Education

Veterans and Education: Are Our Veterans Getting the Education Benefits They Deserve?

eBenefits.Va.Gov

In honor of Veterans Day and those who have served our country, we’d like to take some time to look at the educational benefits available to veterans and the men and women who currently serve. Veterans returning from military service are enrolling in college programs in record numbers, but many of our veterans are finding the college experience far less than favorable. They’ve fought for our country honorably – they shouldn’t have to fight for their education benefits too.

Let’s take a look at the education benefits available and how colleges across the nation are working to improve the services they extend to our veterans all the way from World War II to Iraq Afghanistan.Veterans

The implementation of the new GI Bill, renamed the Post-9/11 G.I Bill, helps to connect American’s veterans to higher education by significantly expanding the education benefits available to veterans. The new GI Bill helps veterans to earn their degree by paying the full tuition and fees at over 4,000 colleges and providing a monthly living and book and supply stipend. eBenefits.Va.Gov

But many still find that the government’s education programs for service members are inadequate. A loophole in the Bill can often make student loans non-deferrable. Loans can be deferred during times of military service, but when student loans are held by multiple banks, the deferment process can often be undermined. Roy Brown & Eli Williamson, two Army vets, decided to help. Brown and Williamson created Leave No Veteran Behind, a non-profit organization that helps struggling veterans manage their debt and pay off their loans. Loans that veterans take out before entering the service and classes that are interrupted by deployment, for example, are not covered under the GI Bill. The pair recently helped 26-year Air Force veteran Doris Barren, now 51, pay off her entire $5,000 student loan. As they see it, it’s one down, one million to go.

The “culture shock” of reclamation to the civilian world of college campuses is also difficult for veterans, a recent study from the National Survey of Student Engagement found. The transition from military to civilian life is unquestionably hard and the reported lack of support on college campuses can only make the transition more difficult. Of 11,000 veterans surveyed, many reported feeling “disconnected” from the school they attend. The report suggests that college campuses and administration seek out ways of more effectively engaging veterans and providing them with “supportive environments that promote success.” Brian Hawthorne, a student veteran who served twice in Iraq with the Army and is now a graduate student at George Washington University urges educators to understand the differences between veterans and traditional college students, and to provide student veterans with the network of support systems they need.

Many colleges are trying to combat these issues and make the higher education process and experience easier for veterans in hopes that, one day, organizations like Leave No Veteran Behind will be out of work. Colleges have traditionally given honor students and athletes first dibs on classes or “priority registration.” Now, across the nation, student veterans are being given the same opportunity. Prominent ground colleges, like the University of Arizona, are giving veterans the opportunity to register for classes early, ensuring that the classes they want and need to take are available. In 2009, the state of California mandated that all state schools give veterans and current service members priority registration. Additionally, online schools offer veterans a multitude of education opportunities with flexible class scheduling and extensive student services.

A number of corporations are also trying to increase the availability of education benefits for veterans by donating millions of dollars to veteran education programs. Microsoft has given $2 million in cash and $6 million in cutting-edge software to organizations that provide veteran education, skill training and job placement. The money will also be used for services such as career counseling and childcare. An officer in the Navy for nine years, Ross Janson is one veteran who has taken advantage of the Microsoft funding. Janson is taking computer and technology courses at Veterans Inc., one veteran’s organization that received Microsoft funding, to prepare himself for a civilian job in an increasingly tech-driven economy.eBenefits.Va.Gov

Department store super-power Wal-Mart has also contributed, giving $10 million over a five-year period to non-profit organizations that offer veterans job training and higher education or continuing education opportunities. JC. Penny recently gave $1 million for 5,000 veterans to purchase business clothes for their new civilian workplace. Robert Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, the gaming company which produces popular video games like Call of Duty, was persuaded by the sheer number of unemployed veterans to establish a $1 million foundation to support them. The company recently announced an additional $1 million gift.

Student Veterans of America, a student run organization which helps student veterans transition into college and earn their degree, is one of the countless student-run organizations that many colleges offer to their veterans. There are currently 300 college chapters and Michael Dakduk, the deputy executive director of the organization, hopes that the number of chapters nationwide continues to expand. Through his work, Dudak says what amazes him the most is the number of veterans “succeeding, despite the obstacles.”

So on this Veterans Day, do not forget that giving back to those who have served & protected our nation through war and strife is the most important thing that we as a nation can do. By continuing to offer veterans educational benefits and increasing these benefits as early and often as possible, we can honorably serve those who have so honorably served us.

Who Qualifies for the Post 9/11 GI Bill?

eBenefits.Va.Gov

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is available to anyone who served honorably in the military for 90 consecutive days on or after 9/11. It’s also available to those who served 30 days and were discharged with a service-connected disability. Under some conditions the military members benefits could be transferred to a dependent. It’s the responsibility of the service member to initiate their request for benefits or to request transfer benefits to a family member.

Tuition payments are based on the highest in-state tuition rate at an Institute of Higher Learning within the state where the school is located. In addition, qualification support is dependent on where the recipient lives and the type of degree or training they are looking to attain. eBenefits.Va.Gov

GI Bill

Benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Billinclude:

  • Provides up to 36 months / 3 years of education benefits
  • Payable for education/training received on or after Aug 1 2009
  • Includes undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and technical and vocational schools
  • Also included is tutoring assistance, reimbursement for certification and licensing testing
  • Cost of tuition/fees, not more than max in-state tuition of most expensive public state school
  • Monthly housing stipend, up to E-5 (w/dependents) Basic Allowance for Housing at school location
  • Annual stipend for books/supplies, not to exceed $1,000 &¬† based on enrollment
  • A one-time rural benefit payment for eligible individuals
  • Benefits available up to 15 years after leaving active duty

New 2011 Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits (in addition to those above) – Effective 1 Aug/1 October 2011

  • Some National Guard who mobilized after Sept 11, 2001 are now eligible
  • All public school in-state tuition and fees now payable
  • Private school reimbursement capped at $17,500 annually
  • Housing allowance available for students enrolled 100% in online/distance education
  • Covers non-degree programs, on-the-job training, and flight training programs
  • Active duty qualify for the $1,000 book stipend
  • Benefits cover undergraduate through doctorate degree programs
  • Licensing, certification tests, and national exams are reimburseable

Note: The Yellow Ribbon Program is available to cover some out-of-pocket expenses not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill Program. However, this is a separate benefit with its own set of guidelines and rules so make sure your school is participating in this program before applying. eBenefits.Va.Gov

For the specific rules, formulas, and guidelines that encompass the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program, go to http://military.com. To apply, either go to http://gibill.com or register through the VA Certifying official at the school or training facility you want to attend.

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