Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise today in support of the Senate amendments to H.R. 1383, as amended, the Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011. The bill would temporarily restore the Post-9/11 GI Bill program's original method of paying tuition and fees to veterans attending private schools in several States.
When the original Post-9/11 GI Bill was enacted, veterans were promised that the VA would pay 100 percent of tuition and fees up to a State's most expensive instate undergraduate tuition and fee charges at a public institution of higher learning. The State-based cap applied to veterans who chose both public and private schools. What this meant to some veterans attending schools in certain States was tuition and fee payments could be well in excess of $20,000 annually. Veterans applied and enrolled
in these schools based on that original promise.
However, in an effort to ``fix'' some elements of the original GI Bill, Congress left those veterans in a bind. The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, which was enacted on January 4, 2011, made several changes. And one of those changes included a national cap of $17,500 on tuition and fee payments for veterans attending private schools, a change that will go into effect 1 week from today. For veterans that were enrolled in certain private schools in several States,
including New York, Texas, Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, this change has real consequences. They will see their tuition and fee payments reduced by thousands of dollars. And, Mr. Speaker, I just don't think that's fair.
We shouldn't change the rules on these veterans when they had already decided to attend the school of their choice and made financial decisions based on those rules. On May 23, the House unanimously voted to keep the original promise made to these veterans in H.R. 1383. The Senate has now acted on that bill, and we're ready to finish the job and send the bill to the President before these cuts can take place.
Similar to the original House measure, the Senate amendment would temporarily restore the cap on tuition and fees to the State-based method effective on August 1, 2011. This increase would apply only to veterans who were enrolled in nonpublic institutions of higher learning in the seven States that I mentioned previously before the 4th of January of 2011--in other words, they had to have already been enrolled on the 4th of January of this year--a change from the House-passed version which was
actually April 1 of 2011. Veterans who initially enrolled after January 4, 2011, would be subject to the new cap.
Mr. Speaker, it has come to our attention that some veterans are concerned about the January 4 eligibility date. We have talked with VA. They have assured us that any veteran who has applied and was accepted to a school on or before the 4th of January of 2011 will be covered under this particular bill we are considering on the floor today. Veterans who applied or were accepted after that date will be grandfathered under H.R. 1383.
I believe VA's interpretation of the bill accurately reflects the House's intent. I would note that this bill, as amended, passed the Senate unanimously, and, of course, it passed this body unanimously as well.
I reserve the balance of my time and would encourage a positive vote by all my colleagues.
Mr. FILNER. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I also rise in support of H.R. 1383, as amended. I thank Chairman Miller for the work he has done on the bill to make sure it was palatable in both the House and the Senate.
Let me just say, though, for the record, the GI Bill updates which we passed last Congress were passed with the full support of virtually every veterans service organization in the Nation, the majority of which submitted letters of support and strongly advocated for the bill, which included this tuition cap which we have been talking about. Everyone was well aware of the effect of the tuition cap, so I was sort of surprised when these same folks started talking about what they called ``unintended
consequences.'' I think everybody knew the consequences.
I know that many of our veterans made plans about their education based on the laws in effect before they started. And while most States ended up getting an increase with the new national average, a few States also saw a decrease. It is in these States that H.R. 1383, as amended, seeks to hold harmless our veterans from the so-called ``unintended consequences'' of the tuition cap.
Our veterans have indeed, as Chairman Miller pointed out, earned their education benefits, and I firmly believe that we should seek to avoid any actions that may interfere with the use of their benefits. I am pleased that we are here today taking action to alleviate this potential burden on a small population of these student veterans. The start of the new school year, of course, is right around the corner, so I hope that with our quick action today we will have this issue solved in
time for the new academic year.
We have made quite a few changes to improve the so-called Post-9/11 GI Bill, and more changes are still being contemplated. As a veterans' committee and as a Congress, we must continue to work hard to ensure future changes do not delay or diminish benefits. Veterans are our priority, and we will protect their interests.
I have no further requests for time, Mr. Speaker, and I yield back the balance of my time.