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Rep. Cartwright Introduces Bipartisan Bills to Improve VA Work-Study Program

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) introduced the VA Work Study Improvement Act and the Student Veteran Work Study Modernization Act to modernize the existing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Work-Study program.

The VA Work-Study program allows veterans to earn money while enrolled in an institution of higher education, vocational, or professional program. Participants gain paid work experience while furthering their education. However, the program has not been comprehensively updated recently. For example, the VA Work-Study program limits the types of positions a student veteran can hold and does not permit payment at local minimum wage rates. The program also requires enrollment on at least a three-quarter-time basis, excluding half-time enrollees.

"These commonsense reforms increase a veteran’s ability to pursue their educational and professional goals," said Rep. Matt Cartwright. "No veteran should be deprived of a benefit they sacrificed and served for because they are half-time students. As the VA modernizes other benefits, the VA Work-Study program cannot be left behind."

“Our student veterans balance school, work, and family life. Improving the veteran work-study program to include work-based education and academic-connected experiences will allow them to receive not only a paycheck, but valuable experience on their path to a career,” said President and CEO of the Association of Community College Trustees Jee Hang Lee.

The VA Work Study Improvement Act would require the VA to implement several reforms to maximize the positive impact on student veterans and improve program transparency. Key provisions include:

·         Expanding eligible work-study activities to include jobs at nonprofit and state agencies that either directly, or indirectly, benefit veterans or the U.S. military.

·         Allowing VA Work-Study participants to be paid whichever is higher of either state, federal employee, or local minimum wages.

·         Annual publication of VA Work-Study data.

The Student Veteran Work Study Modernization Act, led last Congress by former Representative Cindy Axne, would create a five-year pilot program to expand VA Work-Study program eligibility to student veterans who are pursuing academic programs on a least a half-time basis.

Text of the VA Work Study Improvement Act can be viewed HERE.

This legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Reps. S. Bishop (D-GA-02), Budzinski (D-IL-13), Carl (R-AL-01), Carson (D-IN-07), Case (D-HI-01), Craig (D-MN-02), Crockett (D-TX-30), Crow (D-CO-06), Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), V. Gonzalez (D-TX-34), Gottheimer (D-NJ-05), Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), H. Johnson (D-GA-04), Kilmer (D-WA-06), Kuster (D-NH-02), A. Kim (D-NJ-03), Landsman (D-OH-01), Summer Lee (D-PA-12), Lieu (D-CA-36), McGarvey (D-KY-03), Moskowitz (D-FL-23), Morelle (D-NY-25), Mrvan (D-IN-01), Norcross (D-NJ-01), Norton (D-DC), Ross (D-NC-02), Ryan (D-NY-18), Schiff (D-CA-30), Sherrill (D-NJ-11), B. Thompson (D-MS-02), Titus (D-NV-01), Tokuda (D-HI-02), N. Torres (D-CA-35), Trone (D-MD-06), Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12), Wexton (D-VA-10), N. Williams (D-GA-05), Wittman (R-VA-01).

Text of the Student Veteran Work Study Modernization Act can be viewed HERE.

This legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Reps. Carson (D-IN-07), Casar (D-TX-35), Chu (D-CA-28), Cicilline (D-RI-01), Costa (D-CA-21), Craig (D-MN-02), Crow (D-CO-06), Dean (D-PA-04), DesJarlais (R-TN-04), Ezell (R-MS-04), Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Keating (D-MA-09), Moskowitz (D-FL-23), Gottheimer (D-NJ-03), Norcross (D-NJ-11), Norton (D-DC), Salinas (D-OR-06), Scanlon (D-PA-05), Veasey (D-TX-33), Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12), Wild (D-PA-07).

These bills have received the support of American Council on Education (ACE), American Legion, Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), National Association of Veteran Program Administrators (NAVPA), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), the University of Scranton, Veterans Education Success, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Additional comments on the bills include:

Dr. Jan Del Signore, President, National Association of Veterans’ Program Administrators:

“The National Association of Veterans’ Program Administrators supports both the VA Work Study Improvement Act and the Student Veteran Work Study Modernization Act, as they will benefit our nation’s heroes and increase their opportunities to succeed. These much-needed bills will help expand the benefits accessibility to a wider array of student veterans while increasing the earning opportunities while still in school.”

Joseph G. Marina, S.J, President, University of Scranton:

“The values of service to others and discernment in decision-making are in strong alignment with the goals of a Jesuit education.  Our student veterans are models of service and commitment to deliberation and perseverance. We are proud to support the VA Work Study Improvement Act and the Student Veteran Modernization Act and to thank Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) for his leadership in helping to make the VA Work Study program more effective and efficient for our student veterans. In addition to Scranton, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) is pleased to join in supporting these important bipartisan bills.”

Marquis Barefield, Disabled American Veterans:

“Pursuing higher education and gaining meaningful employment are two of the most common post-military endeavors for veterans as they transition to civilian life, and the VA’s work-study program has been an invaluable tool in accomplishing both goals for many student veterans. As the VA modernizes and digitizes numerous other benefits, it’s imperative that the department provides greater transparency to Congress about the program’s successes while expanding its eligibility to student veterans who are pursuing academic programs on at least a half-time basis. DAV proudly supports the VA Work-Study Improvement Act and the Student Veteran Work-Study Modernization Act. We applaud Rep. Cartwright for introducing this legislation to help ensure the VA work-study program better positions student veterans for future employment.”

Ted Mitchell, President, American Council on Education:

“We thank Representative Cartwright and the bill sponsors for introducing the VA Work-Study Improvement Act and the Student Veteran Work-Study Modernization Act.  These bills make important improvements to VA’s work-study program that will allow it to better support veterans in their efforts to successfully complete a college degree or postsecondary credential.”

William Hubbard, Veterans Education Success:

"We're grateful to Rep. Cartwright and his colleagues for leading the charge on improving work-study opportunities for student veterans. The ability to have an income while attending school is paramount for veterans and their families, and we look forward to seeing the positive difference this will make."

Justin Hauschild, Student Veterans of America:

“VA Work-Study can provide critical financial support throughout student veterans’ higher education journeys. Still, the program has fallen out of step with the needs and goals of today’s student veterans, military-connected students, families, and survivors. Together, the bipartisan Student Veteran Work-Study Modernization Act and the VA Work-Study Improvement Act, with the latter first conceived by VFW-SVA Fellow John Randolph, would make critical updates to the program, allowing more students to qualify, expanding the types of activities students can pursue, and increasing pay, among other improvements. We applaud Congressman Cartwright for his steadfast leadership on this issue and for championing these common-sense bills.”

Heather Ansley, Paralyzed Veterans of America:

“Creating a pilot program to allow half-time enrolled students the chance to use the VA work-study program will likely increase participation by disabled veterans, many of whom may struggle to maintain a full-time enrollment. PVA appreciates Rep. Cartwright’s efforts to improve the VA work-study program with a variety of reforms, and make the program more accessible for today’s student veterans.” 

Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola, National Commander, The American Legion:

“Recognizing the pressing need to modernize and enhance educational and work-study opportunities for our nation’s veterans, we wholeheartedly support the VA Work-Study Improvement Act and the Student Veteran Work-Study Modernization Act. These bipartisan bills better position our veterans for future employment and academic success by expanding work-study activities and increasing accessibility for part-time student veterans. The American Legion applauds Representative Cartwright for his steadfast dedication to advancing the well-being of student veterans as they pursue their academic endeavors.”