U.S. House Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján
WASHINGTON, D.C. ― Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, and Members of Congress, introduced bipartisan legislation to support student veterans and address wage disparities.
The Wage Adjustment for Veterans Enrolled in School Act would require that Veterans Affairs work-study wage match the local minimum wage if higher than the state minimum wage – ensuring that student veterans are paid fairly for their work.
Full time or 3/4-time students who served in the military and are pursuing a college degree, vocational, or professional program are eligible to receive a VA work-study allowance for a VA-related work-study job while using their education benefits.
The legislation was introduced by Reps. Luján and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), and was co-sponsored by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
The hourly wage for the work-study program is the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher. However, this does not account for the 44 localities nationwide that have higher minimum wage standards than their state, resulting in veterans being underpaid across 11 states.
“Veterans have put their lives on the line to serve our nation and keep Americans safe. In states across the country – including New Mexico – veterans are being shortchanged and struggling to make ends meet as the result of wage disparities. We must fix this issue and support student veterans as they work toward achieving their education goals,” Luján said. “I’m proud to introduce legislation to uplift student veterans and deliver on our promise to those who served our country.”
“Our commitment to our servicemembers – those who bravely put their lives on the line to protect our country – must extend beyond the theater of war and into the classroom. Not only do theses courageous men and women deserve our utmost appreciation, but they also need the academic opportunities to further their careers and live up to their own potential. With the introduction of the Wage Adjustment for Veterans Enrolled in School (WAVES) Act, we can reaffirm our responsibility to support our student veterans and help them secure a prosperous financial future for them and their loved ones,” Gomez said.
“At a time when costs of living continue to rise and as we have failed to raise the federal minimum wage for over a decade, many localities, like my home of Los Angeles, have stepped up to provide a living wage for their communities. But our student veterans, who served with pride and selflessness to protect our homeland and our freedoms, are not allowed to benefit from these local efforts. This legislation would fix that so that our student veterans get the due wages for the work they are doing through the VA work-study program,” Roybal-Allard said.
“I’ve been a longtime supporter of a higher minimum wage, partnering with workers to help draft Seattle’s historic $15 minimum wage bill in 2014 and securing House passage of the Raise the Wage Act this summer. This bill closes a glaring loophole in the Veterans Work Study Program to protect student veterans from being shortchanged. Student veterans should be able to earn the same serving their fellow veterans on-campus or at a nearby VA facility as they would working a fast food job,” Jayapal said.
“I’m proud to join Congressman Luján in introducing this bipartisan legislation to support student veterans,” Raskin said. “Yesterday, America observed Veterans Day and I met with vets across my community who would have greatly benefited from increased wages created by this legislation. We owe our veterans immediate and serious improvements in the delivery of higher education, health care, affordable housing, therapeutic services, and economic opportunity. I’m committed to working with veterans in Maryland and my colleagues in Congress to improve the lives of all our nation’s veterans and am a proud cosponsors of the Wage Adjustment for Veterans Enrolled in School Act.”