Proposed cuts to G.I. Bill could keep veterans from learning to fly

(Photo: WKRN)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – When a veteran leaves the service, he or she may choose to pursue their education.

Right now, for those honorably discharged, up to four years of school is covered by the post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

But a proposed cut would impact veterans who want to become pilots.

Brian Larsen (Photo: WKRN)

“No one joins or serves because they’re expecting to use the post-9/11 G.I. Bill but it is definitely a benefit,” said veteran Patrick Malone.

After four years in the Marine Corp, Malone left the service to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU).

“The G.I. Bill is definitely a benefit a lot of people are counting on so this kind of pulls the rug out from a lot of those people and it feels like a betrayal,” said Malone.

He’s talking about H.R. 4149, which limits how much G.I. Bill would cover for a veteran looking to get his or her pilot’s license.

“It’s fairly discriminatory towards students and veterans who want to pursue flight training funded by the G.I. Bill and that concerns me,” Malone said.

Fellow student and veteran Brian Larsen was deployed eight times to the Middle East. He’s now working to get his bachelor’s in aerospace science and, like Malone, training to be a pilot through MTSU.

It’s a cost Larsen couldn’t afford without the G.I. Bill.

“To put school tuition costs on top of pilot lab fees you’re looking at upwards of $20,000 a semester,” he said. “That’s a lot of money to come out of pocket when this is our full-time job: being a student.”

H.R. 4149 would cap flight training tuition at about $23,000 a year. Larsen says school and training cost him about $40,000 a year.

“Maybe they can make cuts in other areas rather than affecting veterans trying to pursue a career in an industry that’s already facing huge deficits,” Larsen said.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio is sponsoring the bill. He said the bill wouldn’t affect current students.

The bill also includes an accelerated option where students can finish flight school in two years and the costs would likely be covered.

In a statement he said:

“In the past, some private schools have exploited the G.I. Bill and charged upwards of $500,000 per student, simply because the government will pay. This legislation strikes a balance of addressing these out-of-control costs by placing the same cap on private flight schools that applies to every other private educational institutions, like law school or medical school.”

But Larsen and Malone believe the bill punishes the many for a few.

Congressman Phil Roe is Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He said he is in favor of the bill.

In a statement Rep. Roe said,

“This bill closes a loophole to protect the long-term viability of the GI Bill while making the program fair for all recipients, no matter their course of study. Veterans who attend Vanderbilt or Harvard medical schools are under the same $22,805 cap.”

The bill still has several hurdles to jump before it becomes law.

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