Mast Bill to Ensure Purple Heart Recipients Have Access to Post-9/11 G.I. Benefits Included in Comprehensive Package
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast’s (FL-18) bill to ensure Purple Heart recipients have access to the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program passed the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously today as part of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017. The bill (H.R. 1379), which Rep. Mast introduced with Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) in March, 2017, extends benefits for the program to all honorably-discharged Purple Heart recipients regardless of duration of service.
“When my time in the Army was cut short, I was fortunate to be able to use funding from the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to get my degree at Harvard. Without it, I may not be a Member of Congress right now,” Rep. Mast said. “Providing a high-quality education to these heroes is the least we can do, which is why I’m proud to have lead this effort to ensure that every single Purple Heart recipient who is honorably discharged can get the benefit of this great program.”
In addition to enhancing G.I. Bill benefits for Purple Heart recipients, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act also:
- Ends the 15-year limit on G.I. Bill usage for qualified veterans, allowing use of benefits for life;
- Provides G.I. Bill eligibility for reservists mobilized under selected reserve order for preplanned missions in support of the combatant commands or in response to a major disaster or emergency;
- Provides G.I. Bill eligibility for reservists undergoing medical care;
- Extends Yellow Ribbon Program benefits to Fry scholarship recipients;
- Restores used G.I. Bill benefits to students who experience permanent school closures while enrolled;
- Increases G.I. Bill payments by $2,300 per year for veterans with less than 12 months of active service;
- Creates a pilot program for high-technology and computer programming courses;
- Expands education benefits for veterans pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees;
- Increases amount of fees paid to schools for certification of student veteran enrollments;
- Improves the G.I. Bill information technology system to fully automate claims;
- Increases monthly amount of educational assistance for survivors and dependents of disabled veterans;
- Increases funding for state-approving agencies to conduct oversight of schools; and
- Allows G.I. Bill use for distance courses in technical and career education institutions.
Prior to his election to Congress, Rep. Mast followed in his father’s footsteps by serving in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years, receiving numerous medals, including a Purple Heart. While deployed in Afghanistan, he worked as a bomb disposal expert under the elite Joint Special Operations Command. The last improvised explosive device that he found resulted in catastrophic injuries, which included the loss of both of his legs. Using Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funding, Rep. Mast subsequently received a bachelor’s degree in extension studies, with a concentration in economics and minors in government and environmental studies, from Harvard.