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Aviation groups oppose funds cap on veterans' flight training

A bill to improve educational assistance to veterans in flight training programs contains needed measures to streamline the funding process, but also mandates a payment cap that could leave veterans without enough funds to complete training, said a coalition of aviation organizations in a letter to a House committee.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is among many veterans who have pursued training in general aviation after leaving the military. Photo by Chris Rose.

AOPA President Mark Baker and leaders of seven other aviation organizations called on the bipartisan leadership of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to “remove the discriminatory cap on flight training” from H.R. 4149 and “to keep the promises that will allow veterans their choice of career.”

The letter’s signers said they were encouraged the bill provides structural improvements for veterans’ flight training benefits, including an accelerated payment provision allowing greater flexibility and a more efficient mechanism for funding flight training.

A provision to cover the cost of training for the private pilot certificate, “when it is incorporated into the requirements of a professional flight training program,” is also a positive development as is the language allowing public schools to contract for flight training, “which in turn makes aviation training more available to interested veterans.”

The groups said they could not support the bill as written because it treats flight training programs differently from other degree programs at public colleges and universities by capping payments. The caps create an unfair impact on veterans’ ability “to pursue well-paying jobs in the civilian aviation sector,” they wrote.

“Capping funds available for flight training degree programs virtually guarantees that veterans seeking to use their GI Bill benefits to enter the aviation industry will have insufficient funds to achieve their goals. They will either abandon their pursuit or be burdened with significant personal debt through either expenditure of personal funds or taking on of student loans. This will harm veterans and limit their employment opportunities in the aviation industry,” said the Nov. 28 letter.

Signers of the letter, in addition to Baker, included executives of the Air Medical Operators Association, Helicopter Association International, National Air Transportation Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, National Association of State Aviation Officials, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and the National Business Aviation Association.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Capitol Hill, Aviation Organizations

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