Colleges and universities struggling to meet new reporting requirements on GI Bill benefits would get relief under a bipartisan measure introduced in the House and Senate this week.
The legislation is considered non-controversial but still could take months to wind through Congress because of other priorities and planned summer recesses. But supporters said the move is an important one for lawmakers to complete as soon as possible.
“This bill would simplify the reporting process for colleges and universities to make GI Bill paperwork requirements easier and more straightforward,” Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., and ranking member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
“This will allow schools to focus on ensuring student veterans get the education they have earned without additional red tape.”
Congressional staff did not have an estimate on how many veterans may be directly impacted by the legislation, but veterans advocates say the problems behind the proposals have been burdensome for numerous schools in recent months.
In 2021, Veterans Affairs officials updated a series of definitions and accounting methods surrounding the 85-15 rule, which requires that institutions of higher education receive at least 15% of their income from non-government sources.
Officials from Student Veterans of America said those changes forced significant reporting increases — “hundreds of hours of extra work” — as administrators combed through details for every field of study and degree program to ensure compliance.
“The potential, unintended consequences of the new requirements to limit student veterans’ access to quality institutions cannot be overstated,” said Lauren Augustine, vice president of government affairs for SVA.
The changes would simplify the rules, ensuring that schools — especially institutions with limited staff and few veteran enrollees — can verify eligibility without overwhelming administrative effort.
“The 85-15 rule is an important safeguard in protecting students and their educational benefits from predatory fraud and abuse,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif.
“However, for schools with a small student veteran population, this rule has unintended negative consequences that limit student veterans from participating in their programs.”
Both Takano and Bost are sponsoring the House bill. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., and ranking member Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, have introduced companion legislation in their chamber.
Congress is currently on a two-week break for the Fourth of July holiday but is expected to return to Capitol Hill on July 11.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.