The New Year is proving to be interesting for veterans and their families. The recently passed budget agreement did not sit favorably with some of our veteran retirees and current active duty because it impacts their pensions. However, within this last week, as reported by GovExec, “The omnibus spending bill introduced this [past] week (JAN 13, 2014) to set the funding levels for all federal agencies would repeal cuts to military pensions for some working-age retirees.” In addition, the bill would restore full COLAs for disability retirements and survivor benefits. Kudos to Senator Murray.
But what a roller coaster ride.
In Washington State, legislators will soon be debating the merits of offering “out-of-state” veterans in-state tuition. Currently, the GI bill covers in-state tuition costs. So, should a veteran who is a resident of another state apply and be accepted to one of our Washington colleges or universities, he or she would be required to pay the “out-of-state” tuition rate until the 12-month waiting time to gain residency is satisfied. This “barrier” is often cited as a deciding factor for where Veterans choose to go to school.
Offering in-state tuition to Veterans, regardless of their home of record, is not unusual. Our neighbors –
Idaho, Oregon and Alaska – already provide this incentive…as do 23 other states.
In 2013, similar legislation to provide in-state tuition (SB 5318) passed the Senate 48-0, and then got bogged down in the House. In the House it was heard and moved forward to the House Higher Ed Committee, then stalled in Appropriations Committee.
The stall, as some report, was prompted by two universities who were less than enthusiastic to offer such an incentive. This year I’m told everyone is on board and supportive. After all, veterans didn’t just fight for their state, they fought for the United States so why not offer in-state tuition as long as they are making measures to become a resident of the state they are attending school?
Oregon saw an immediate benefit when they passed similar legislation in 2013. Since implementation on Sept. 15, 2013, 70 new veteran students have enrolled in Oregon schools and now pay the in-state rate. Some would argue that is 70 more students who bring revenue to the state that otherwise would have gone elsewhere.
So, here is hoping our state does the right thing – honor veterans and bring additional revenues to our state and higher education institutions.
Bottom line: Uncertainty is expected (or certain) for 2014 when it comes to outcomes on issues that impact our veterans and their families – and if you are a thrill seeker (to carry on with the roller coaster reference), 2014 is starting out pretty exciting.
– By Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.