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Trump signs bill expanding college access for veterans

(AP Photo)

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed into law a bill expanding college assistance for veterans. The “Forever GI Act” removed a 15-year limit on using educational benefits, increased financial services for those serving in the National Guard and Reserves, and expanded program eligibility.

It also restores credits lost to veterans who enrolled in for-profit colleges and institutions, such as ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian College, which lost their accreditation and shut down mid-semester.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who joined Trump for the signing in New Jersey, said that the bill expands full benefits to those who received a Purple Heart. Benefits can also be transferred to eligible dependents of deceased service members. Previously, members who actively served for less than 36 months or were forced to leave the service due to an injury only received partial benefits.

Starting in August of 2019, veterans can also receive nine additional months and up to $30,000 funding to complete science, technology, engineering, and mathematic degrees. This scholarship is also available to family members of deceased service members.

“This is expanding our ability to support our veterans in getting [an] education,” Shulkin told reporters at Trump’s golf course in New Jersey.

The bill expands Yellow Ribbon Program eligibility, which splits education cost not covered by the GI bill between the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs and the college to family members of deceased service members.

It also gives a 10 percent pay raise to service members who served for less than one year of active duty.

The Student Veterans of America estimate that only 50 percent of the 200,000 veterans leaving the military to enroll in college. Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Phil Roe (R-Tenn) said that this bill will give veterans more options for education.

“This legislation will enable veterans to use the education benefits they’ve earned through the GI Bill when and how it suits them best, setting them up for future success in whatever career they pursue,” Roe said in a statement.

The expanded benefits are planned to be paid through a one percent decrease in housing stipends over a five-year period.

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