Seven general aviation associations, including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), have sent a letter asking Congress to stop legislation that would curtail funding for flight training for veterans.
In the May 19 letter to leaders of the Veterans Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, the groups urged lawmakers to halt H.R. 476, the GI Bill Education Quality Enhancement Act of 2015, which was scheduled to undergo a final markup by the committee May 21.
The legislation “discriminates against veterans seeking a flight-training degree from public institutions of higher learning because it caps funding only for these degree programs. Other courses of study are not capped,” the letter said.
The legislation would cap annual benefits for veterans in collegiate flight training programs at $20,980 — not enough for them to earn a commercial pilot certificate and necessary ratings as part of a college degree program.
“We want to give veterans the opportunity to become professional aviators,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We support efforts to prevent waste and fraud, but this legislation has the potential to do more harm than good. There are better ways to ensure that VA education dollars are well spent and that our veterans get the educational opportunities they have earned through their service to our country.”
The legislation was proposed after it was revealed that a small number of flight schools were charging veterans using their GI Bill benefits excessive fees for training. In their letter, the general aviation groups suggest better oversight and enforcement of existing Veterans Administration (VA) rules would have prevented the abuses.
Instead of passing H.R. 476, the groups recommend a series of alternatives, including allowing the VA’s renewed emphasis on enforcing its own rules to play out, treating all college degree programs at public institutions equally, encouraging the use of flight simulator training when appropriate, enforcing an approved FAA Training Course Outline and advocating for a GAO study on the costs and requirements for veterans to obtain employable status as pilots.