WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, today introduced two initiatives to strengthen our nation’s commitment to our veterans by improving education reimbursements and expanding employment protection for former service members. Brown’s Veterans Education Tuition Support (VETS) Act of 2009 would foster new educational support for service members whose higher education is suspended due to service. In addition, Brown’s Wounded Veteran Job Security Act would improve employment protections for veterans in their civilian careers.
“We must honor our commitment to the men and women who serve our country,” Brown said. “This bill expands support for our veterans in their civilian life. It is our moral obligation to ensure they have access to the benefits they have earned.”
The VETS Act would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to enable students to gain tuition reimbursement for the college or university term they withdrew from in order to serve. The Act will apply to all active duty military members, the National Guard and reservists enrolled in higher education institutions. Brown worked closely with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) in developing this legislation. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA).
"IAVA applauds Senator Sherrod Brown for reintroducing the Veterans Education Tuition Support Act," said IAVA Executive Director Paul Rieckhof said. "No student service member should be punished for answering the call to service. The VETS bill will ensure that National Guard and Reservists attending school are not left footing their education bills while deployed."
“Senator Brown and I are seeking to fully protect service members in college by introducing the VETS Act.” Rep. Davis said. “It is not fair that our men and women in uniform do not always receive a refund or must pay off student loans for a quarter or semester they could not complete after activation.”
The Wounded Veteran Job Security Act would expand employment protection for former service members who require special medical care. Brown’s bill would extend the protections of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) of 1994 to ensure that veterans with specialized needs as a result of their service are not discriminated against in their civilian careers. Companion legislation was introduced by Rep. Doggett (D-TX) and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Upon successful passage, Doggett said: “These men and women selflessly put aside their civilian lives to step into a uniform and serve the cause of freedom, and stand up for us. Today, it is our responsibility to stand up for them.”
The bill has also received support from the Disabled Americans Veterans (DAV), the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the American Legion.
“Your bill clarifies and strengthens USERRA to require employers to accommodate the absences of service connected disabled veterans for treatment of their service-connected conditions” DAV Associate National Legislative Director John Wilson wrote to Brown. “The DAV strongly supports the passage of this legislation.”
“FRA is grateful for your sponsorship of this legislation and stands randy to assist in advancing it in the 111th Congress,” FRA National Executive Director Joseph Barnes wrote to Brown.
“Too often young men and women return home to find themselves without their previous employment or with other disadvantages incurred from service which prohibit them from advancing their jobs,” VFW Director of National Legislative Service Dennis Cullinan wrote to Brown. “This bill will guarantee that veterans both obtain and retain the employment they need for a successful reintegration into civilian society.”
Brown is an outspoken advocate in Congress on veterans’ issues. This spring Brown introduced legislation that would improve the benefits available to National Guard and reserve component senior leaders. He also cosponsored legislation to expand support and available resources for women veterans.