The new GI Bill

Beginning August 1, 2009 servicemembers will be able to enjoy the benefits of a “Post 9/11 GI Bill” or the “GI Bill for the 21st century”, the most comprehensive educational benefits package since the original bill was signed into law in 1944.

There is a lot to this new GI Bill. Some of the benefits include:

  • Up-front tuition payments to any public or private university. Those payments would be capped at the cost of attending the most expensive in-state public university.
  • Monthly stipends that help cover students’ cost of living. For example, the average monthly stipend in California would be $1,449.
  • Allowances for books and supplies. For example, servicemembers would receive $1,000 a year in California.
  • Fifteen years to use their benefits, rather than the current 10. The bill also would allow reservists who serve several tours to count their total time served, rather than the length of the longest tour, to qualify for benefits.
  • In addition, veterans would no longer have to make a nonrefundable $1,200 contribution to their education.

In order to learn the fullextent of the benefits offered through this new bill, you can check out the VA’s fact sheet. The VA’s main site has up-to-date information on the new bill in addition to an FAQ sheet.

So, are you eligible? Good question. According to the fact sheet:

“At a minimum, you must have served at least 30 days of continuous active duty service after September 10, 2001 and be discharged due to a service-connected disability, or served an aggregate of 90 days of active duty service after September 10, 2001, and—

  • Be honorably discharged from Armed Forces; or
  • Be released from Armed Forces with service characterized as honorable and placed on the retired list, temporary disability retired list, or transferred to the Fleet Reserve or the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve; or
  • Be released from the Armed Forces with service characterized as honorable for further service in a reserve component; or
  • Be discharged or released from Armed Forces for:

EPTS (Existed Prior to Service)

HDSP (Hardship) or

CIWD (Condition Interfered with Duty); or

Continue to be on active duty.”

How much will you receive? According to the VA:

“You are entitled to a percentage, as determined by your length of active duty service, of the following:

  • Amount of tuition and fees charged, not to exceed the most expensive in-State public institution of higher education (paid to school);
  • Monthly housing allowance equal to the basic allowance for housing (BAH) amount payable to a military E-5 with dependents, in same zip code as school * (paid to you); and
  • Yearly books and supplies stipend of up to $1000* per year (paid to you); and
  • A one time payment of $500 may be payable to certain individuals relocating from highly rural areas. (paid to you)

*NOTE –Housing allowance and books and supplies stipend is not payable to individuals on active duty. Housing allowance is not payable for those pursuing training at half time or less orto individuals taking distance learning.

One of the biggest changes to take place as part of the new GI Bill is transferability. The new GI Bill will allow servicemembers who have served at least 10 years on active duty to transfer their benefit to a spouse or dependent child. Spouses of a servicemember who has served at least six years and agrees to another four-year contract can receive the money even sooner.

Be aware that the transferred benefit will cover the cost of tuition only.

Benefits may be divided as long as they don’t exceed 36 months of college classes. For example, a retired soldier can use half of the benefits to pay for a two-year degree program and transfer the remaining half to a spouse or child.

College-age children of long-serving servicemembers could get a free college education starting fall 2009, provided they attend a state-backed school.

Transferability is limited to those currently serving in the military and will likely be used as a retention tool. So those servicemembers whose children will reach college-age while the servicemember is still on active duty could realize a FREE college education (in terms of tuition). This is a major victory for those who have pushed Congress for decades to allow servicemembers to share or transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children.

So hold tight until August 1, 2009 and then hit those books!