Celebrating the Anniversary of the Post-9/11 GI Bill

celebrating

By Debbie Gregory.

It has been four years since the kickoff of the Post-9/11 GI Bill program, and in that time, the VA has issued more than $30 billion in Veteran education benefit payments to service members, veterans and their families – more than 1 million people in all.

The program doesn’t just pay the tuition for Veteran schools, it also covers educational expenses, such as books and fees. Applicants who have served 90 days on active duty since Sept. 10, 2001, or who are discharged with a service-connected disability, can also receive a housing allowance while they study.

For a complete list of eligibility requirements and opportunities for veteran education, visit the MilitaryConnection.com education page.

“The Post-9/11 GI Bill has helped many of our nation’s Veterans pursue their education and successfully transition to civilian life,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We’re proud that the Department of Veterans Affairs can administer this important benefit that makes such a big difference in the lives of nearly a million Veterans and their families.”

The Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefit was a complete overhaul of the previous educational assistance program, the GI Bill, which had not changed in scope or coverage since 1944. The new program now covers traditional Veteran education, such as graduate and undergraduate degrees, as well as Veteran vocational and technical training, Veteran on-the-job training, Veteran flight training, Veteran distance education and correspondence training, Veteran licensing and national testing programs, entrepreneurship training and tutorial assistance.

The program also processes benefit payments quickly, averaging a seven-day turn-around for currently enrolled students.

“Since the end of World War II, GI Bill programs have shaped and changed the lives of Veterans, Servicemembers, their families and their survivors by helping them reach their educational and employment goals,” said Allison A. Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits. “That is still true today.”

The VA is working with schools, community organizations and other partners to ensure beneficiaries have all the information they need to use their education benefits, including:

  • Education plans for all military and Veteran education beneficiaries;
  • A designated point of contact for academic and financial advice at each school; and
  • An end to fraudulent and aggressive recruiting techniques and misrepresentation.

This summer, the VA is launching new tools to help beneficiaries learn more about their vocational aptitudes and select an education institution.

  • The ‘Factors to Consider When Choosing a School’ guide offers future students steps to take when researching, choosing, and attending a school.
  • CareerScope® is a free, new tool that will measure a student’s aptitude and interests through a self-administered online test, identifying potential career paths.
  • The new GI Bill® Comparison Tool will allow students to research and compare schools, including key indicators like average student loan debt and graduation rates.

Assisting Veterans Return to School

assisting veterans

By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans that have served in defense of our country need some assistance in transitioning into civilian life. Troops returning from war are also returning to school.

Some states are creating programs to help military-to-college students adjust. Many newly discharged men and women veterans are wondering what to do next. Most military veterans joined the service before they were 21 years old, and often their military skills and training don’t easily translate into civilian employment.

The answer for many veterans is attending school to achieve a higher education. The Veteran education benefit is one of the main reasons many servicemembers join the military.

For veteran students, the transition from the intensity of military life to a more self-sufficient civilian life can be overwhelming. In some ways, it’s similar to the experiences of laid-off workers: both groups may feel disoriented and suffer losses of identity and work-related friendships. Some former military personnel report feeling not just disoriented, but also deeply alienated from the rest of America. ,

Some veteran students look to college as a way to ease their discomfort. But whether they enter a small community college or a large state university, new challenges await. On top of the usual new student fears, they may also have a spouse or young family to care for and support. They may have fears of being singled out because they fought in a war. Therefore, a supportive and informed faculty is key to these veterans’ successes.

The G.I. Bill can help them afford an education that would otherwise be out of reach. The number of veteran students and veteran friendly schools are rising as more troops are discharged into a challenging job market. The Post 9/11 GI Bill provides the opportunity for veterans to attend Veteran friendly colleges and Veteran friendly universities.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill was enacted into law August 1, 2009. Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits include obtaining veteran graduate degrees. The Post GI Bill benefits enable veterans to envision a successful future.

Veteran education benefits can enhance the lives of veterans, creating a strong foundation for future veteran careers.  Attending college can also help veterans assimilate into civilian life and open possibilities for a new career.

Various Veteran licensing certificates, vocational/technical training courses, veteran flight training courses, veteran correspondence training courses are covered under the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.  Veteran on-the-job training, veteran national testing programs, and veteran entrepreneurship training are also part of the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Learn more about the possible associations between transitioning to school and other concerns at: https://militaryconnection.com/education.asp

Getting ready for college

getting ready for college

By Debbie Gregory.

Veteran students have big dreams. But for some, it has been a long time since they have been in a classroom setting. They need to catch up, but don’t want to use part of their 36 months of G.I. Bill benefits to catch up, leaving them without enough benefits to earn a degree.

A new program is bridging that cap for veteran students and making their introduction to college a little smoother.

A-VET is the acronym for Acceleration Veteran Education and Transition. Its first seven-week boot camp started on June 17, and it’s designed for post-9/11 military veterans who want to further their education, but whose test scores show they aren’t quite ready for college-level courses.

A-VET Boot Camp allows veterans to take free remedial classes, so they don’t have to dip into their benefits.

The Wounded Warrior Project gave A-VET Boot Camp a $60,000 grant to kick-start the program. Four veteran students are participating in the first boot camp with three instructors who teach classes in English, math and various skills that will help the veterans adjust to college life. Another seven-week cycle is scheduled to begin in October with 20 veteran students. The program is being spearheaded by the August/Aiken Warrior Project, USC Aiken and Aiken Tech.

A-VET coordinator Sharon DuBose said her office will develop and improve the program based on participants’ feedback. Her hope is for other colleges to begin offering the program as well.

At the end of the boot camp, officials hope veterans will be prepped to take placement tests, and perform well enough to attend the schools or online programs they are interested in.

The A-VET Boot Camp program came about “because we all started putting our heads together to see what we could do,” said Robert Murphy, who is involved with the Augusta/Aiken Warrior Project, and also is the program lead for USC Aiken’s Veteran Student Success Center.

“We didn’t want to have our veterans burning up their benefits taking remedial classes,” Murphy said. “It’s a big problem, and it’s something that should concern us as taxpayers who are putting billions of dollars into the G.I. Bill. We need to know that these veterans are getting degrees or certificates and not just hanging out in school for three or four years and then leaving.”

Veteran students paying the price for out-of-state military service

veteran-students

By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans of the armed forces have served to defend the citizens of all 50 states.

The GI Bill is one of the most useful benefits available to veterans. Not only can it help smooth the transition back to civilian life, but by covering much of the cost of tuition, it can strengthen their financial situation upon separating from service.

Among the most significant aspects of the GI Bill is that it covers the tuition of public, in-state colleges and universities. Things become less clear when it comes to out-of-state students who often have to cover the difference between rates out of their own pocket. While this may not seem like much of an inconvenience, it is often an issue because troops are required to travel so much as part of their service. Such was the case with Navy veteran Ted Spencer, a North Carolina native who found himself being charged out-of-state rates despite having grown up in North Carolina and paying income tax during his time in the Navy.

Nearly 500,000 veterans took advantage of the GI Bill benefits in 2012. However, despite the bill’s advantages, differences in legislation between states have often left some veterans paying more than they expected to, McClatchy’s Washington Bureau reports.

Veterans can figure out whether the Post-9/11 GI Bill will cover all of their tuition and fees costs by comparing the maximum tuition covered in the state where they want to go to school to the cost that the school charges and the maximum fees to the school’s fees.

There are a few cases in which the school might charge you more than the maximum benefit you can get using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The most common cases would be if a veteran goes to a public school as an out-of-state student, goes to graduate school, or chooses a private or professional school.

If the tuition payment is higher than the tuition payment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and if the school participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, the tuition amount may be reduced.

Another issue is that policies differ considerably from state to state. Some states, such as Maine, Ohio and Louisiana, offer veterans in-state tuition if they are stationed in the U.S. outside of their home state. Several other states, such as Texas and Rhode Island, have legislation pending. Others, including Florida, Tennessee and Nebraska, have no such plans.

With so many differences from state-to-state, there has been a considerable effort on Capitol Hill to craft legislation that would apply equally to all veterans. This initiative has been led by Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, who crafted the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013. The proposed law would require public institutions to allow all veterans using the GI Bill to attend school under in-state rates.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Student Veterans of America and the American Legion support the legislation.

Retired Military Leaders Emphasize Early Education

Preschool

By Debbie Gregory.

Weekly, applicants are walking into a requiting center in Brooklyn wanting to enlist in the United States Army. Sergeant First Class Israel Herrera doesn’t like to turn them away, but he finds, more often than not,  six out of 10 don’t meet military standards.

Today, the military is seeking a higher skilled recruit. In addition to being a high school graduate who is patriotic and able bodied, recruits must also have above average scores on the military entrance exams and be free from prior drug use or criminal conduct. Drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with high unemployment, have enabled the U.S. military to become choosier. Joining the Army provides employment and stability, and that makes it an attractive choice for young people.

There are several reasons why today’s youth do not qualify for military service. 20% of high school students fail to graduate. Obesity and other medical conditions disqualify about 35% of candidates. Prior drug and alcohol involvement disqualify another 19%, and criminal records disqualify 5%.

Thee qualification requirements were much more lenient during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

But more recently, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have been looking to enlist the highest quality recruits. High school diplomas are required, and candidates with GEDs are often turned away and encouraged to acquire some college credits before re-applying.

Studies of preschool programs have shown higher rates of high school completion and lower rates of criminal activity, among other positive outcomes in program graduates through age 20. Retired military admirals and generals are supporting Obama’s proposal to invest more public money in preschool access for 4-year olds in order to improve the nation’s national security. They believe that the best long-term solution to improve recruiting qualifications is to expand the access to and quality of early education. Research has shown that students who start school earlier do better academically and live healthier lives.

Strategically, it is imperative that the United States have a military comprised of highly qualified individuals, capable of using high-tech weapons systems, interacting with people from different cultures, and making high-stakes decision.

Veterans Choosing Colleges

post-911-gi-bill

By Debbie Gregory.

Veteran students are flooding college campuses across the country as military members leave the uniform behind and head back to the classroom to secure a new career.

Administrators, however, are finding that veteran students are choosing less traditional schools and more veteran friendly colleges where they can earn their degrees in a shorter time, with less distraction. Veteran students arrive on campus with the motivation they learned in the military.

Dan Torres, an official with the Veterans Service Office at Butte College, said veteran students are serious. “When you join the military, you learn things,” Torres said. “Just like they did in the service, veteran students have a mission.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that in 2009-10, the first full academic year education benefits were available under the revised G.I. Bill, enrollment among veterans at for-profit private universities was significantly higher than at four-year public institutions. In 2012, one for profit school alone had more than 21,000 veteran students on its rolls. Veteran students have also widely chosen community colleges.

The swell of veteran students across college campuses is due, in part, to the generous educational benefits of the  Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, which was rewritten after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, veteran students receive benefits not just for tuition, but also for the cost of books, fees and  housing. Qualifying veterans can also transfer their benefits to their spouse or children.

In recent years, many local colleges have transformed to become veteran friendly schools. Some have instituted offices of veterans’ affairs, while some schools offer additional financial assistance to veteran students.

Derek Evans, a student at Chico State who is also an official with the campus Veterans Affairs Office, said veterans come to his office to receive their veteran education benefits. Money for veteran education, he said, is one of the easiest VA programs for veterans to access.

Veteran students may also be hitting the books because there are so few options in the job market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2011, unemployment among veterans ages 18 to 24 was at 30 percent, versus 18 percent for that age group in the general population.

According to Evans, as troops previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan return home, the school is prepared to handle far larger enrollment numbers.

“I believe we’re expecting a higher number of new veteran students next semester than ever before,” he said.

Veterans Able to Attend Ivy League Schools

By Debbie Gregory.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Veterans, who want to pursue a law career, now have the opportunity to attend a large number of elite law schools in the country for free.  NYU law student and Iraq veteran, Garen Marshall  has lobbied NYC to increase their veteran education benefits.

Military veterans who served following the 9/11 terrorist attacks can attend Veteran friendly colleges without having to pay anything for their Veteran education.  Veterans can use their Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits.  These Veteran education benefits are capped at the highest rate to attend an in state college or university.  Often the tuition at private colleges, especially Ivy league schools, exceeds this rate. Now many law schools are becoming Yellow Ribbon Schools so that Veterans can attend the best of the best.

veterans-attending-law-school

Schools like Stanford Law School, New York University School of Law and Columbia Law School are matching the government Yellow Ribbon program.   The Yellow Ribbon program is a part of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 and provides veteran education benefits to military veterans who have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. The Yellow Ribbon program provides those veterans who qualify additional money to supplement benefits from the Post 9/11 GI Bill.   Institutions of higher learning that voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the Veterans Administration choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. The VA will match that amount and issue payment directly to the institution.  This program enables many Veterans to attend private schools and use their Veteran education benefits.

Our veterans have earned the right to an education. Law school is not for everyone.  The Yellow Ribbon program provides many career path options for Veterans in all types of areas with top private colleges and universities for Veterans.  This program can be used for Veteran Distance Education for online degreed programs for Veterans.

Most veterans understand leadership. They have the organizational skills, discipline, can achieve goals and complete missions while working under stress.   By using their Veteran education benefits with the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program, they can do anything and prepare themselves for any field.  Veterans can become lawyers, doctors or pursue careers in any area of their choice.

Tuition Assistance Reinstated

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Yesterday, Thursday, March 21st, Congress voted to protect the popular Tuition Assistance program.  The House passed the continuing resolution 318-109. The legislation includes sequestration’s $85 billion across-the-board cuts, meaning that while the TA program was saved, many other government programs will be affected.

For many young service members this is the first opportunity they have ever had to continue their education and many see it as the most valuable benefit the military provides for them.  By upholding this important education benefit for our military, we are demonstrating to those who serve how much the American people owe them for their service. Congress did the right thing restoring funding to TA. We count on our troop’s honor and integrity and should give no less in return.

The Tuition Assistance program began in 1972 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Budget cuts caused by the Sequester went into effect in March. As a result the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force cut the tuition assistance to the TA program. This did not sit well with members of the military, veterans and lawmakers. Groups including Student Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion have been advocating for a restoration of funding.

Courses and degree programs may be academic or technical and can be taken from two or four year institutions on installation, off-installation, or by distance learning for military. The institution must be accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the Department of Education. Tuition is paid directly to the school by the service branch.

The Armed Forces offers soldiers, sailors, marines, guardsman, and airmen several programs to support their education goals including up to 100% Tuition Assistance for college courses taken during off-duty hours.  In addition to degree programs, Tuition Assistance, often referred to as TA, is available to soldiers to complete a high school diploma and to complete certificate programs. However, TA will not be approved to complete credentials at the same or a lower educational level. TA is not authorized for programs beyond a master’s degree.

Service members need to first check with an education counselor for the specifics involving TA with either a visit to their local installation education office or by going online to a virtual education center. TA could be used for the following programs:

  • Vocational & Technical Programs for Military
  • Undergraduate Programs for Military
  • Graduate Programs for Military
  • Independent Study for Military
  • Distance Learning Programs for Military

In order for military service members to be eligible for TA education benefits, he or she must have enough time remaining in the service to complete the course for which he or she applied. After the completion of a course, an officer using TA must fulfill an active duty service obligation that runs parallel with-not in addition to-any existing service obligation.

Each branch of the services has their own criteria for eligibility, obligated service, application process and restrictions. This money is usually paid directly to the institution by the individual services.  This military education benefit is one of the most valuable benefits given to those who serve our nation. Tuition Assistance helps active duty soldiers and Army reservists earn an education to advance their military careers and transition to civilian life.

Veteran Schools Lose Tuition Assistance Payments

More than 900 previously accredited Veteran Schools and Veteran Colleges may lose their eligibility to receive tuition assistance payments. This will create issues for Veteran Students.  The DoD requires Veteran Colleges and Veteran Schools to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) designed to guarantee the quality of education received by our soldiers.

Veteran Schools and Veteran Colleges that accept tuition assistance (TA) must sign and return a Voluntary Education Partnership memorandum of understanding by March to remain eligible for such payments.   Veteran schools and veteran colleges must have a signed DoD MOU on file and be on the “Participating Lists” that are posted on the DoD webpage. Schools for veterans and schools for military not included on the list will not be eligible to enroll service members under the TA program.

Effective March 1, 2013 soldiers will no longer receive tuition assistance if their military schools or military colleges  have not signed the DoD’s “Voluntary Education Partnership” Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Soldiers who already received tuition assistance funding for courses can complete those courses even if they extend to March 1. However, they cannot sign up for any new courses at veteran schools and veteran colleges that have not signed the MOU.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education to individual servicmembers. The Tuition Assistance (TA) program provides financial assistance for voluntary off-duty education programs. TA is available for courses offered in the classroom or by distance education for military. According to Dr. Pamela Raymer the MOU does not impact the Montgomery G.I. Bill or Post 9/11, so soldiers attending a school that does not sign the MOU can still use those options if they choose.

As of February 14th , 3,000 schools for veterans and schools for military were on the list at GoArmyEd, the Army’s enterprise system for accessing TA and other services. To date only 2,153 have signed the MOU according to Dr. Pamela Ramer, Ph.D, chief of the Army Continuing Education Division.

Dr. Raymer suggests that soldiers should visit http://www.dodmou.com to see if their veteran school or military college has signed the MOU.  If their school has not signed MOU, the soldiers should make arrangements to transfer to a military college or veteran school that has signed the MOU.

The Army has made a conscious effort to contact soldiers attending Veteran Schools, Veteran Colleges, Military Schools, and MilitaryColleges that have not signed the MOU. About nine percent of the schools for veterans and schools for militaryon the DoD MOU list have not signed the MOU. A percentage of soldiers that receive TA are National Guard or in ROTC programs and are attending local colleges and universities.

Veteran Students Have Special Needs

Colleges seem to be adept at recruiting veterans but are they adept at serving veterans?  Are colleges taking steps to aid veterans as they face tremendous obstacles in their path of attaining a college degree?

After World War II, many U.S. veterans returned home and decided to attend college.  The GI Bill is still an incentive for the majority of those enlisting in the military.

Colleges that enroll military veterans need to have the resources, support and advocacy for military veterans to succeed in higher education and the ability to ensure they will graduate. Many colleges are unprepared to deal with the unique needs of former service members.  Without special attention many student veterans will fail to graduate.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill gives they the opportunity to do something that is constructive for their minds.  A college degree gives them a mission and allows them to move forward in life.

Strategies do exist that help keep veterans in school.  They are specialized orientation programs, helping veterans connect with one another, training faculty and staff on challenges veterans face that offer more counseling and financial aid.  However, surveys show that many schools are lacking in such efforts.

Veteran students receive lower levels of campus support than non-veterans.  Veterans are transitioning from a regimented environment to a college environment where there is less direction. A course to help veterans adjust to the classroom, learn about programs and share their experiences with other students might be beneficial.

Veterans are used to a structured environment where they are given orders and they follow them.  Veterans need more supervision and follow through from their counselors. Academic support programs and services, like veteran-focused tutoring, advising, mentoring and counseling are needed.  Programs should provide specific advice for veterans.

Student veterans that are supported by their colleges and universities attain higher grades and higher graduation rates that their peers.  More than 500,000 veterans have used the benefits offered to them through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  That number will probably rise as more troops come home.  Some 300,000 members of the military transition back to civilian life every year.

Those making the transition are faced with a disconcerting veteran unemployment rate, particularly for the youngest group of veterans. Veterans without a degree face even more daunting barriers since the unemployment rate for high school graduates is generally about twice that of college graduates.

Operation College Promise (OCP) is a policy, research and information program supporting the postsecondary education advancement of service members and veterans of the United States armed Forces.  OCP is developing the first multi-state, cross-institutional Veterans’ Graduation Probability Indexes (GPI) to analyze the progress of student veterans.  The GPI will provide the ongoing assessment of the progress of veteran students.   It is designed to begin the process of reviewing progress toward graduation.

It is one thing to get a veteran student to a college campus, but if that veteran student doesn’t receive support services they will not get a degree.  That would be a tragic loss for those who have served the United States with their lives on the line.

Authored by MilitaryConnection.com Staff Writer Carol Miraula.