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Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty

Representing the 5th District of Connecticut

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Major Bill Esty Cosponsored to Overhaul Veterans’ Education Benefits Passes House

July 25, 2017
Press Release
Esty highlights story of Cheshire Purple Heart recipient on House floor

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) to expand and improve veterans’ GI Bill benefits passed the House unanimously last night, 405-0.

The legislation, entitled the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, eliminates the 15-year limit afforded veterans to use their education benefits after leaving military service. It also ensures that all Purple Heart recipients, regardless of their length of service, are able to access GI Bill benefits. And it eases eligibility requirements for National Guard members and Reservists, who often don’t qualify for benefits under existing law.

Esty is a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which voted unanimously to advance the legislation to a floor vote, and the top Democrat on the subcommittee overseeing veterans’ compensation. She spoke in favor of the bill on the House floor during debate.

“I want to highlight several veterans who represent why we need this bill today,” Esty said. “The first is a young man from my hometown of Cheshire, who was a classmate of my middle son’s in high school, and who at the age of 19 lost his left leg and severely injured his right leg when his unit was hit by an IED in Afghanistan. He had been in the country three months. It was the third IED. He has been awarded a Purple Heart, but this young man and many others would not, under the current GI Bill, be entitled to receive educational benefits.”

“But this bill will correct that injustice.”

 
To view Esty’s floor remarks, click on the image above or visit https://youtu.be/HMbvJEjIwcw

For a one-pager on the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, click here. For a section-by-section summary, click here. The bill is endorsed by several major veterans’ service organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Military Order of the Purple Hearts, Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion, and American Veterans.

Here are Esty’s full remarks as delivered:

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I rise in enthusiastic support of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans’ Education Assistance Act, or the new GI Bill.

I want to thank Chairman Roe and Ranking Member Walz for leading the charge so that we can bring this important legislation to the House Floor today. I have the great honor of serving on the House Veterans’ Committee, a committee in which Democrats and Republicans work together with our partners, the veterans’ service organizations. The GI Bill we bring forward today is no exception.

This strong, bipartisan legislation represents the biggest expansion of veterans’ educational benefits in a decade. It is a huge win for our nation’s veterans. The men and women of our military deserve the security of knowing that upon completion of their service to our country, they’ll be able to embark on a fulfilling career and provide for their families.

I want to highlight several veterans who represent why we need this bill today. The first is a young man from my hometown of Cheshire, who was a classmate of my middle son’s in high school, and who at the age of 19 lost his left leg and severely injured his right leg when his unit was hit by an IED in Afghanistan. He had been in the country three months. It was the third IED. He has been awarded a Purple Heart, but this young man and many others would not, under the current GI Bill, be entitled to receive educational benefits.

That seems crazy, and it is. But this bill will correct that injustice and ensure that all our Purple Heart heroes, our American heroes, are entitled to use those benefits, because regardless of those months they have served our country.

The second one I think of is a 90-plus-year-old (who doesn’t like to disclose his age) Navy veteran from New Britain, Connecticut. He’s just earned his second master’s degree, and that is the point of the lifelong benefits we need, educational benefits for life.

So, again, this bill corrects the injustice for Guard and Reservists, lifelong benefits. It’s a win for America. The military is changing. The GI Bill needs to change with it. Thank you.

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