Tonight, Congressman Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) voted in support of H.R. 3218, the largest expansion of G.I. Bill benefits in nearly a decade. He also stood with the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Officers of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, and AFGE in opposing S. 114, which would threaten the ability of the VA to meet the healthcare needs of our veterans.
"Our veterans and military families deserve – and have earned through their service and sacrifice – the best care and benefits. We owe them nothing less. As the representative for over 70,000 veterans in Pinellas, I made a promise to fight for them in our nation's capital as they fought for us on the battlefields," said Crist. "Tonight, I was proud to vote to uphold that promise by expanding and strengthening veterans' educational benefits, as well as voting down a misguided proposal that would have jeopardized the quality of care provided at the VA."
H.R. 3218 updates the G.I. Bill by ending the 15-year time limit placed on new enlistees using their education benefits. It also provides aid to National Guardsmen and reservists, and restores benefits for those who attend schools that unexpectedly shut down, as was the case with ITT Tech last year. It further provides Purple Heart recipients automatic full benefits regardless of their length of service. The bill passed the House by a unanimous vote of 405-0.
S. 114 funds the VA Choice Program but does so by shortchanging VA hospitals like Bay Pines in Pinellas County. Leading Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) issued a joint statement voicing their opposition to this legislation. The measure failed under suspension of the Rules by a vote of 219-186 (requires 2/3 majority to pass).