GI flight training bill signed into law

President Barack Obama last week signed into law a bill that expands educational funding opportunities for active duty servicemen and women, for the first time including flight training in eligible programs.

Both Houses of Congress passed the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010” during the busy lame duck session of the 111th Congress. President Obama signed it into law on Jan. 4.

“This bill is a big step forward for both active duty members of the armed services and for veterans,” said Melissa Rudinger, senior vice president of government affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). “For the first time, Congress has recognized and affirmed the value of non-degree educational programs, such as flight training.”

The new law authorizes up to $10,000 an academic year for flight training (many who are eligible will receive somewhat less than that, AOPA officials note).

But the work to make the program a reality is not yet complete. “The bill President Obama signed is an authorization bill,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs. “Authorization bills grant federal agencies permission to spend money, but don’t actually give them the money to spend. Congress has to pass an appropriation bill to do that.

“At a time when Congress is focused on cutting expenses and reducing the federal deficit, securing the appropriation may prove challenging,” she noted. “As the appropriation process moves forward, AOPA will remind Congress of the strong support for the original bill and urge members to find a way to fund the program.”

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