The Senate signed off Wednesday on a sweeping expansion of GI Bill education benefits, sending the bipartisan legislation dubbed the "Forever GI Bill" to President Donald Trump’s desk.
The bill, which would increase veterans benefits by more than $3 billion over the next decade, passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin had encouraged passage of the bill, and a White House spokesman told POLITICO that Trump planned to sign it.
The bill would remove, for new enlistees, the 15-year time limit on when recipients must use their GI Bill benefits — a provision meant to give veterans more flexibility to attend higher education and obtain new skills later in life.
The legislation boosts education assistance for National Guard and Reserve troops, Purple Heart recipients and for the dependents of fallen troops. It also would send funding to non-traditional education providers like coding boot camps.
In addition, the legislation would fully restore the GI Bill education benefits for veterans who were affected by the collapse in recent years of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, two massive for-profit college chains that had campuses across the country.
Overall, the enhancements are among the largest made under the Post-9/11 GI Bill since it was enacted in 2008 to help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. So far, more than $70 billion has gone out for veterans and their families to attend colleges, universities and career training programs, and the program is a popular benefit among military personnel.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, praised the legislation as “a great victory for our veterans and their futures.” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the top Democrat on the committee, said he looked forward “to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”
Many of the benefit expansions had long been sought by veterans’ groups, which cheered the passage of the bill on Wednesday.
House and Senate leaders in both parties struck a deal over the legislation last month after negotiations earlier this year were bogged down by how to pay for the expansion of benefits.
The expansion would be paid for by reducing the increases in housing allowances paid under the GI Bill to new beneficiaries.
Last month, the measure cleared the House on a 405-0 vote.
Kimberly Hefling contributed to this report.