Congress Proposes Drastic Cut to GI Bill Flight Training

By Scott Spangler on February 1st, 2016

If you care about the aviation industry and the veterans, whose honorable service earned them GI Bill benefits that lead to the degrees leading to careers in it, you need to be aware of HR 3016. You may wonder what the VA Provider Equity Act, which would pay podiatrists the same at other physicians who work the Veterans Administration, and establish a new VA bureaucracy, has to do with veteran flight training benefits.

A lot.

Buried in HR 3016, introduced by Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), is a provision that would cut veteran flight training benefits by $882 million over the next decade. Making this disservice to our vets even worse is the discrimination it represents; veterans using their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to earn degrees in other disciplines do not face the cuts proposed for those pursuing aviation degrees.

Specifically, HR 3016 would cap VA flight training benefits at $20,235 a year, a total of $80,940 for a four-year degree program. As anyone already in aviation probably knows, the actual costs are much higher. With their higher operating costs, rotary-wing aircraft lead the way. According to a Helicopter Association International survey, a four-year degree for an employment ready commercial helo pilot with instrument instructor rating is approximately $212,500.

To further increase the student debt of veterans pursuing an aviation career, HR 3016 proposes that the VA no longer pay for training that leads to a private pilot certificate, the first step in a professional pilot degree program. Depending on where the students are going to school, and depending on what they are flying, this prerequisite will cost them $15,000 to $20,000.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, enactment of this legislation would deny 600 veterans a year from pursing the professional pilot degree programs that would launch their aviation careers. HR 3016 is scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, February 2. If, as expected, the House approves it, the legislation then goes to the Senate. This gives us two chances to contact our elected officials and let them know what we think of this discriminatory and unfair cut to benefits our vets have honorable earned. Scott Spangler, Editor

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