Message to the Congress Recommending Extension of the Veterans Education Assistance Program

May 30, 1981

To the Congress of the United States:

In 1976, the Congress established, in Public Law 94 - 502, a new contributory education program under which individuals entering military service on and after January 1, 1977, would, on a voluntary basis, have funds withheld from their military pay for their future education. These contributions would, under the law, be matched by the Veterans Administration on a $2 for $1 basis.

The law provides for this Veterans' Education Assistance Program (VEAP) to be conducted on a test basis and requires termination of new enrollments by service personnel after December 31, 1981, unless I recommend continuation of the program before June 1, 1981.

Last year, the Congress enacted the Department of Defense Authorization Act, 1981, and the Veterans' Rehabilitation and Education Amendments of 1980. These two laws included revisions to the VEAP program and established a new, second test program under which service personnel, who enlist or reenlist after September 30, 1980, and before October 1, 1981, may be eligible for education benefits after serving for a specified period of time.

The conference report on the Department of Defense Authorization Act, 1981, recommended that the VEAP program be extended to June 30, 1982, in order to provide sufficient time for the Department of Defense to test and evaluate the new pilot program. That program is currently undergoing testing and evaluation.

As of the end of February 1981, a total of 3,872 individuals had commenced education training under the VEAP program. The relatively low training rate reflects, in part, the fact that under the law an individual may not begin to use his or her educational entitlement until completion of the first obligated period of active duty or 6 years of active duty, whichever period is less. Since the law did not become effective until January 1, 1977, the number of persons eligible to pursue training has thus far been minimal.

Over the next several months the Administration will be continuing its evaluation and review of both the VEAP and Department of Defense test programs, with a view towards developing legislative recommendations regarding education programs for servicemembers and veterans. In view of this effort, I am recommending that the VEAP program be continued beyond its current termination date of December 31, 1981. This will permit the Administration to complete its review and will provide time for submission of legislative recommendations that I anticipate will be submitted in early 1982.

Recently, the Veterans Administration submitted legislation to the Congress that would authorize a 1-year extension of the Veterans' Educational Assistance Program and make certain other adjustments in Public Law 94 - 502. I urge the Congress to enact this legislation.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

May 30, 1981.

Note: The text of the message was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on June 1.