- Associated Press - Monday, July 24, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on the House’s consideration of bills to address the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ budget gap, and expand the GI Bill (all times local):

7:30 p.m.

The House has approved the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.

The bipartisan legislation would remove a 15-year time limit to tap into GI education benefits and increase money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.

It was approved 405-0.

The measure builds on legislation passed in 2008 that guarantees a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university - or a similar cash amount for private college students. Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology and engineering courses.

Lawmakers of both parties praised the bill as better preparing veterans for a rapidly changing job market.

It now goes to the Senate.


7 p.m.

The House has rejected legislation to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to shift $2 billion from other programs to cover a sudden budget shortfall in its Choice program of private-sector care.

The vote was 219-186, failing to attract two-thirds of the vote needed to pass. The measure faced stiff opposition from veterans’ organizations.

The bill sought to address a budget gap in Choice, which offers veterans federally paid medical care outside the VA. The program is slated to run out of money by mid-August.

Democratic Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota criticized the proposed cuts to other parts of the VA. He urged the House to work out a compromise with the Senate.

Veterans’ groups are asking that emergency money be invested in the VA as well as Choice.


1 p.m.

The leader of Veterans of Foreign Wars is taking aim at President Donald Trump over a House plan to fill a sudden budget shortfall at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VFW National Commander Brian Duffy was referring to a House bill that would shift $2 billion from other VA programs to continue paying for the VA’s Choice program, which gives veterans access to private doctors.

He told the group’s national convention in New Orleans that the plan violates Trump’s campaign promise to VFW last year that the “VA would remain a public system, because it is a public trust.”

Duff says the House plan is unacceptable privatization and would increase out of pocket costs for veterans and harm their care. The House was moving to pass legislation later Monday.

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