois Veterans Take Full Advantage Of Their Education Benefits
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to allow Illinois veterans to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to pay for tuition, books and housing at the same time they are using state benefits for tuition.
The State of Illinois has requested a waiver from current federal VA policy that requires state benefits to be applied before Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits forcing veteran students to spend down all state benefits before accessing their federal benefits. Because Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits can be used to help pay for housing and state veterans benefits cannot, many Illinois students have chosen to forgo the state benefits to which they are entitled in order to take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
“Veteran students should not be punished for living in a state like Illinois, which provides 100% tuition and fee coverage for eligible veterans, spouses, and children, They shouldn’t have to choose between their state benefits and the federal benefits they were promised,” said Durbin. “The state of Illinois’ waiver request is common sense and I urge the Department of Veterans Affairs to approve it right away.”
Text of today’s letter is below:
August 25, 2014
Ms. Tammy Kennedy
Acting General Counsel
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Ms. Kennedy,
I am writing to support a proposed waiver to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy regarding the use of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and Illinois student veteran education benefits. The waiver request, submitted by the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Illinois Department of Military Affairs, and Illinois Student Assistance Commission, would help veteran students in Illinois use the benefits they have earned to pay for tuition, books, and housing during college.
Currently, a problem arises when veteran students in Illinois who qualify for less than 100 percent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill use State of Illinois veterans’ benefits in conjunction with their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. VA policy requires state benefits to be applied before Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, so veteran students must spend down all state benefits before they can access these federal benefits. Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits can be used to help pay for housing while state veterans benefits cannot, which leads many students to forgo the state benefits to which they are entitled so they can take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
The State of Illinois hopes to change eligibility rules for its program to require postsecondary institutions to apply the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the students’ accounts first. This would allow veterans to pay for housing and books first. State veterans benefits would then be used to cover remaining eligible tuition and fees. The State requests that USDVA waive the “payer of last resort” policy as it has for several other states.
It was not the intent of Congress to require veteran students in a state like Illinois, which provides 100 percent tuition and fee coverage for eligible veterans, spouses, and children, to choose between their state benefits and the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The requested waiver would marry the Post-9/11 GI Bill with Illinois’ state benefit programs.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and for all that you do for our nation’s veterans and their families. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or to have your staff contact Anne Kierig on my staff at (202) 224-2152.
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