Bilirakis visits apprenticeship program

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, front, taking a tour of the AmSkills facility in New Port Richey.

NEW PORT RICHEY – U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, toured a New Port Richey manufacturing apprenticeship center last month that would benefit from legislation working its way through Congress.

Bilirakis visited AmSkills, at the Marchman Technical College on July 21 to receive an up-close look at the technical training offered to residents wishing to advance their careers.

According to the representative’s press secretary, Elena Hernandez, Bilirakis met with AmSkills CEO Tom Mudano during the visit and got to discuss the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017.

The new GI Bill received unanimous support from the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, of which Bilirakis is the vice chairman, before being approved by the House 405-0 on July 24.

The legislation would remove the 15-year time restriction to use the GI Bill benefit, enabling future eligible recipients to use their GI Bill benefits for their entire lives. Reservists, Guardsmen, dependents, surviving spouses and surviving dependents would also see increases in GI Bill tuition funding.

“Education and career training programs offer veterans the opportunity to enter a new chapter of their lives,” Bilirakis said July 19, when the legislation was advanced by the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He described the bill as “a major step toward improving, expanding, and modernizing the GI Bill.”

Since AmSkills is certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to offer apprenticeships to veterans, Bilirakis wrote on his Facebook page that the legislation working its way through Congress “would help make programs like AmSkills more accessible.”

Included in the bill is Bilirakis’ provision, known as the VETERAN Act, which would authorize $30 million to help the VA invest in modernizing their information technology systems for processing claims. The goal of the provision is to help veterans receive benefits in a more timely and efficient manner.