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Brown says legislation would secure education benefits for veterans, families

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that veterans, service members, and surviving spouses and children of service members who have died in the line of duty can take full advantage of their education benefits.

Brown, who serves on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, outlined The Veterans Priority Enrollment Act of 2017, which he has co-sponsored with U.S.  Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

“The GI Bill’s education benefits are critical to our returning service members, veterans, and their families” Brown said. “It’s our duty to ensure that when the men and women who sacrifice for our nation return home, they and their families have the education and the training they’ve earned.”

The legislation would extend priority enrollment for college courses to veterans, service members, and eligible dependents who are utilizing GI education benefits. Expanding priority enrollment would allow service members and veterans to plan their semesters so that they can finish their degrees before their benefits expire, Brown’s office said.

Ohio’s public higher learning institutions extend priority registration to veterans. Brown said his legislation would expand this nationwide.

Brown was joined on the call by Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel.

Brown said YSU has been a model for Ohio schools in serving veterans.

“YSU values the service of our student veterans,” Tressel said. “We were a pioneer when offering student veteran services on campus in 2009 and continue to provide and upgrade our services to veterans in 2017.  Priority registration is one of many benefits offered student veterans at YSU.  The Office of Veterans Affairs at YSU strives to be a ‘one stop shop’ for all student veteran needs and will continue to offer world class service to our student veterans for years to come.”

Tressel said YSU has waived orientation fees for veterans, hosts special orientation programs, offers priority registration, veteran-friendly courses, has a veterans advocate on campus and does a special recognition of veterans at graduation ceremonies.

“Our real point of pride is our 6,000 square foot veterans resources center, which opened in September 2014,” he said, stating the facility offers special parking and computer labs.

Brown also discussed the Yellow Ribbon Improvement Act of 2017, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, and Tillis, and would expand eligibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program to recipients of the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry scholarship. The program helps students avoid out-of-pocket tuition and fees for education programs that cost more than the allowance set by the post 9/11 GI Bill.