Miller-Meeks’ Veteran Bills Pass House, Head to Senate
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, May 18th, 2021, the House of Representatives passed four pieces of legislation introduced by Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02). All of the bills were passed by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee earlier this month.
“I am thrilled to have not one, but four of my bipartisan bills pass the House today. Each of these pieces of legislation is a commonsense solution to help our veterans live better lives,” said Miller-Meeks. “As a 24-year Army veteran, I understand the sacrifices our veterans have made in service to our country. By passing legislation to support their transition back to civilian life and to give them access to much-needed mental health and job training services, we are taking an excellent step in the right direction.”
H.R. 2167, the G.I. Bill National Emergency Extended Deadline (NEED) Act, introduced in May 2021 by Miller-Meeks and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), would protect veterans’ educational benefits from expiring due to institutional closures or other factors caused by the COVID-19 national emergency. The GI Bill NEED Act will allow the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to pause the 10- or 15-years’ time limit to use GI Bill benefits during times of national emergency and other crises and restart the clock after it’s safe for veterans to return to school. This past year has been a challenge for all Americans, including those veterans who answered the call to serve and are now pursuing the education and skills advancement needed to find success in civilian life. The GI Bill NEED Act is a simple commonsense solution to ensure those who answered the call to serve receive the benefits they’ve earned.
During a recent House Veterans’ Affairs Committee markup, the GI Bill NEED Act was amended to include Miller-Meeks’ and Sherrill’s Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) National Emergency Extended Deadline (NEED) Act. The VR&E NEED Actwill allow the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to pause the 12-year time limit to use VR&E benefits during national emergencies and other crises when eligible disabled veterans are prevented from leveraging those benefits through no fault of their own. Despite having a wealth of skill and experience, disabled veterans still face unique challenges in entering the civilian workforce. VR&E programs are critical to providing training and support that enable disabled veterans to be as successful as possible in their future employment.
“I’m honored to have led a bipartisan effort to ensure our veterans don’t lose their educational benefits as a result of the lost year of the COVID pandemic. I’m particularly proud that I was able to support the educational needs of the families of those who gave their lives for this country,” said Rep. Sherrill. “These are exactly the type of common-sense solutions that will make a direct impact on the lives of veterans and their families. It’ll ensure that they’re not left behind because of circumstances outside their control and ensure they’ll always be able to access the crucial, hard-won benefits they earned through their commitment to the country.”
H.R. 2335, the VET TEC Enhancement Act, introduced in April 2021 by Miller-Meeks and Rep. Kai Kahele (HI-02), would increase the amount authorized to be appropriated for the high technology pilot program of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). Veteran Employment Through Technical Education Courses (VET TEC) is a five-year pilot program that allows eligible veterans to use G.I. Bill-style benefits to attend innovative job training programs to prepare them for future employment in the technology industry. This commonsense bill to support our veterans would increase current funding for the VET TEC program from $45 million to $90 million per year to allow the VA to enroll more veterans in this popular program. This program ensures that our veterans have the tools they need to gain meaningful employment.
During a recent House Veterans’ Affairs Committee markup, the VET TEC Enhancement Act was added as an amendment to Rep. Ruben Gallego’s (AZ-07)Native VetSuccess at Tribal Colleges and Universities Pilot Program Act. This bipartisan bill would expand the current VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) program to Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).
“I am proud that the House advanced bipartisan legislation I co-led with my colleague and fellow veteran, Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks, to give more of our veterans access to the tools they need to gain meaningful employment in today’s 21st Century workforce,” said Rep. Kahele.“Our bill increases funding for the highly successful VET TEC program and was incorporated into meaningful legislation that expands and strengthens opportunities for veterans to serve in the high-technology industry after their military service. Our service members have sacrificed so much to protect this nation. We owe them our thanks, our respect, and our support as they transition back into civilian life once their battle is over.”
H.R. 2441, the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act, introduced in April 2021 by Miller-Meeks and Reps. Cindy Axne (IA-03), Ashley Hinson (IA-01), Randy Feenstra (IA-04), Ed Case (HI-01), and Tim Ryan (OH-13), would establish new Rural Access Network for Growth Enhancement (RANGE) programs through the VA and support additional research on rural veteran mental health care needs. This legislation honors the memory and service of Sergeant Brandon Ketchum of Davenport, who died by suicide in 2016. In addition to establishing three new veteran mental health programs, the legislation will direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study how the VA can improve mental healthcare for rural veterans to enable better response in the future for veterans like Sgt. Ketchum.
“I can think of no better way to honor the service and story of Iowa veteran Brandon Ketchum, just days before Memorial Day, than the House passing legislation named in his honor to secure better care for our veterans,” said Rep. Axne. “The care our veterans receive shouldn’t be determined by their zip code, but lack of adequate care in our rural areas can mean a veteran doesn’t get the support they need. This bill will expand mental health resources in our rural areas and ensure veterans like Sergeant Ketchum can get the care and support they’ve earned.”