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Airman Dalton Shank, 5th Bomb Wing public affairs specialist, reads pamphlets on the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., March 10, 2017.

Airman Dalton Shank, 5th Bomb Wing public affairs specialist, reads pamphlets on the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., March 10, 2017. (Alyssa M. Akers/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON – The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs decided unanimously Wednesday to send a bill that expands GI Bill benefits to the House floor for a vote.

The legislation, a combination of 18 different bills, is described by its advocates as the largest change to veterans’ education benefits since the Post-9/11 GI Bill was created nearly a decade ago. One of the most-praised changes eliminates the 15-year deadline for veterans to use into their GI Bill after leaving the service. That, along with dropping “Post-9/11” from the name, makes it a “forever” benefit, advocates have said.

The bill passed on a voice vote Wednesday. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Monday that he would schedule a vote on the House floor within a week.

“We all, in this group, understand the historically important work we’re doing it, and the bipartisan way we’re doing it and conducting ourselves,” said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the ranking Democrat on the committee. “We’re moving something that is a big lift, but an important one.”

The bill also boosts aid for Purple Heart recipients, dependents, technical education and members of the National Guard and Reserve. The expansion is estimated to increase GI Bill costs by $3 billion in 10 years. To pay for it, the proposal calls for decreasing living stipends to GI Bill recipients to fall in line with active-duty servicemembers’ basic housing allowance. The change would not apply to people now using the GI Bill.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, announced their intent last week to follow with their own version. A bill had not been introduced in the Senate as of Wednesday.

Wentling.nikki@stripes.com Twitter:@nikkiwentling

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Nikki Wentling has worked for Stars and Stripes since 2016. She reports from Congress, the White House, the Department of Veterans Affairs and throughout the country about issues affecting veterans, service members and their families. Wentling, a graduate of the University of Kansas, previously worked at the Lawrence Journal-World and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The National Coalition of Homeless Veterans awarded Stars and Stripes the Meritorious Service Award in 2020 for Wentling’s reporting on homeless veterans during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, she was named by the nonprofit HillVets as one of the 100 most influential people in regard to veterans policymaking.
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