December 17, 2010
By Dan Namowitz
Legislation providing veterans with new financial aid for flight training was on its way to President Barack Obama for signing following an overwhelming vote of approval Dec. 16 in the House of Representatives.
The bill, S.3447 the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2010, passed the House on a 409-3 vote. It broadens provisions of 2008 legislation by allowing veterans to pursue educational programs including flight training, certificate programs, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and correspondence training. Qualified military personnel who have served three years on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, will be eligible for educational funding previously available only for programs at institutions of higher learning.
“This is great news across several fronts. It is highly supportive of general aviation businesses, such as flight schools and aircraft manufacturers of training fleets, supports AOPA's flight training initiative, and is a big win for members who are veterans,” said AOPA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Lorraine Howerton. “For disabled veterans, it opens up opportunities to fly light sport aircraft—good news across the board.”
The bill, which cleared the Senate Dec. 13, provides that the maximum amount of assistance paid on behalf of an individual enrolled in a flight training program would be the lesser of $10,000 annually or the actual cost of in-state tuition and fees. Flight training courses must be approved by the FAA, and be offered by a certified pilot school that possesses a valid FAA pilot school certificate.
Veterans groups had criticized the exclusion of such funding from the 2008 legislation, pointing out that many veterans would benefit from learning other skills and trades under current economic conditions.
The measure that passed is an authorization bill, which means that funding will have to be provided through the annual appropriations process. With funding in place, educational benefits would become available in August 2011, Howerton explained.
She cautioned that “the bill may very well be subject to the new ‘cut-go’ rules in the House that require any new spending program to be funded by cutting an existing program.” AOPA will monitor how the new rules affect the measure, she said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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