May 20, 2016
Applauding its leadership and long-time support of veterans, NBAA and nine other aviation industry associations have urged the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs to continue supporting veterans’ use of “their hard-earned benefits for flight training,” by opposing any proposal that would cap those benefits as it considers the Veterans First Act.
“This training enables veterans to pursue a well‐paying civilian career with good long‐term prospects in either the fixed‐ or rotary‐wing aviation industry,” the May 17 letter states. “This is important not only to our veterans, but also assists our nation in meeting the burgeoning shortage of qualified pilots. With this well‐deserved assistance, veterans can fill the cockpits of tomorrow’s police and firefighting helicopters, air ambulances, charter and corporate aircraft and commercial airliners.”
Including a cap of flight training benefits in the legislation now under consideration would negate this career opportunity for veterans, especially those without the financial resources needed to earn a degree that includes a commercial pilot’s license.
This training does not qualify for federally backed student loans, the associations explained, and students must seek unsecured loans at 12 percent interest or more.
“We believe that veterans who want to pursue a career in aviation should be eligible for the same benefits as those pursuing degrees at public institutions,” the associations said. A more equitable solution would the Department of Veterans Affairs “more consistent application” of flight training benefits. The VA has made some improvements in the application of its Vocational Rehabilitation GI Bill Benefits as it pertains to flight training, “but it is not universal across the VA system and results in unwarranted program costs.”
“We appreciate your consideration of our request,” the letter concludes. “We look forward to continuing our work with you and the VA to find a balance that will meet the educational needs and aspirations of our veterans who have the skill set and determination for successful careers in the aviation industry.
In addition to NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, the letter was signed by: Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President and CEO Mark Baker, Experimental Aircraft Association Chairman Jack Pelton, General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce, Helicopter Association International President and CEO Matthew Zuccaro, National Association of State Aviation Officials President and CEO Greg Principato, National Air Transportation Association President and CEO Thomas Hendricks, Air Line Pilots Association President Tim Canoll, Air Medical Operators Association President Christopher Eastlee and Association of Air Medical Services President and CEO Rick Sherlock.