Five aviation associations submitted a joint written statement on Tuesday to the US Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, warning that draft legislation to amend the Post 9/11 GI Bill will end up hurting those it’s intended to help.
The five association are the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Helicopter Association International (HAI), National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO), and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). A sixth, Experimental Aviation Association (EAA), has indicated it supports the positions expressed in the joint statement.
Like a similar bill pending in the House of Representatives at the request of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the draft legislation would impose a cap on the amount of GI Bill benefit money available to veterans in college or university flight training degree programs.
The Senate draft would cap spending for any degree program at a public college or university for which the school contracts out all or part of the instruction.
But because, to the best of the associations’ knowledge, flight training degree programs are the only educational programs for which colleges and universities contract instruction, the effect of the draft Senate legislation remains discriminatory, GA officials say.
“This is, first and foremost, about giving veterans what was promised to them when they joined the military,” said HAI President and CEO Matt Zuccaro. “The legislation will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the aviation industry as well. But our primary focus is on doing what’s right for our vets.”
As the associations point out in their statement, Congress’s own financial watchdog, the Congressional Budget Office, says approximately 600 veterans will be denied access to their full benefits if the cap is enacted. It will cost each veteran an estimated $30,000 in benefits the first year the cap is enforced, and will rise each year after that.
“Let’s identify the real problem with the program and ensure that the VA gives flight training programs uniform interpretations of the rules, and that ongoing audits are performed to prevent any abuses of the system,” said Zuccaro. “Let’s fix the problem. Let’s don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”