A bill that would protect student veterans, ease voting rules for military spouses, expand burial benefits for military families and make other changes to veterans' benefits is headed to the president's desk.
Congress passed the package of veterans bills late Wednesday, known as the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act. The legislation garnered bipartisan support in both chambers.
President Trump is expected to sign it into law in coming days, though the White House declined to comment.
The Veterans Benefits and Transition Act stops schools from hitting students with late fees, dropped classes and other punishments as a result of unpaid school bills caused by processing delays at the Department of Veterans Affairs. If schools don’t agree to the new rules, they won’t be allowed to keep enrolling students using the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Additionally, military spouses can now elect to use the same residence as their active-duty spouse for state and local voting purposes, regardless of when or where they got married and whether they are currently living in that state because of military orders. Under previous law, a spouse had to meet the residency requirements of a state on his or her own merit for the purposes of voting.
Also as part of this bill, deceased spouses and dependents of honorably-serving active-duty troops can now be buried and receive headstones in VA national cemeteries through Sept. 30, 2024. Eligible dependents buried in tribal veterans cemeteries will also receive VA recognition, including by adding headstones to unmarked graves.
“I am proud that the Senate has acted on this package of legislation to help our veterans,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement. “Today’s passage caps off a remarkable two years in Congress. We have passed significant reforms to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to improve the daily lives of our nation’s veterans. This legislative package will help improve veterans’ education and burial benefits, address veteran homelessness and help engage the community in providing a seamless transition for veterans and their families.”
Military Times Deputy Editor Leo Shane and Reporter Karen Jowers contributed to this story.
Natalie Gross has been reporting for Military Times since 2017. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.