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NASAO Continues to Urge Congress to Preserve GI Flight Benefits

Today, the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) joined seven other aviation organizations in urging key Members of Congress to amend legislation that would impose discriminatory caps on GI benefits for flight training at public institutions. NASAO President Mark Kimberling cosigned a letter, along with the respective leadership at NBAA, NATA, GAMA, AOPA, EAA, HAI, and the Air Medical Operators Association, sent to the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Phil Roe (R-TN) and Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN) requesting that the language be removed from the broader legislation (H.R. 4149).

This provision has reemerged from previous legislation, which was originally introduced to ostensibly combat abuse of the system and rein in costs in an over-response to isolated incidents of overpayment and/or excessive training charges. The caps, however, “virtually guarantee that veterans seeking to use their GI benefits to enter the aviation industry will have insufficient funds to achieve their goals,” the letter states. This will, thereby, hinder innumerable veterans from pursuing a career as a pilot at a time when our nation desperately needs an influx of new pilots to sustain the commercial and general aviation industry.

The legislation does contain some positive provisions, including improved flexibility for public schools to allow them to contract flight training, accelerated funding mechanisms for veterans to access funds and remit payments, and – importantly – provides coverage for obtaining a private pilot’s license when it is incorporated into the requirements of a professional flight training program. “However, despite these improvements, we cannot support the bill as written,” the associations state in the letter, as the cap is simply too detrimental to veterans and the aviation industry alike.

GA Coalition Opposing HR 4149 (1)

“Historically, military veterans, who have been trained with the utilization of GI benefits, have comprised the heart of the GA and commercial pilot population,” said NASAO President Mark Kimberling. “Unfortunately, this pipeline of capable, and frankly, ideal pilots has dwindled over the years with the imposition of more and more barriers and restrictions to these benefits. And we’ve, unfortunately, seen a commensurate decline in the total pilot population.”

Vast improvements were made to flight training benefits with the introduction of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which served as a recruiting tool for the Iraq and Afghan wars. It’s now imperative that “our nation delivers on its commitment to our veterans, who have honorably and selfishly served our nation,” the group concluded in the letter. For the sake of these veterans, and for the future sustainability of our aviation industry, NASAO will continue to work with Members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and other key Members of Congress to preserve, and enhance, GI benefits for flight training, rather than diminish them with measures like the cap on funding contained in H.R. 4149.

Categories: News
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