Lawmakers introduce bill to expand tuition assistance options for military

Some lawmakers are working to expand the type of education the military’s tuition assistance program will cover.

A bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) allows service members to pay for licensing, credential and certification programs offered by institutions other than higher education institutions.

A companion bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Steve Russell (R-Okla.) and Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.).

“The folks who serve our nation in uniform develop unique and specialized skillsets over the course of their military careers. Our bill helps give them more flexibility to get the training and certification they need to put their skills to work as civilians,” Tester, who is also the ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

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Ernst shared Tester’s view on the bill.

“Across Iowa, many of the in-demand and skills-based jobs don’t require a four-year degree, but adequate training and certification is essential. The CERTIFY Heroes Act would allow our service members to use their military tuition assistance toward job training or certification programs to better ensure a smooth transition from the military to civilian life, and put them on a career path towards long-term, sustainable success,” Ernst stated.

Licensing has long been an issue for service members. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) most recently brought up the issue at a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel hearing last February.

“The Army trains thousands of soldiers every year to drive trucks in the most difficult conditions — in combat, with hazardous cargo at night, in sandstorms, you name it. If it’s tough, you train people to do it,” Warren said. “Yet when troops leave the military they cannot automatically sign on to a trucking company because the military experience does not transfer into a civilian license. We’ve got a state and national licensing problem here, and we can’t take the world’s best truck drivers and just automatically move them into truck driving jobs, right, civilian truck driving jobs.”

Licensing issues for military spouses already caught the attention of Congress in previous years.

The 2018 defense authorization act recognized military spouses were having trouble getting relicensed to work after moving with their military partner.

The act provides up to $500 to families for spouses to get licensed in their occupation after a station change.

“If a spouse works in South Carolina and moves to Virginia and incurs up to $500 in relicensing or certification costs, the committee would authorize up to $500 to be reimbursed for that,” said a House Armed Services Committee aide.