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Congress approves boosting vets' benefits.

WASHINGTON -- Those who served in the military after the 2001 terrorist attacks will become eligible for additional educational benefits. Congress approved the Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 granting them three years of educational assistance, including up to $1,000 a month for books, supplies and related costs during the academic year.

They can also get up to $2,000 for licensing and certification tests (but not more than the cost of the test). The government will also pay up to $500 in relocation costs for these veterans to attend college.

The legislation also allows, at the discretion of the secretary of defense, enlistees to transfer educational assistance benefits to spouses and children.

And veterans will get 15 years--up from the current 10--to use their assistance. But they cannot take benefits under two education programs simultaneously.

Meanwhile, Congress is moving to further veterans' education in other ways. The House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Development approved several more measures, including the Pilot College Work Study Programs for Veterans Act of 2008, which would authorize $10 million a year for four years at the Department of Veterans Affairs to test the idea of expanding work-study jobs for veterans.

The bill would allow colleges to hire veterans as tutors, researchers, teachers, lab assistants and cashiers; and for jobs in offices of career services, financial aid, records, registration and orientation.

And the Subcommittee on Economic Development approved the Veterans Education Tuition Support Act of 2007. The bill would require colleges to refund tuition and fees to service members activated midterm and offer them reinstatement when they return.

The bill would also prohibit lenders from charging interest for the period borrowers are serving if they reenroll within 13 months of finishing service.

The subcommittee also approved legislation that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to give each service member a compact disc upon discharge listing education benefits available to them. The federal government would also have to develop a Web site listing the benefits and how veterans can use them.

And in the Senate, the Veterans' Affairs Committee approved the Veterans' Medical Personnel Recruitment and Retention Act of 2008, which would make current Veterans Administration employees eligible for the agency's Education Debt Reduction Program, which currently applies only to new recruits as an employment incentive. The maximum benefits would also increase from $10,000 to $12,000 a year and $44,000 to $60,000 overall.

The same bill is pending before the House committee.
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Title Annotation:capitol briefs
Author:Pekow, Charles
Publication:Community College Week
Date:Jul 14, 2008
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