Elizabeth Warren releases new plan for military service members and veterans, emphasizing education

2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren at a Warren Indianola Town Hall at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa on Sunday October 20, 2019.
Melina Mara via Getty Images

Ahead of Veterans Day, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren released an over 7,500-word plan titled "Keeping our promises to our service members, veterans and military families."

The plan, released Tuesday, emphasizes her family's history of military service (all three of her brothers served) and touches on her international policy philosophy, "A strong military should act as a deterrent so that most of the time, we won't have to use it."

Her proposal covers a broad range of issues that impact military members and families, from raising military pay to eliminating military sexual assault, as well as the policies that impact veterans after their service has ended, such as veteran homelessness and education benefits.

"A good education can open a million doors for our servicemembers and help them build a better future for themselves, and their families. That's why I believe it is powerfully important that we ensure our veterans have access to the education benefits they've earned," Warren tells CNBC Make It in a statement. "In the Senate, I've fought to expand eligibility for those benefits and protect student veterans and servicemembers. And now, I'm working to help thousands of military families who are being crushed by student debt by fighting to cancel student loan debt up to $50,000 and make two- and four-year public college free."

The senator's plan also goes into depth on education benefits for veterans.

"Over the past 70 years, the GI Bill has helped send millions of veterans to college, easing their transition to civilian life, and contributing to our economic growth," reads the plan, noting the senator's previous work to expand GI Bill benefits for Purple Heart recipients and Yellow Ribbon education benefits (which can be used for out-of-state, private or graduate school tuition that the GI Bill doesn't cover) for families of fallen service members.

Historically, veterans were required to serve at least 36 months of active duty to receive full GI Bill benefits. Today, thanks to a 2017 update of the GI Bill which was originally signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, Purple Heart recipients are automatically granted full GI benefits, regardless of the amount of time they served.

But the senator admits that this expansion of the GI Bill can cause headaches for administrators.

"As benefits have increased — and increased in complexity — as a result of GI Bill expansions, VA has scrambled at times to keep up, leaving military students in the lurch," states the plan, citing Warren's bipartisan work to minimize the impact of delayed GI Bill disbursements.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D-MA) during a news conference on Capitol Hill, February 9, 2016 in Washington, DC as Senate democrats urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the "Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act" to the floor for a vote.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

She adds that GI benefits have made military and veteran students "targets for predatory lenders and shady for-profit schools." That is because, Warren says, current rules entice for-profit colleges to recruit veterans who have GI benefits.

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have historically been supportive of for-profit colleges. But veterans groups have repeatedly advocated for changing the so-called 90/10 rule. That rule prohibits for-profit colleges from getting more than 90% of their revenue from federal student aid, but does not count GI benefits as federal aid — thereby encouraging for-profit schools, which have low graduation rates, to target veterans.

For-profit colleges are often tied to high levels of debt for students, and many students turn to private lenders with high interest rates.

Warren proposes banning "shady" for-profit colleges from receiving any federal funds.

The senator also outlines how her higher-education plan, which includes making two- and four-year public college free and canceling student loan debt up to $50,000, would impact military and veteran students.

She says her plan would help "thousands of military families burdened with higher education expenses beyond what is covered by the GI Bill, and ensuring all of our veterans and their families have the chance to get essential job training and degrees without taking on a dime of student loan debt."

While Warren's plans have come under fire for their complexity, she says this plan is simple at its root.

"The way I see it, this is not complicated," she writes. "It's about a government that keeps its promises to those who served — it's about our values."

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