Pres. Trump signs legislation that includes Rep. Cook’s language on Veterans Education Equity Act

By on August 20, 2017

Co-sponsored by Rep. Paul Cook (R-8th District-Apple Valley), Pres. Donald Trump recently signed HR 3218, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017. The new legislation includes language from Rep. Cook’s Veterans Education Equity Act.

“This important legislation is a package of reforms makes significant improvements to the GI bill and ensures veterans can use their education benefits whenever they choose,” said Rep. Cook. “I’m pleased that (the) package of reforms includes my language concerning the veterans student housing benefit, which is essential to ensuring they can afford to complete their education. One of my top priorities in Congress is protecting the benefits our veterans have earned while defending this nation, and the President did well by signing HR 3218 into law.”

Rep. Cook had introduced the Veterans Education Equity Act in January to fix a problem in Post-9/11 GI Bill housing payments for student veterans, which prevented some veterans from receiving a fair housing payment. While Rep. Cook’s bill did not make it through Congress, he succeeding in having the bill language included in HR 3218.

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

The original 1944 GI Bill – later renamed the Post-9/11 GI Bill – has provided 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. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a benefit that pays for student veterans’ higher education tuition and fees, as well as a monthly basic allowance for housing (BAH) stipend.

Rep. Cook realized that the BAH stipend as determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was based on the zip code where the school is certified as an institute of higher education, not necessarily where a campus is located. For schools with campuses in multiple locations, this policy can result in monthly BAH payments that fall below or far exceed the actual cost of housing.

The Veterans Education Equity Act, as written by Rep. Cook, would fix the problem by calculating the payment based on where students attend their classes, not where the institution of higher learning is certified, ensuring veterans receive an adequate and fair housing allowance while eliminating fraud and waste in the program. While Cook’s bill did not make it through Congress, he succeeding in having the bill language included in HR 3218.

A member of the House Armed Services, Natural Resources, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Rep. Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years with the final rank as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

Rep. Cook’s 8th Congressional District includes Yucaipa. He maintains a field office in Yucaipa at 34282 Yucaipa Blvd. The office is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and can be reached at 909-797-4900.