Would Changes to the GI Bill Impact Military Recruitment?

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By Debbie Gregory.

Patriotism is usually among the top three reasons people give for joining the military. So is the promise of great educational benefits provided through the GI Bill. With that said, changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other education benefits would probably have a bigger impact on military recruitment and retention if the recipients actually understood what they were getting.

It is common knowledge that a college education is expensive. A recent RAND report evaluating military education benefits revealed that many new recruits and service members don’t really understand what their benefits entail.

Some of the benefits you could be eligible for through the Post-9/11 GI Bill include 100% coverage of tuition and fees paid directly to a state operated college or university on your behalf, a monthly living stipend based on your school’s zip code, an annual book and supply stipend, a one-time relocation allowance, and the ability to transfer GI Bill benefits to a spouse or eligible dependent. And since 2009, servicemembers are not required to contribute to the program to access the benefits.

Veteran advocacy groups, including the Student Veterans of America, have been pushing Congress to make changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill that would expand eligibility for wounded service members and reservists.

For the report, RAND researchers polled 165 new recruits who had yet to attend boot camp, in order to ascertain how much they knew about the Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefit. While education was among the recruits’ commonly cited reasons for joining the military, many were unclear about the actual details of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The new recruits who were well informed about the benefits were generally older, more likely to have college experience and more likely to be female.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

New Forever GI Bill Unveiled

Colmery

By Debbie Gregory.

It looks like big changes may be on the horizon for the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

The “forever” GI Bill, officially titled the “Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017″ looks to be a broad, permanent bill of rights for student veterans and their families. And it has a pretty good chance of passing through Congress.

Named for Harry W. Colmery, the past American Legion national commander who hand-wrote the original GI Bill in 1944, the proposal contains reforms to benefit Purple Heart recipients, reservists, veterans’ surviving dependents, and victims of for-profit school closures.

If the bill, introduced on July 13th  by House Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman and Republican Rep. Phil Roe, is passed by Congress, it will affect veterans who become GI Bill-eligible after January 1, 2018.

Major changes would include:

  • The elimination of the 15-year “use it or lose it” time limit on veteran education benefits
  • A permanent change to the program’s name- just “GI Bill”
  • The guarantee of full veteran benefits for ALL Purple Heart recipients
  • Help for victims of predatory for-profit schools
  • Assistance for survivors and dependents by extending Yellow Ribbon eligibility to those survivors
  • Changing housing allowances for student veterans to the same BAH as similarly situated active-duty service members

The Student Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Got Your Six, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors assisted in putting the bill together and readying it for approval.

“This beefed-up Post-9/11 GI Bill recognizes the long service and sacrifice of the one percent of Americans who have voluntarily put their personal lives on hold to fight an unimaginable multi-front war for 16-plus years,” said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy.

What do you think?

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

You May Not Want To Save Your Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits for Your Kids

transfer gi bill

By Debbie Gregory.

While the Post-9/11 GI Bill offers a very generous post-service education benefit, a special provision of the program allows career service members the opportunity to share their education benefits with immediate family members. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is the only one which allows transferring education benefits.

Now that the Post 9/11 GI Bill allows servicemembers and veterans to transfer their benefits to their spouse or children, it begs the question: is that a good idea?

The first consideration is the value of using the GI Bill for a parent’s education. On average, a college graduate earns about $25,000 more per year than a high school graduate. If you run the numbers, just 10 years of this increased income would yield an additional $250,000. Especially if your children are young, the extra income an adult would add over the course of a number of years would more than likely cover the cost of a child’s college education.

If you were to save your GI Bill benefits and transfer them to a dependent, you would not only have a lower lifetime income, you’d only be able to use the benefit to put one child through school on the GI Bill.

Of course if you have older children or already have a degree, this scenario doesn’t apply.

The other thing to take into consideration is possible changes to the GI Bill.  There have been a number of different versions over the years, and more than likely, it will continue to evolve over time.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

New Scholarship Focuses on Military Spouses

AMPA

By Debbie Gregory.

In May, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA) launched the AMPA Military Spouse Scholarship, a new program aimed to help military spouses pursue their higher education goals.

Non-profit AMPA is the nation’s largest resource and support network for the partners, spouses, families, and allies of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) service members and veterans.

“At AMPA, we are committed to education, advocacy, and support for our modern military spouses and their families,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. She continued, “This new scholarship program is a key tool in our mission to support those who are often overlooked and underappreciated. We are especially proud to welcome Hilton as this year’s presenting sponsor of the scholarship.”

Hilton is the new scholarship’s presenting sponsor this year. The scholarship will divvy up as much as $10,000 between five applicants with awards of between $1,000 and $2,500 each. The winners, who will be announced in July, are going to be selected by an impartial selection committee based on the applicant’s commitment to community service.

Founded by the partners of active duty service members, AMPA has grown to the strength of over 50,000 members and supporters and is proud to be leading the nation in education, advocacy, and support for today’s military families.

AMPA traces its roots to the “Campaign for Military Partners,” an unprecedented effort launched in 2009 to connect and advocate for the same-sex partners of service members living under the threat of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

We wish all of the applicants the best of luck! For more information on educational opportunities for mil/vet spouses, visit out education connection at https://militaryconnection.com/education.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Veteran’s Campaign to Make Stanford More Veteran Friendly

stanford university

By Debbie Gregory.

Adam Behrendt is on a mission. The former U.S. Navy corpsman who enrolled as a transfer student at Stanford University is trying to persuade the university to change some of their policies to make the school more veteran friendly.

Behrendt enlisted in the Navy in 2007, after several years at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, was medically retired from the Navy in March 2015. He applied to Stanford, with the game plan of attending medical school.

Unfortunately, the way Stanford applied the education benefits available through Behrendt’s Post 9/11 GI Bill did not make it financially feasible for his wife to give up her job in Wisconsin and move to California.

Fortunately for Behrendt, he was able to get assistance from Service to School, an organization that helps military veterans apply to and succeed in college. Through his relationship with the non-profit, Behrendt began mentoring other veterans to help them navigate Stanford’s financial aid policies.

Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) provides both tuition assistance and a housing and living allowance to veterans in order for them to pursue postsecondary education.

Stanford charged roughly $72,000 for an undergraduate — $47,000 in tuition, $18,000 in room and board, and about $7,000 for supplies and fees.

Under VA policy at the time, the typical undergraduate veteran at Stanford would be eligible for more than $50,000 — roughly $25,000 in tuition and fees support and another $28,000 toward housing and living expenses.

For veterans who also earned need-based funds from Stanford, the university would apply the entire $53,000 from the VA, and reduce its own financial contributions as a result. Stanford was counting the housing allowance as a resource that the student veteran was bringing to the table in calculating financial aid.

Behrend thought it was not fair for the university to take $28,000 in VA funds to cover $18,000 in room and board.

Behrendt had become an accidental advocate, and because of his efforts,  Stanford’s general counsel noted in a letter to Behrendt that the university would no longer take more than the amount of the housing costs out of the VA’s living allowance, and that the university would not use an outside donor’s funds to meet a federal requirement that institutions match VA contributions under the Yellow Ribbon program.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Veterans Groups Agree on Four GI Bill Changes

GI Bill (1)

By Debbie Gregory.

Last month, thirty-five veteran groups banded together and stalled a congressional hearing.

The groups were in the U.S. Capital to weigh in on changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.  They want change and to close some loopholes.

While they agree on more than they disagree on, the area of disagreement concerns whether or not to charge new enlistees for their GI Bill benefit.
The areas of agreement include:

  • There should be a fix to a Pentagon deployment authorization that is unfairly preventing thousands of Reservists and Guardsmen from earning GI Bill benefits. About 4,700 Reservists and Guardsmen who deployed under Title 10, Section 12304b have been restricted from accumulating education benefits.
  • Also in agreement among veteran groups is a measure to bring the mobilization authority up to par with active-duty entitlements
  • Expanding eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program to surviving spouses and children of servicemembers killed in the line of duty. The program allows veterans to attend schools or enroll in programs that cost more than the GI Bill tuition cap.
  • Expanding full GI Bill benefits to all Purple Heart recipients. Currently, a veteran must be medically retired from the military or have 36 months of active-duty service to qualify.  There are approximately 1,500 Purple Heart recipients who aren’t eligible for full education benefits.  If you’ve been wounded on the battlefield, you’ve met the service requirement.
  • Assisting student veterans whose schools close. Last year, for-profit ITT Technical Institute closed its doors, and thousands of veterans who attended the campuses were unable to recover lost education benefits. The situation has also happened with other for-profit schools that have closed.

The major issue that these groups cannot reach consensus on which has divided veteran groups is the Post 9/11 GI Bill expansion and funding it.   It has been recommended by some of the veteran groups that new enlistees would pay $2,400 over a two year period to opt into this benefit.

Some Veteran groups have described this as “a tax on troops”.

There will be further discussions between veteran groups on whether to charge servicemembers for the GI Bill.

Tell us what you think and check out the multitude of educational information on our site militaryconnection.com.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Support Veteran Resource Center Funding

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By Debbie Gregory.

An estimated 70,000 veterans who have served in the War on Terror have enrolled into the California Community College system. Many of them face difficulties adjusting to civilian life after serving in the military, and receive support through Veteran Resource Centers (VRCs) located on California’s Community College (CCC) campuses.

The California State Assembly has shown unanimous bipartisan support in voting to approve funding for Veteran Resource Centers (VRC) at Community Colleges in the May Revision Budget Sub Committee #2.

While the $15 million on-going funding sustains the VRCs,  the federal VA has already agreed to match the state’s input, resulting in $30 million in funding to VRCs in the community college system.
Research performed by the CCC indicates that providing support services improves academic success for all student veterans. This is especially true of those who are using the GI Bill and need to maximize every available month of eligibility. VRCs offer services specifically tailored to the needs of our veterans all in one place: tutoring, on-campus support services from the VA, and veteran support groups and counseling. VRCs also provide a sense of community and the camaraderie of fellow veterans, which are invaluable to transitioning to civilian life.

Many of these students enter our colleges with service connected disabilities, basic skills gaps, lack of support systems and challenges navigating a new system when entering higher education. Professional Veteran Resource Center faculty/staff support the veteran population on each campus and assure benefits and payments are appropriately allocated to the student and the campus. They are also in place to help student veterans traverse the complexities and constant changes to VA regulations and educational benefits.

We honor our veterans and the sacrifices they have made for our nation by supporting their  educational journeys, culminating in successful careers.

In their May Revision, the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education passed a $10 million ONE-TIME funding to community college VRCs. All California residents need to urge the Senate to go with the Assembly budget, and assert that this funding needs to be on-going, NOT a one-time fund.

Contact your local Senator and urge them to #PutYourMoneyWhereTheVetsAre by supporting the #70KStrong! It’s up to us to ensure that $30 million in funding goes to crucial transition efforts that help our veterans!

State and Community Colleges Successful for Student Veterans

vet center

By Debbie Gregory.

Student veterans face challenges that their civilian counterparts don’t; they are usually older than civilian students and in many cases, they are juggling college with families, jobs and service-related disabilities.

Student veterans believe that their discipline, maturity and drive aid them if facing their many challenges. But on the flip side, many of them find the less disciplined environment of a campus can be a problem for veterans used to being told what to do and when to do it

Many colleges and universities are eager to recruit military veteran students, attracted to the $10.2 billion a year in GI Bill benefits that come with them. Unfortunately, many of the large for-profit schools such as ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian (parent company to Heald College, Everest College and WyoTech) have gone out of business, leaving their veteran students hanging.

For colleges and universities looking to boost the number of veterans who will leave with a degree in hand, specialized support is key. According to the Departments of Defense, Education and Veterans Affairs, schools that don’t offer support to their student veterans have a very poor graduation percentage.

Many state and community colleges and universities with significant veteran support enjoy high levels of success. These schools will usually have some combination of a Veteran Center, dedicated veteran advisors and/or counselors, and a chapter of Student Veterans of America.

They also know how to convert military training and experience into academic credit. This can mean the difference between having enough GI Bill money to earn a degree, so that student veterans don’t have to choose between giving up or paying out of their own pockets.

According to Jared Lyon, president and CEO of Student Veterans of America and a Florida State grad, campuses that get it right are the ones “that look at the student veteran population as nontraditional students. It starts with the efforts to recruit, and there’s also a veterans resource office, a veterans center, a veterans lounge, a campus veteran success center.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Top Degrees For Veterans

Top Degrees for veterans

By Debbie Gregory.

One of the key perks to serving in the U.S. military is the GI Bill for obtaining a good education for veterans. Pre-planning how and when you will use your veteran education benefits will ultimately give you the best bang for your buck.

There are a number of degree majors while you are pursuing your veteran education that will transition more easily from your military service to your civilian career.

A career in the medical field offers numerous options for those who have served. In addition to physicians, there are great opportunities for nurses, medics, and physical therapists.

While all military personnel receive basic medical knowledge, those who specialize in nursing are in-demand, and will be for years to come. There are also numerous sub-specialties within this career path.

Serving in the military takes a toll on the body, even for those who have not suffered a specific injury. Those who work in rehabilitating the body and helping individuals return to their regular, daily lives would do well in pursuing a degree in physical therapy.

Medics who want to transition to a career as an emergency medical technician or a paramedic already know how to deal with emergency situations. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics are under constant pressure to respond to emergency situations in an effective and timely manner, so military medics will already have a head start on the competition when applying for this career.

Another career field that is a smooth transition from military to civilian career lies within the criminal justice system. A criminal justice degree can lead to a law enforcement career. And like a criminal justice degree, fire engineering/fire science degree aids in applying to law enforcement jobs, fire engineering and fire science careers. Most veterans are already physically and mentally capable of performing these jobs, and securing extra knowledge through education for veterans will only help qualify you further for these positions.

Another great option for veteran education are STEM careers- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.   Although engineers need years of veteran education to obtain their degrees, the positions can be highly lucrative.

As the military is one of the highest users of technology, network administrators are always in demand. There are also numerous occupations within the military that require extensive computer use, such as programmers, coders, and developers.

Additionally, the need for information security professionals grows with each hack and cyber-attack. Many veterans who use their veteran education to go in to this industry are known as white-hat hackers or penetration testers.

So when considering the college for veterans you will chooses, remember to choose the one that will help you best transition for your long-term civilian career.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Post 9/11 GI Bill Overpayment Issues

GI BILL

By Debbie Gregory.

When separating from the military, service members have a number of options. For many, the best option is cashing in on their veteran education benefits via the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Unfortunately, for a number of veterans, failure to place safeguards in place can result in indebtedness to the Veteran Administration (VA).

There are several situations in which you may find yourself owing the VA for Post 9/11 GI Bill overpayments. In order to avoid these pitfalls, here are a number of important points to be aware of:

  • Dropping a Class – If you drop a class of leave school, it decreases your training time. If the VA has already processed a payment for tuition and fees, an overpayment will occur and a debt is created against your account.
  • Change of EnrollmentMake note of your school’s drop/add deadline for classes. This change of enrollment can impact the amount of money paid to the school. If you drop a class, you will have to pay back any Post 9/11 GI Bill money you received for that class including tuition and fees, your monthly housing allowance, your book stipend, and any kicker or college fund money. This might be based on needing to attend a minimum of hours too.
  • Proper Record Keeping – The Veterans Administration states that you are responsible for keeping track of your tuition and fee account balance and payments. Checking in regularly with your school’s finance department is a good way to make sure that the charges are correct and that payments and refunds are processed correctly.

If you end up owing money back to the VA for your Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits, there are steps you can take to minimize the impact. First and foremost, determine who pays the money back, you or your school.

The VA will collect from the school if you never attended any classes for which you were certified, regardless of the reason for non-attendance, or you completely withdrew on or before the first day of the term.

The VA will collect from you if you totally withdraw after the first day of the term, or you dropped classes resulting in a reduced training time.

If you have mitigating circumstances beyond your control that prevent you from continuing in your veteran school education or that cause you to reduce credits, the VA may forgive the debt.

Mitigating circumstances include:

  • An illness or injury affecting the student during the enrollment period;
  • An illness or death in the student’s immediate family
  • Financial obligations that demand the student obtains immediate employment
  • Unanticipated active military service, including active duty for training.

Mitigating circumstances will provide the VA a one-time only opportunity to forgive up to six (6) credits the first time you drop a class or classes outside of the drop/add period.

If you receive a debt notification from the VA, address the situation immediately by contacting the Debt Management Center at 800-827-0648 or e-mail them at dmc.ops@va.gov.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.