Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Supports Legislation to Fix Loophole in GI Bill
February 3, 2016
Bill would address red-tape that has prevented Reservists injured in combat from receiving education benefits
Washington, DC—Reps. Chellie Pingree (ME-01) and Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) introduced the Chris Kotch VA Education Access Act today to fix a loophole in the Post 9-11 GI Bill that has prevented some injured Reservists from getting the full benefits they have earned. The bill is named after Army Reservist Christopher Kotch, who was seriously injured by an IED while serving on active duty in Iraq. He was sent to Walter Reed Hospital but was not officially discharged until he reported back to his Reserve unit. While Kotch was medically retired as a result of his combat injuries—which should have made him eligible for the full benefit—his discharge paperwork says he simply finished his active duty obligation. Because of that wording, which says Kotch was temporarily transferred from active duty service back to the Reserves before being discharged, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said Kotch wasn’t eligible for the full benefit and instead would only receive a reduced portion.
"Too often, our service members have to fight through bureaucratic red tape to get the benefits they have rightfully earned and deserve,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “This bill would ease the financial burden for wounded warriors, like Army Reservist Chris Kotch, who were discharged due to a service-connected disability, and have taken on student loans and other personal debt for education rather than receiving the full VA education benefit they earned.”
“Thousands of Guardsmen and Reservists from Maine and across the country have served our country overseas and many were injured. The Post 9-11 GI Bill offers these service-injured veterans a full education benefit,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree. “But they are being denied on a technicality. We aren't living up to our promises to these veterans and the law needs to be fixed.”
The Chris Kotch VA Education Access Act would change the language of the Post 9-11 GI Bill to ensure that anyone medically separated or medically retired from the Armed Forces would be eligible for the full benefit. The legislation would be retroactive to the enactment of the Post 9-11 GI Bill in 2009.