President Joe Biden on Friday signed into law a measure to ease reporting requirements for GI Bill benefits at schools, an effort supporters say will help schools focus their resources less on bureaucratic paperwork and more on helping student veterans.
The Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act easily advanced through Congress with bipartisan support earlier this summer. Now that it has become law, the provisions will go into effect for schools immediately, providing some relief for the fall semester.
In a statement following congressional passage of the measure, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member Mike Bost, R-Ill. — one of the lead authors of the bill — praised the idea as a common-sense reform to evolving rules regarding the veterans education benefit.
“[This measure] will improve oversight to prevent fraudulent programs from taking advantage of veterans,” he said. “This way, schools will spend less time filling out government paperwork, and more time helping student veterans achieve their education goals.”
At issue are changes made to the GI Bill benefit in 2021.
Veterans Affairs officials at that time updated a series of definitions and accounting methods surrounding the 85-15 rule, which requires that institutions of higher education receive at least 15% of their income from non-government sources.
But outside veterans advocates said corresponding reporting requirements created burdensome paperwork for school administrators, who were instructed to provide details for every field of study and degree program to ensure compliance.
The new law is designed to simplify the rules, ensuring that schools — especially institutions with limited staff and few veteran enrollees — can verify eligibility without overwhelming administrative effort.
Schools can be exempted from detailed breakdowns completely if less than 35% of their students are not receiving GI Bill benefits. Lawmakers said that will allow basic monitoring of institutions with traditional, diverse student populations while providing needed oversight on schools that focus on recruiting and enrolling large numbers of veterans.
Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, in a statement said the measure “strikes an important balance of maintaining guardrails that provide protection from predatory programs that target student veterans, while ensuring that high quality programs at reputable institutions are not closed off to these students.”
Veterans Affairs officials said about 840,000 individuals used GI Bill benefits to attend college classes in fiscal 2021, totaling roughly $10.6 billion in payments.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.