There would be just one difference: The GI Bill living stipend will equal the basic allowance for housing for an E-5 with dependents for the ZIP code of the school a student-veteran attends. Akaka proposes that the living stipend for vocational rehabilitation be equal to the national average of BAH for an E-5 based on the marital status of the participant, which means location would not make a difference and that single veterans would receive less than married veterans.
Akaka’s bill to improve benefits, S 514, also would reimburse some incidental expenses such as fees, equipment and supplies that are not currently covered by the Veterans Affairs Department.
“An example could be that of a single young mother of young children who, in order to attend classes, needs child care,” Akaka said. “Another example might be a veteran who lost both legs in service and needs a new suit in order to make the most favorable impression at the interview with a prospective employer.”
Akaka, who introduced the bill Tuesday, said he worries that the new tuition-plus-fees GI Bill will attract people who may be better off receiving help under the independent-living program that helps disabled veterans prepare for a job.
The higher living allowance of the GI Bill would be a big draw for that program, he said, but those who decide to go to college instead of the job training program may not get the help best suited to their needs.
“Those who would make such an election might forgo valuable counseling, employment and placement, and other assistance from which they might benefit,” Akaka said.
Akaka is not the only lawmaker suggesting benefits increases. In February, Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., former chairman and now ranking Republican on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, proposed adding more than $300 million to the economic stimulus package to support higher monthly payments for vocational rehabilitation participants.
Buyer proposed monthly payments of $1,200 to $1,800, depending on the number of family members a veteran has.
That proposal did not make it into the economic recovery package, but his bill, HR 297, is pending before the House Veterans’ Affairs economic opportunity subcommittee.
Aides to Akaka said S 514 will be considered by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in an upcoming hearing.