The New Post 9/11 GI Bill has been in effect now for over a year and many returning service members are taking advantage of this well deserved benefit. In the American Council on Education report titled “Service Members in School: Military Veterans’ Experiences Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Pursuing Higher Education,” approximately 25% of the veterans polled stated that availability of funds from the New GI Bill was a determining factor in their decision to further their education. But despite the popularity of this benefit, legislators continue to seek means for improving and simplifying the sometimes confusing array of benefits created by the original GI Bill legislation.
Efforts are under way to reform and revise veterans educational benefits provided by the GI Bill. Both houses of congress are currently considering bills which aim to improve the current Title 38 – Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits. It is essential that all veterans familiarize themselves with this legislation and support our current and past service members. While this legislation is politically popular, support is beginning to fade due to cost estimates. Because this veterans benefit is considered an entitlement program lawmakers are bound by “pay as you go” rules. Raising additional taxes or cutting other mandated benefits will be a difficult task in the current political environment.
A version of the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 (S.3447) (H.R.5933) was introduced in the Senate on 5/27/2010 and in the House of Representatives on 7/29/2010. These bills include similar provisions which seek to:
- Include members of the National Guard and Reserve programs who were left out of the original GI Bill legislation.
- Expand eligible education options to include non degree granting vocational training programs, apprentice, on the job and flight training.
- Eliminate the confusion and unfair differences arising from state by state GI Bill benefits calculation for degree granting institutions.
- Establish national averages for GI Bill benefits paid to non-degree granting institutions which are indexed to inflation.
- Modify the living allowance rules to also help those that pursue and on-line degree.
- Provide a book allowance for active duty military and their spouses.
- Allow veterans with a service connected disability to continue receiving chapter 31 education benefits while also receiving any living allowance from chapter 33 for which they are eligible without having to use one or the other.
- Modify the calculation of living allowance benefits to match the pace at which the education is pursued.
- Ensure that one period of active duty cannot be used to determine eligibility for multiple educational programs.
As is always the case, bills are referred to committees which then hammer out the details and provide cost estimates. These bills have been referred to the respective Veterans Affairs Committees where there has been very little discernable action. Given the monumental public support of veterans and the GI Bill, it is certain that lawmakers will give these bills the attention they deserve. Overcoming the “pay as you go” obstacles will be a challenge but not one that is insurmountable. We encourage all who read this to contact their legislators and express support for efforts to improve the GI Bill and expand the opportunities our military veterans deserve.
Armed with this advice, review a list of veterans organizations that you might join to learn more about your GI Bill benefits including education benefits at VeteransOrganization.net. This site as well as the FREE Veterans Benefits Portal will provide all of the information you need to make informed decisions about your post military career.