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S. 2448 (113th): Servicemember Higher Education Protection Act

The text of the bill below is as of Jun 5, 2014 (Introduced).


II

113th CONGRESS

2d Session

S. 2448

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

June 5, 2014

introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs

A BILL

To protect servicemembers in higher education, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Servicemember Higher Education Protection Act .

2.

References

Except as otherwise expressly provided, wherever in this Act an amendment or repeal is expressed in terms of an amendment to, or repeal of, a section or other provision, the reference shall be considered to be made to a section or other provision of the Higher Education Act of 1965 ( 20 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. ).

3.

Benefits for borrowers who are members of the Armed Forces

Section 131(f) is amended to read as follows:

(f)

Benefits for members of the Armed Forces

(1)

Website

(A)

In General

The Secretary, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, shall create a revised and updated searchable Internet website that—

(i)

contains information, in simple and understandable terms, about all Federal and State student financial assistance, readmission requirements under section 484C, and other student services, for which members of the Armed Forces (including members of the National Guard and Reserves), veterans, and the dependents of such members or veterans may be eligible; and

(ii)

is easily accessible through the Internet website described in subsection (e)(3).

(B)

Implementation

Not later than 365 days after the date of the enactment of the Servicemember Higher Education Protection Act , the Secretary shall make publicly available the revised and updated Internet website described in subparagraph (A).

(C)

Dissemination

The Secretary, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, shall make the availability of the Internet website described in subparagraph (A) widely known to members of the Armed Forces (including members of the National Guard and Reserves), veterans, the dependents of such members or veterans, States, institutions of higher education, and the general public.

(D)

Definition

In this paragraph, the term Federal and State student financial assistance means any grant, loan, work assistance, tuition assistance, scholarship, fellowship, or other form of financial aid for pursuing a postsecondary education that is—

(i)

administered, sponsored, or supported by the Department of Education, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, or a State; and

(ii)

available to members of the Armed Forces (including members of the National Guard and Reserves), veterans, or the dependents of such members or veterans.

(2)

Enrollment Form

(A)

In General

The Secretary, in consultation with the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection and the heads of any other relevant Federal agencies, shall create a simplified disclosure and enrollment form for borrowers who are performing eligible military service (as defined in section 481(d)).

(B)

Contents

The disclosure and enrollment form described in subparagraph (A) shall include—

(i)

information about the benefits and protections under title IV and under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50 U.S.C. App. 501 et seq.) that are available to such borrowers because of their status as borrowers who are performing eligible military service (as defined in section 481(d)); and

(ii)

an opportunity for the borrower, by completing the enrollment form, to invoke certain protections, activate certain benefits, and enroll in certain programs that may be available to that borrower, which shall include the opportunity—

(I)

to invoke applicable protections that are available under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50 U.S.C. App. 501 et seq.), as such protections relate to Federal student loans under title IV; and

(II)

to activate or enroll in any other applicable benefits that are available to such borrower under this Act due to the borrower's status as a borrower who is performing eligible military service (as defined in section 481(d)), such as eligibility for a deferment or eligibility for a period during which interest shall not accrue.

(C)

Implementation

Not later than 365 days after the date of the enactment of the Servicemember Higher Education Protection Act , the Secretary shall make available to eligible institutions, eligible lenders, and personnel at the Department of Defense and other Federal agencies that provide services to borrowers who are members of the Armed Forces or the dependents of such members or individuals performing eligible military service, the disclosure and enrollment form described in subparagraph (A).

(D)

Notice Requirements

(i)

SCRA interest rate limitation

The completion of the disclosure and enrollment form created pursuant to subparagraph (A) by the borrower of a loan made, insured, or guaranteed under part B or part D of title IV who is otherwise subject to the interest rate limitation in subsection (a) of section 207 of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ( 50 U.S.C. App. 527(a) ) and submittal of such form to the Secretary shall be considered, for purposes of such section, provision to the creditor of written notice as described in subsection (b)(1) of such section.

(ii)

FFEL Lenders

The Secretary shall provide each such disclosure and enrollment form completed and submitted by a borrower of a loan made, insured, or guaranteed under part B of title IV who is otherwise subject to the interest rate limitation in subsection (a) of section 207 of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ( 50 U.S.C. App. 527(a) ) to any applicable eligible lender under part B of title IV so as to satisfy the provision to the lender of written notice as described in subsection (b)(1) of such section.

.

4.

POC in the FSA Ombudsman for members of the Armed Forces and veterans

Section 141(f) ( 20 U.S.C. 1018(f) ) is amended—

(1)

by redesignating paragraph (4) as paragraph (5); and

(2)

by inserting after paragraph (3) the following:

(4)

Military and Veteran Point of Contact

(A)

In general

The Chief Operating Officer, in consultation with the Secretary, shall appoint a designated military and veteran point of contact within the office of the Student Loan Ombudsman.

(B)

Functions

The designated military and veteran point of contact described in subparagraph (A) shall—

(i)

monitor the complaints received from the Ombudsman under paragraph (3)(A) from, and provide timely assistance to, members of the Armed Forces (including members of the National Guard and Reserves), veterans, and their dependents;

(ii)

coordinate with other agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, to ensure that members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and the dependents of members of the Armed Forces and veterans, who are students, borrowers, or potential borrowers, are aware of the availability and functions of the Ombudsman; and

(iii)

issue to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate, the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives, the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate, and the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives an annual report on the challenges that such members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and dependents are facing as students, borrowers, and potential borrowers.

.

5.

Disability determinations

(a)

Amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965

Section 437(a)(2) ( 20 U.S.C. 1087(a)(2) ) is amended to read as follows:

(2)

Disability determinations

(A)

In General

A borrower who has been assigned a disability rating of 100 percent (or a combination of ratings equaling 100 percent or more) by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs or the Secretary of Defense for a service-connected disability (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code) and who provides documentation of such rating to the Secretary of Education, shall be considered permanently and totally disabled for the purpose of discharging such borrower's loans under this subsection, and such borrower shall not be required to present any additional documentation for purposes of this subsection.

(B)

Rating of disability

A disability rating described in subparagraph (A), or similar determination of unemployability by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs or the Department of Defense, transmitted in accordance with subparagraph (C) shall be considered sufficient documentation for purposes of this subsection.

(C)

Transfer of information

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the Servicemember Higher Education Protection Act , the Secretary, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, shall create a system through which the applicable disability ratings (or alternative means of transmitting a determination of unemployability) shall be automatically transmitted from the Department of Defense or the Department of Veterans Affairs, as the case may be, to the Department of Education and shall satisfy the documentation requirement described in this paragraph. The Secretary shall have the authority to enter into any agreements necessary to implement the requirements of this paragraph.

.

(b)

Reports

(1)

Plan

Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Education shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report that includes a plan to carry out the activities described under section 437(a)(2)(C) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 ( 20 U.S.C. 1087(a)(2) ), as amended by this section.

(2)

Follow-up Report

If the Secretary of Education has not carried out the activities described under section 437(a)(2)(C) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended by this section, by the date that is 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Education shall submit, by such date, a report that includes an explanation of why those activities have not been implemented and a description of any legislative changes that are necessary to allow for the implementation of such activities.

6.

Loan deferment for borrowers performing military service and certain spouses of members of the Armed Forces

(a)

FFEL Loans

Section 428(b)(1)(M) ( 20 U.S.C. 1078(b)(1)(M) ) is amended—

(1)

by redesignating clause (iv) as clause (v);

(2)

in clause (iii), by striking the borrower— and all that follows through described in subclause (I) or (II); or and inserting the borrower is performing eligible military service, and for the 180-day period following the demobilization date for such eligible military service;; and

(3)

by inserting after clause (iii) the following:

(iv)

not in excess of 180 days after the effective movement date listed on the military orders of a borrower's spouse if that spouse is a member of the Armed Forces who has received military orders for a permanent change of station; or

.

(b)

Direct Loans

Section 455(f)(2) ( 20 U.S.C. 1087e(f)(2) ) is amended—

(1)

by redesignating subparagraph (D) as subparagraph (E);

(2)

in subparagraph (C), by striking the borrower— and all that follows through described in clause (i) or (ii); or and inserting the borrower is performing eligible military service, and for the 180-day period following the demobilization date for such eligible military service; and

(3)

by inserting after subparagraph (C) the following:

(D)

any period not in excess of 180 days after the effective movement date listed on the military orders of a borrower's spouse if that spouse is a member of the Armed Forces who has received military orders for a permanent change of station; or

.

(c)

Federal Perkins Loans

(1)

Section 464(c)(2)(A) ( 20 U.S.C. 1087dd(c)(2)(A) ) is amended—

(A)

by redesignating clauses (iv) and (v) as clauses (v) and (vi), respectively;

(B)

in clause (iii), by striking the borrower— and all that follows through described in subclause (I) or (II); and inserting during which the borrower is performing eligible military service, and for the 180-day period following the demobilization date for such eligible military service;; and

(C)

by inserting after clause (iii) the following:

(iv)

not in excess of 180 days after the effective movement date listed on the military orders of a borrower's spouse if that spouse is a member of the Armed Forces who has received military orders for a permanent change of station; or

.

(2)

Section 465(a)(2)(D) ( 20 U.S.C. 1087ee(a)(2)(D) ) is amended by striking qualifies for special pay under section 310 of title 37, United States Code, as an area of hostilities and inserting is eligible military service.

(d)

Definition

Section 481(d) ( 20 U.S.C. 1088(d) ) is amended—

(1)

by redesignating paragraphs (2) through (5) as paragraphs (3) through (6), respectively; and

(2)

by inserting after paragraph (1) the following:

(2)

Eligible military service

The term eligible military service

(A)

in the case of a member of a regular component of the Armed Forces, means full-time duty in the Armed Forces, other than active duty for training (as defined in section 101 of title 38, United States Code);

(B)

in the case of a member of the reserve components of the Armed Forces, means service on active duty under a call or order to active duty under section 688, 12301(a), 12301(d), 12301(g), 12302, or 12304 of title 10, United States Code, or section 712 of title 14, United States Code;

(C)

in the case of a member of the Army National Guard of the United States or Air National Guard of the United States, means, in addition to service described in subparagraph (B), full-time service—

(i)

in the National Guard of a State for the purpose of organizing, administering, recruiting, instructing, or training the National Guard; or

(ii)

in the National Guard under section 502(f) of title 32, United States Code, when authorized by the President or the Secretary of Defense for the purpose of responding to a national emergency declared by the President and supported by Federal funds;

(D)

in the case of a servicemember who is a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, active service; and

(E)

does not include any period during which an individual—

(i)

was assigned full-time by the Armed Forces to a civilian institution for a course of education that was substantially the same as established courses offered to civilians;

(ii)

serves as a cadet or midshipman at one of the military service academies of the United States; or

(iii)

serves under the provisions of section 12103(d) of title 10, United States Code, pursuant to an enlistment in the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard, or as a Reserve for service in the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, or Coast Guard Reserve.

.

7.

Public service loan forgiveness

Section 455(m) ( 20 U.S.C. 1087e(m) ) is amended—

(1)

by redesignating paragraphs (3) and (4) as paragraphs (4) and (5), respectively; and

(2)

by inserting after paragraph (2) the following:

(3)

Lump sum payment

For purposes of this subsection, if a borrower has enrolled in a repayment plan described in paragraph (1)(A) and makes a lump sum payment through a student loan repayment program under section 2171 of title 10, United States Code, or a similarly structured eligible repayment program (as determined by the Secretary), the Secretary will treat the borrower as having made a number of qualifying payments equal to the lesser of—

(A)

the number, rounded to the nearest whole number, equal to the quotient of—

(i)

such lump sum payment; divided by

(ii)

the monthly payment amount that the borrower would have otherwise made under the repayment plan described in paragraph (1)(A) selected by the borrower; or

(B)

12 payments.

.

8.

Accrual of interest for members of the Armed Forces subject to hostile fire or imminent danger

Section 455(o) is amended—

(1)

by striking paragraph (1) and inserting the following:

(1)

In General

Notwithstanding any other provision of this part and in accordance with paragraphs (2) and (4), the Secretary shall not charge interest on a loan made to a borrower under this part for which the first disbursement is made on or after October 1, 2008, during the period in which a borrower who is performing eligible military service (as defined in section 481(d)) is serving in an area of hostilities in which service qualifies for special pay under section 310 of title 37, United States Code.

;

(2)

by striking paragraph (3) and inserting the following:

(3)

Implementation of accrual of interest provision for members of the Armed Forces

(A)

In General

The Secretary shall enter into any necessary agreements, including agreements with the Commissioner of Revenue and the Secretary of Defense

(i)

to ensure that interest does not accrue for borrowers described in paragraph (1), in accordance with this subsection; and

(ii)

to obtain or provide any information necessary to implement clause (i) without requiring a request from the borrower.

(B)

Reports

(i)

Plan

Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of the Servicemember Higher Education Protection Act , the Secretary shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report that includes a plan to implement the accrual of interest provision described in subparagraph (A).

(ii)

Follow-up Report

If the Secretary has not implemented the accrual of interest provision described in subparagraph (A) by the date that is 1 year after the date of enactment of the Servicemember Higher Education Protection Act , the Secretary shall submit, by such date, a report that includes an explanation of why such provision has not been implemented and a description of any legislative changes that are necessary to allow for the implementation of such provision.

; and

(3)

in paragraph (4), by striking who qualifies as an eligible military borrower under this subsection and inserting described in paragraph (1) .

9.

National Student Loan Data System

(a)

Amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965

Subsection (h) of section 485B ( 20 U.S.C. 1092b(h) ) is amended to read as follows:

(h)

Integration of databases

(1)

In General

The Secretary shall integrate the National Student Loan Data System with the Federal Pell Grant applicant and recipient databases as of January 1, 1994, and any other databases containing information on participation in programs under this title.

(2)

Department of Defense Information

(A)

In General

In order to incorporate the military and veteran status of borrowers into the National Student Loan Data System, the Secretary shall integrate the National Student Loan Data System with information from—

(i)

the Department of Defense, including the Defense Manpower Data Center; and

(ii)

the Department of Veterans Affairs, including data about veterans who are eligible for educational assistance under laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

(B)

Memoranda of understanding

The Secretary shall enter into any memoranda of understanding or other agreements that are necessary to carry out this paragraph.

.

(b)

Reports

(1)

Plan

Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Education shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report that includes a plan to implement the Department of Defense data integration provision described under section 485B(h)(2) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended by this section.

(2)

Follow-up Report

If the Secretary of Education has not implemented the Department of Defense data integration provision described under section 485B(h)(2) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended by this section, by the date that is 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Education shall submit, by such date, a report that includes an explanation of why such provision has not been implemented and a description of any legislative changes that are necessary to allow for the implementation of such provision.

10.

Program participation agreements

Section 487(a) is amended by adding at the end the following:

(30)

In the case of an institution that enrolls during an academic year more than 100 students who are veterans, the institution shall certify that the institution has developed and implemented a plan to ensure the success of veterans at that institution. To the extent practicable, the institution shall make the plan, and associated policies, public and accessible to students who are veterans. Such plan shall include the following:

(A)

The designation of certain faculty or staff at the institution who will serve as a point of contact for veterans—

(i)

within campus offices, including the admissions office; and

(ii)

during any orientation process for newly enrolled students.

(B)

The establishment of a working group that will be responsible for veterans' issues.

(C)

A description of disability services that are available to meet the needs of disabled students who are veterans.

(D)

A plan for how the institution will identify students who are veterans through the application process, or through other processes, to provide better assistance in the receipt of educational assistance under laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs or the Secretary of Defense.

(E)

A description of how the institution will evaluate and maximize the number of credits students can receive from military training and service.

.

11.

Extending the protections for student loans for active duty borrowers

Section 493D ( 20 U.S.C. 1098f ) is amended—

(1)

in the section heading, by inserting and protections for active duty borrowers before the period at the end;

(2)

by redesignating subsection (b) as subsection (c); and

(3)

by inserting after subsection (a) the following:

(b)

Use of information

(1)

In general

The Secretary shall utilize information the Secretary receives regarding the active duty status of borrowers from the Secretary of Defense for any purpose under this title to ensure that the interest rate charged on any loan made under part D of title IV for borrowers who are subject to section 207(a)(1) of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ( 50 U.S.C. App. 527(a)(1) ) does not exceed the maximum interest rate set forth in such section.

(2)

SCRA interest rate limitation notice requirements

The submittal by the Secretary of Defense to the Secretary of Education of information that informs the Secretary of Education that an individual with a student loan under part D of title IV has been or is being called to military service (as defined in section 101 of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ( 50 U.S.C. 511 )) shall be considered, for purposes of subjecting such student loan to the provisions of section 207 of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ( 50 U.S.C. App. 527 ), provision by the borrower to the creditor of written notice and a copy of military orders as described in subsection (b)(1) of such section.

(3)

Procedures

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the Servicemember Higher Education Protection Act , the Secretary, in consultation with the Department of Defense, shall establish a procedure to implement this subsection.

.

12.

Modification of limitation on rate of interest on student loans during and immediately after period of military service

(a)

Extension of period of applicability of limitation on rate of interest on student loans incurred before service

Section 207(a)(1) of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ( 50 U.S.C. App. 527(a)(1) ) is amended—

(1)

in subparagraph (A), by inserting or a student loan after nature of a mortgage; and

(2)

in the paragraph heading, by inserting on debt incurred before service after Limitation to 6 percent .

(b)

Debt entered into during military service To consolidate or refinance student loans incurred before military service

Subsection (a) of section 207 of such Act ( 50 U.S.C. App. 527 ) is amended—

(1)

by redesignating paragraphs (2) and (3) as paragraphs (3) and (4), respectively;

(2)

by inserting after paragraph (1) the following new paragraph (2):

(2)

Limitation to 6 percent on debt incurred during service to consolidate or refinance student loans incurred before service

An obligation or liability bearing interest at a rate in excess of 6 percent per year that is incurred by a servicemember, or the servicemember and the servicemember's spouse jointly, during military service to consolidate or refinance one or more student loans incurred by the servicemember before such military service shall not bear an interest at a rate in excess of 6 percent during the period of military service and one year thereafter.

;

(3)

in paragraph (3), as redesignated by paragraph (1) of this subsection, by inserting or (2) after paragraph (1) ; and

(4)

in paragraph (4), as so redesignated, by striking paragraph (2) and inserting paragraph (3) .

(c)

Implementation of limitation

Subsection (b) of such section is amended—

(1)

in paragraph (1) , by striking the interest rate limitation in subsection (a) and inserting an interest rate limitation in paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection (a) ; and

(2)

in paragraph (2)

(A)

in the paragraph heading, by striking as of date of order to active duty ; and

(B)

by inserting before the period at the end the following: in the case of an obligation or liability covered by subsection (a)(1), or as of the date the servicemember (or servicemember and spouse jointly) incurs the obligation or liability concerned under subsection (a)(2) .

(d)

Student loan defined

Subsection (d) of such section is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

(3)

Student loan

The term student loan means the following:

(A)

A Federal student loan made, insured, or guaranteed under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 ( 20 U.S.C. 1070 et seq. ).

(B)

A private student loan as that term is defined in section 140(a) of the Truth in Lending Act (15 U.S.C. 1650(a)).

.

13.

Working group on improvement of resources available to members of the Armed Forces and their spouses in using tuition assistance programs of the Department of Defense

(a)

Working group required

The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection shall jointly, and in consultation with the heads of such other departments and agencies of the Federal Government as such officials consider appropriate, establish and maintain a working group to assess and improve the resources available to education service officers and other personnel of the Federal Government who provide assistance to members of the Armed Forces and their spouses in using or seeking to use the tuition assistance programs of the Department of Defense.

(b)

Resources

In improving resources as described in subsection (a), the working group shall provide for the inclusion of the following in such resources:

(1)

Information on the benefits and protections for members of the Armed Forces and their dependents provided in this Act and the amendments made by this Act.

(2)

Consumer information, resources, and tools created and maintained by the working group pursuant to this section.

(3)

Information on the availability of consumer protection measures, including the complaint system established pursuant to Executive Order 13607 (77 Fed. Reg. 25861; relating to establishing principles of excellence for educational institutions serving servicemembers, veterans, spouses, and other family members).

(4)

Such other information or resources as the working group considers appropriate.

14.

Exception for Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Section 428(d) ( 20 U.S.C. 1078(d) ) is amended by striking “section 207 of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ( 50 U.S.C. App. 527 )” and inserting “the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50 U.S.C. App. 501 et seq.)”.