Legislation for fair housing benefit for student veterans supported by Rep. Paul Cook, passes House

By on July 26, 2017

Rep. Paul Cook (R-8th District-Apple Valley) has voted in favor of HR 3218, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, and the bill unanimously passed the House. Rep. Cook was a co-sponsor of the bill.

Rep. Cook had originally introduced legislation to resolve an issue in the way the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determines and pays Post-9/11 GI Bill housing benefits for student veterans. The prior VA determination prevented some veterans from receiving a fair housing payment. Language from Rep. Cook’s original Veterans Education Equity Act was included in HR 3218.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a benefit that pays for student veterans’ higher education tuition and fees, as well as a basic allowance for housing (BAH) monthly stipend. Currently, the VA determines the BAH stipend based on the zip code where the school is certified, not necessarily where the school is located. This can result in significant variances in a fair housing allowance when an institution of higher learning has multiples campuses spread throughout the United States in vastly different housing markets. The old policy often resulted in monthly BAH payments that fell below or far exceed the actual cost of housing.

HR 3218 will resolve the problem by calculating the BAH payment based on where students attend their classes, not where the institution of higher learning is certified. This bill ensures veterans receive an adequate and fair housing allowance while eliminating fraud and waste in the program.

“This important legislation ensures that our student veterans are getting a fair and reasonable housing benefit so they can afford to complete their education,” said Rep. Cook. “One of my top priorities in Congress is protecting the benefits our veterans have earned while defending this nation. This package of reforms makes significant improvements to the GI bill and I look forward to the bill being signed into law.”

HR 3218 also removes time restrictions to use the GI Bill, enabling future recipients to use their GI benefits throughout their entire life as opposed to the current 15-year timeline. The bill also includes significant increases in GI Bill funding of benefits for Reservists and Guardsmen as well as dependents, surviving spouses and surviving dependents. The bill has been deemed budget neutral and includes provisions that have been proposed and prioritized by Veterans Service Organizations.

The GI bill was originally enacted in 1944 to allow all veterans the opportunity to invest in themselves and their futures through access to education benefits. It has helped millions of veterans pay for college, graduate school, and other training programs.

Rep. Cook’s 8th Congressional District includes the city of Yucaipa. Rep. Cook maintains a second office in Yucaipa at 34282 Yucaipa Blvd. in order to better serve his constituents in the southern section of the district. The office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The office can be reached at 909-797-4900.