Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Chris Gibson Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Access to Education for Veterans

March 13, 2014
Press Release

The Veterans Higher Education Opportunity Act will expand Perkins Loan forgiveness eligibility for returning troops

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19) today introduced bipartisan legislation to allow veterans who have served at least a six-month deployment to participate in the Federal Perkins Loan Forgiveness Program. Currently, veterans cannot use this program unless they have served a twelve-month deployment or longer, which does not reflect the reality of the deployment cycle today. The average deployment length is about 200 days, meaning that many veterans are unable to qualify for this benefit due to a shorter deployment, or an injury that ends a deployment early.

“For the past thirteen years, our men and women in uniform, and their families, have served and sacrificed tremendously,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who is one of the first two female combat veterans in Congress. “We have a collective responsibility to serve these brave heroes in return, set them up for success, providing them with the opportunities and tools continue their service as they transition to civilian life.  

“I’m honored to work with my friend Rep. Chris Gibson to update the Federal Perkins Loan Forgiveness Program, as we empower and encourage our returning troops to continue their education and service to their communities.”

“As a combat veteran, I am proud to co-sponsor the Veterans Higher Education Opportunity Act,” said Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19). “I was the first person in my family to go to college, and during my military career I worked with hundreds of young people seeking the same opportunity. This bill will help ensure that these brave men and women—and veterans of future generations—are able to focus on rebuilding their lives and contributing to their communities following their service to our country.”

“The VFW agrees that by lowering the requirement from 12 months to 6 months for veteran eligibility would allow more veterans to utilize this program, providing for financial security and improved quality of life,” wrote Raymond C. Kelley, Director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Legislative Service, in a letter of support. “The VFW commends your effort to help your fellow veterans gain access to the Federal Perkins Loan Forgiveness Program. We owe our brave men and women the opportunity to succeed after service.”

The Veterans Higher Education Opportunity Act has garnered support from top veterans service organizations, including the Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the National Guard Association of the United States.

Background on the Veterans Higher Education Opportunity Act (H.R. 4232):

  • Amends current law to reduce the required deployment from 12 to six months in order to be eligible for the Perkins Loan Forgiveness Program. The program was originally designed to incentivize public service for college graduates.
  • Ensures that servicemembers who are wounded as a result of their service and are unable to meet the six-month requirement will qualify for the forgiveness.
  • The Veterans Higher Education Opportunity Act is budget neutral and has no cost.

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