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House Rules Committee Rejects G.I. Bill Education Benefits for Vaccine Refusal

January 12, 2022 by Reece Nations
House Rules Committee Rejects G.I. Bill Education Benefits for Vaccine Refusal
Vaccination (Photo by Pfc. Maxwell Bass; 24th Theater Public Affairs Support Element)

WASHINGTON — The House Rules Committee on Monday rejected an amendment to the Guard and Reserve G.I. Bill Parity Act that would guarantee Armed Services members discharged for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine are eligible for G.I. Bill education benefits.

The Guard and Reserve G.I. Bill Parity Act of 2021, introduced by Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., would expand eligibility for Post-9/11 G.I. Bill educational assistance to reservists and National Guard members. In an 8-4 vote, the Democratic majority of the committee rejected the amendment submitted by Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis.

The motion to consider the amendment was submitted by Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., who said veterans who had served should not be deprived of the G.I. Bill benefits for refusing to comply with the Department of Defense’s vaccine mandate. Despite voting down Fitzgerald’s amendment, the committee would go on to approve a resolution to send the bill back to the full House and place it on the calendar for a vote.

“Despite being challenged in court the DoD has proceeded with discharging those who otherwise served honorably in defense of our nation solely due to their vaccination status,” Fischbach said. “In an effort to prevent those who have refused the vaccine from being dishonorably discharged, Congress included a provision in the fiscal year 2022 [National Defense Authorization Act] limiting discharges for failing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to either an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions.”

Fischbach continued, “However, there will now be a group of veterans who have served honorably up until the point of refusing the COVID-19 vaccination who will have their education benefits denied and their service record diminished.”

House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., reiterated that the protections are already in place under the NDAA while pointing out that a budgetary point of order had been placed against the amendment prior to the committee’s vote. Each of the committee’s four Republican members voted in favor of the motion while eight Democrat majority members voted against it.

Prior to considering Fischbach’s motion, the committee agreed to a substitute an amendment submitted by Rep. Barry Moore, R-Ala., that replaces the base text of the bill with a fully paid extension of G.I. Bill benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve on active duty orders besides training. The members were in agreement that Moore’s amendment be paid in full with budgetary offsets and expand educational benefits to active duty reservists and guardsmen, but a compromise was struck that limited the scope of the bill strictly to Armed Forces members not still in training.

“We are very strict in not allowing amendments when there are points of order against them,” McGovern said while urging committee members to vote against the motion. “I should also say that as part of this bill we spent this entire rules meeting working with the minority trying to make sure that the substitute was in order — that had to undergo a couple of revisions. But we got to the point where we were able to make it in order so that there were no points of order against [the substitute].” 

Reece can be reached at [email protected].

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