Military Connection: Obama Signs VA Reform Bill: By Debbie Gregory

VA reform billOn Thursday August 7, 2014, President Obama signed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 into law. The legislation, commonly referred to as the VA reform bill, is intended to give the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the necessary funding and resources to improve the access to, and the quality of, care for Veterans.

The highly publicized legislation passed in the House on Wednesday, July 30th , and in the Senate the following evening.

Included in the bill are the means to expand survivor benefits and educational opportunities. It also contains provisions to improve care for victims of sexual assault and Veterans struggling with traumatic brain injuries.

In total, $16.3 billion has been allotted to expand the following programs and benefits for Veterans:

Ensuring that the VA healthcare system has the resources it needs: Earmarked $5 billion will allow the VA to hire more doctors and more nurses to staff more clinics. As Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans transition into civilian life, the VA system needs to keep pace with the increased demand and patient population. The bill also allots $1.3 billion more to finance 27 new VA facilities across the country.

Providing timely care: For Veterans who haven’t received timely care through the VA system, this bill will help them get the care they need through private healthcare providers. This is particularly important for Veterans living in remote areas. Under the signed legislation, Veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility will be able to seek treatment outside the VA system. This allowance would also apply to Veterans who are unable to receive an appointment in a reasonable amount of time.

Accountability of VA employees: The measure grants the VA secretary the authority to remove senior executives who fail to meet the standards of conduct and competence that their position within the department requires. Specifically, the legislation facilitates the firing of employees who engage in an unethical practice, such as conspiring to cover up a serious problem.

In-state tuition for all Veteran students: Another section of the legislation calls for public schools that don’t offer the in-state tuition rate to Veterans and Veteran dependents, using education benefits, to lose access to all GI Bill tuition students. While not mandating that colleges and universities charge the in-state price, the provision makes it in the schools’ best interest to offer Veterans the lower tuition rate.

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Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp, Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Obama Signs VA Reform Bill:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: 70 Years of the GI Bill: By Joe Silva

GI Bill

June 22 marked the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. Universally referred to as the G.I. Bill, the act could have been the most influential legislation of the 20th Century.

Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June, 22 1944, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act provided a variety of benefits for World War II Veterans that previous American military Veterans didn’t see.

In 1932, during the Great Depression, 43,000 WWI Veterans marched on Washington D.C. to demand the meager benefits that they were promised, but never received, from the Bonus Act of 1924. Several Veterans were killed by police and the U.S. Army. President Hoover eventually ordered the Army to clear the protester’s camp. The Veterans left Washington with even less than what they arrived with, as the Army was ordered to burn the Veterans’ possessions.

During WWII, lawmakers wanted to avoid the civil unrest and confusion that the U.S. had seen from previous generations of Veterans. Several versions of Veteran benefit legislation were drafted and batted around the capital. While everyone knew that some form of  bill would pass, it was still a struggle. Ultimately, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 was passed by both chambers of Congress, and signed into law by President Roosevelt on June 22, 1944.

Veterans returning from WWII were offered tuition money for college, $20 a week in unemployment while they looked for work, and low interest, zero down payment home loans. The original GI Bill also had provisions for building VA hospitals, and established the means for helping transitioning Veterans find employment.

Courtesy of the GI Bill, 7.8 million WWII Veterans went to college or received vocational training. Of all the students on college campuses in 1949, 49% had fought in WWII. These Veterans used their education, training and military experience to boost the nation’s economy in the 1950’s & 60’s.

Today’s Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most comprehensible benefit in history, and is the most monumental benefit addition since the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. The Post-9/11 GI Bill fully compensates Veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with college tuition, and the means f to sustain themselves and their families while they earn their degrees.

Today’s GI Bill offers:

  • Full cost of in-state public college tuition, up to $19,198.31 per year for private or out of state schools.
  • $1,000 per year ($500 per semester) for books and school supplies.
  • Monthly housing allowance that is equivalent to E-5 with dependent BAH for school’s zip code.

Since the passing of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, tens of millions of U.S. military Veterans have had access to education, housing, and employment benefits that improve their lives and the lives of their families.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard & Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: 70 Years of the GI Bill: By Joe Silva

VA Provides New Online Tool to Research GI Bill Benefits

New VA Online Tool

By Debbie Gregory.

On February 4, 2014, the VA launched a new online tool on their site that is the newest improvement to assist Veterans in using their education benefits. From the VA.gov website’s Education and Training Portal, Veterans can access the new GI Bill Comparison Tool. The new feature allows Vets to view their options for using the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Since it launched in 2009, the Post-9/11 GI has been utilized by more than 1 million Veterans. There have been some modifications from the original bill that was drafted in 2008. And while still not entirely perfect, the Post-9/11 GI Bill remains the most comprehensive and most generous Veteran education benefit that our country’s Veterans have ever enjoyed.
Along with improvements and modifications to the benefit itself, the VA has initiated methods and policies to help Veterans obtain and use their Post-9/11 GI Bill. These methods include allowing online registration and the implementation of the Yellow Ribbon Program.
To use the tool, Veterans enter their eligibility percentage and their military status, most likely Veteran or National Guard/Reserves, using convenient dropdown menu choices. After that, they would begin typing in the name of the school that they wish to research. An auto-finish feature will provide a list of schools that match. The choice would be made by simply clicking on the school’s name,  and then reading the data that the tool provides.
Using this information, the Comparison Tool provides Veterans with the amount of tuition that the GI Bill will cover, the amount of Monthly Allowance for Housing (MAH) the student will receive while enrolled at that school, and the amount of book stipend that the Veteran student will receive at that school, through the benefit that he or she has earned.
The next portion of the Comparison Tool informs Veterans about a school’s “Veteran Indicators.” The tool will tell the Veteran if their potential college, university or vocational school meets the “Principles of Excellence” guidelines in order to receive federal funding, and whether it is a Yellow Ribbon School. It also tells the Veteran how many students attend that particular school through Veteran education benefits.  This can be a very useful component, as it helps to inform Veterans how adept their perspective schools are at serving and administering to Veteran and military dependent students.
The last portion of the Comparison Tool is comprised of ‘School Indicators, Non-Veteran Specific.” This details the school’s statistics for graduation rates, student loan default rates and median borrowing. These stats can be extremely helpful in figuring out how well former students from that institution fare after they leave the campus.
The new tool doesn’t change or improve the Post-9/11 GI Bill itself. But it does improve the way that Veteran students can find the school that is best for them. We always look forward to newer and better ways that the government, as well as Veteran organizations and groups, think of to serve and support Veterans. This new Comparison Tool is definitely a useful addition to how Veterans are informed about their Veteran education benefits.

Proposals to Change the GI Bill

post-911-gi-bill-its-your-future

By Debbie Gregory.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most generous education benefit that the US military has ever offered its members. The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers Veterans, no longer on active duty, the full price of college tuition, a stipend for books and supplies, and a monthly housing allowance equal to E-5 with dependent BAH. Since 2009, the current GI Bill has aided over a million Veterans in achieving their academic and professional goals. The benefit is generous and wonderful, but it is far from perfect. Currently, there are several proposals milling about congress intended to upgrade the GI Bill.

Currently, a service member must decide whether to use the GI Bill or to transfer the benefit to a dependent before they separate or retire from active duty. One proposed bill, HR 3514, is designed to change this rule, to allow service members 5 years after separation to make that decision.

Bill HR 3515 is a proposal meant to change the current maximum age for dependents to use their transferred Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit from 26 to 29. This change is desirable for dependents seeking advanced degrees, giving them three more years of eligibility to start using their benefit.

Children of Armed Forces members killed in action are already given separate education benefits that provide them with GI Bill Benefits. HR 3441 in the House and S1039 in the Senate are designed to provide surviving spouses with Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The proposal would allow widowed spouses 15 years to use their benefit, and stipulates that the spouse will only be eligible if he or she does not remarry.

Many Veterans suffer from injuries and disorders, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), that may cause the 3515m difficulty in school. S 2225 is proposing that Veterans who suffer from a service-related brain injury or PTSD be given an extra 18 months of eligibility to use their benefits.

Senate bill S2110 is meant to assist wounded Veterans.  If the proposal passes, wounded Veterans would receive an additional month of eligibility for each month they were hospitalized under DOD medical care, added to their 15 year post-service time limit to use benefits.

S 2266 is designed to help give Reservists who served on the front lines the same benefits as active duty service members. Currently, Reservists only receive a percentage of benefits that former Active Duty members receive based on time spent active. A Reservist with three to six months of active time only receives 40% of the Housing Allowance. Under the proposed change, Reservists who served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation New Dawn would be allotted their training time to count as active time in order to boost them into eligibility for 100% of the benefits.

Formerly, 100 foster children of service members had Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits transferred to them. Under the rules of the original GI Bill, these dependents were cut off and forced to repay for benefits received. HR3600 is designed to right this wrong and send those 100 military dependents back to school, and make a way for thousands of other foster children of service members to use their parent’s benefits.

Army Vet, Steven Ferraro, ID’d as the 1 Millionth User of Post-9/11 GI Bill

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, designed to give Veterans serving since September 11, 2001 the best, most up to date education benefits possible, was approved by Congress in the summer of 2008. The Chapter 33 GI Bill, commonly referred to as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, or the New GI Bill went into effect on August 1, 2009.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers eligible Veterans who served at least 90 days since 9/11/2001 36 months of educational benefits that include tuition and a monthly allowance for housing. The percentage of tuition paid depends on the Veteran’s length of service, topping off at 100% of paid tuition for those who served at least three years of active duty. The monthly housing allowance is dependent on the postal zip code of the school, and matches the military’s E-5 with dependents Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) scale. The benefit also provides its recipients with a $500 per term stipend to cover other education costs, such as books, fees and supplies.

Since 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has tallied over 1,000,000 users of the Chapter 33 GI Bill. The VA identified Army Veteran Steven Ferraro as the 1 millionth recipient. Ferraro served from 2003-2013, and was deployed to Iraq in 2008 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Ferraro is a Communications major at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey.

As good as previous education benefits were, they only addressed the cost of tuition, not the fact that most Veterans also needed to support families through some type of income. Ferraro is an ideal model demonstrating who the Post-9/11 GI was designed to help. Most recipients are in their mid-twenties (but can be up to their forties), with families to support. Utilizing this benefit, Veterans are not only afforded the cost of tuition, but also afforded the time to attend classes.

The VA says that it has distributed over $30 billion in the form of tuition and other education-related payments in support of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and its one million users.

GAO Releases Findings of Post-9/11 GI Bill Study

GAO Releases

By Debbie Gregory.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), $10.9 billion was spent by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in 2011 on education benefits for approximately 1 million Veterans to go to college. The GAO’s findings provide the most in-depth data about Veteran Students and the institutions that they are attending.

The study found that the Post-9/11 GI Bill was the highest source of education benefits spending. This program provides money for tuition and fees to be paid directly to the school; as well as a monthly housing allowance & a per-term book stipend to be paid directly to the Veteran Student. At $8.5 billion, for 2011, spending is up fifty percent since 2009. Other programs include the Montgomery GI Bill and the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program which only accounted for a combined $2.9 billion for 2011.

These benefits have become a hot topic in Washington. Essentially, law makers want to know what the $10.9 billion in education benefits was being used for.

One of the key areas that have drawn scrutiny is the use of for-profit schools. Law makers have been critical of how for-profit schools recruit Veteran Students and are leery as to how well they are educating Vets once they are enrolled.

The GAO found that only a small group of institutions are receiving the bulk of VA education benefits. Some 654 institutions received a total of $3.8 billion, with individual colleges receiving between $2 million and $113 million. Only five percent of the nation’s colleges and universities received sixty percent of all Post-9/11 G.I. Bill tuition benefits.

The study also found that public and for-profit institutions received close to the same amount of all Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition payments over all. However, these numbers by themselves could be a bit deceptive. Public institutions enrolled 174,000 students utilizing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, at an average tuition of $5,000 per Veteran Student. While for-profits schools enrolled 99,000 Post-9/11 GI Bill students at an average tuition of $10,000 per Veteran Student.

So, while for-profit schools dominated the small school market, public schools enrolled around 56% more Veteran Students at approximately half the tuition cost each for 2011.

The study also attempted to shed some light on student success rates at the colleges that veterans attend, which was another concern of Washington. Overall, Veteran Students found greater success rates at institutions that enroll large numbers of their peers. The study showed that the group of schools that received at least $2 million in Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition payments had better completion rates when compared to other institutions in the sample.

Tracking GI Bill Education Money

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By Debbie Gregory.

According to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), $10.9 billion was spent by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in 2011 on education benefits for approximately 1 million Veterans to go to college. The GAO’s findings provide the most in-depth data about Veteran Students and the institutions that they are attending.

The study found that the Post-9/11 GI Bill was the highest source of education benefits spending. This program provides money for tuition & fees to be paid directly to the school, as well as a monthly housing allowance and a per-term book stipend to be paid directly to the Veteran Student. At $8.5 billion, spending for 2011 is up fifty percent since 2009. Other programs include the Montgomery GI Bill and the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program, which only accounted for a combined $2.9 billion for 2011.

These benefits have become a hot topic in Washington. Essentially, law makers want to know what the $10.9 billion in education benefits was being used for.

One of the key areas that has drawn scrutiny is the use of for-profit schools. Law makers have been critical of how for-profit schools recruit Veteran Students, and leery as to how well they are educating Vets once they are enrolled.

The GAO found that only a small group of institutions are receiving the bulk of VA education benefits. Some 654 institutions received a total of $3.8 billion, with individual colleges receiving between $2 million and $113 million. Only five percent of the nation’s colleges and universities received sixty percent of all Post-9/11 G.I. Bill tuition benefits.

The study also found that public and for-profit institutions received close to the same amount of all Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition payments over all. However, these numbers by themselves could be a bit deceptive. Public institutions enrolled 174,000 students utilizing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, at an average tuition of $5,000 per Veteran Student. While for-profits schools enrolled 99,000 Post-9/11 GI Bill students at an average tuition of $10,000 per Veteran Student.

So, while for-profit schools dominated the small school market, public schools enrolled around 56% more Veteran Students at approximately half the tuition cost each for 2011.

The study also attempted to shed some light on student success rates at the colleges that veterans attend, which was another concern in Washington. Overall, Veteran Students found greater success rates at institutions that enroll large numbers of their peers. The study showed that the group of schools that received at least $2 million in Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition payments had better completion rates when compared to other institutions in the sample.

Looking at Graduation Stats for Students Using the GI Bill

Looking-at-graduation-stats

By Debbie Gregory.

The government has spent nearly $30 billion since 2009 to send Veterans to college. Officials know that nearly 1 million Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have used their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. But no one in the government corridors can tell you how many Veterans have actually graduated.

Now, Veterans organizations fear that the lack of tracking on the government’s part will mean fewer dollars for future Veteran Education programs. Michael Dakduk, Executive Director of the Student Veterans of America, a Washington D.C. based organization, said that every previous version of the GI Bill has faced reductions of some sort. It may only be a matter of time before the Post-9/11 GI Bill does as well.

“We need to track these numbers to defend the Post-9/11 GI Bill,” Dakduk said. “It’s an investment into our military. It’s an investment into our country.”

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the largest and most generous educational benefit package ever offered to Student Veterans. Money provided by the fund has been used for graduate and undergraduate degrees as well as technical & vocational training. Under the current Post-9/11 GI Bill, Student Veterans receive paid tuitions & fees, a stipend for books, and allowances for housing.

Some lawmakers have questioned the integrity of the schools that are receiving the funds and whether Veterans are actually receiving a legitimate education. In 2010 the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions launched a two-year long investigation into for-profit colleges. The study found that during the 2010-2011 school year, for-profit schools constituted eight of the top 10 schools that collected GI Bill funds. The University of Maryland at No. 8 and University of Texas at No. 10 were the only public institutions that made the top 10 list.

The senator committee questioned whether Veterans attending the for-profit schools were benefiting from those institutions or being taken advantage of by them to collect the generous Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. For-profit colleges can collect no more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal sources, such as Pell grants and similar U.S.-backed student aid. Because the Post-9/11 GI Bill is not counted as federal student aid, the Harkin report and others asserted that for-profit schools aggressively recruited Veterans in order to stay under the 90 percent cap.

The report cited constant phone calls by recruiters, pressuring prospective Student Veterans to sign contracts before speaking to a financial adviser, and similar tactics. The report also asserted that the money put toward the education of Veterans at these for-profit schools does not necessarily benefit them once they start looking for jobs. At a July Senate hearing before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Veterans advocates complained that for-profit schools “target” Veterans as “nothing more than dollar signs in uniform.”

Advocates say that without a tracking system to see how many Vets are actually graduating and securing jobs, doubts about for-profit schools and the benefit of spending billions of dollars on Veteran education could eventually convince lawmakers to reduce or even cut the program completely.

The  Student Veterans of America announced that it would collect college graduation rates for Student Veterans. Numbers aren’t expected until later this year. The project, estimated to cost $300,000 is still awaiting financial backing. Veteran Schools have also begun their own counts of military students. Arizona State University calculates Veteran retention rates by tracking Veteran Students within larger university-wide surveys.

The Ins and Outs of the Post 9/11 GI Bill

The Ins and Outs of the Post 9 11 GI Bill

By Debbie Gregory.

Veteran students need to make use of their greatest asset when they return to school: the Post 9/11 (Chapter 33) GI Bill. This education benefit provides the largest investment in Veterans’ education that the nation has seen since World War II. The program will cover the entire cost of an undergraduate degree at any public university or college and many private schools too.

Need to know the basics? Here they are:

Qualifications: Student Veterans must have served 90 days on active duty since Sept. 10, 2001 or served 30 days and been discharged because of a service connected illness or injury. All users must have received an Honorable Discharge.

Living Allowances:  A paid Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) based on the BAH rate for an E-5 with dependents in your school’s zip code. Veteran students must be enrolled as a full time student to receive full benefits. Part-time students will received a prorated living allowance based on the number of classes they are taking.

Book Stipend: $41.67 per credit hour, but no more than $1,000 per year is paid in a lump sum for each term. The stipend is intended to cover the cost of books, supplies, equipment and other educational fees.

Tuition payments: Payments are made directly to the school each term. The VA covers 100 percent of in-state tuition for public schools for undergraduate or graduate programs and $19,198.31 per year for private schools. The program offers a total of 36 months of education benefits, equal to four academic years.

National Guard and Reserve students: Service members in the National Guard and Reserves qualify for veteran education benefits as well, as long as they have served 90 days or more on active duty since Sept. 10, 2001. Active Guard Reservists and Guardsmen responding to national emergencies will also accumulate days toward that 90 day mark to become eligible. Training and training schools do not generally qualify for eligibility. With 90 days of service, these service members will qualify for 40 percent of tuition, books and living allowance benefits. That number increases as their active duty time increases. After 36 months of active duty time they are entitled to 100 percent of tuition, books and living allowances.

Send your spouse and kids to school: Already have your degree? Think your wife or kids would benefit more from the program? Give them your benefits. The Post 9/11 GI Bill allows benefits to be transferred to immediate family members. To qualify for the transfer, service members must qualify for the benefits themselves, served at least six years in the Active Duty, National Guard or Select Reserves, have their spouse or child enrolled in DEERS and agree to commit to four more years of service.

Civilian Certification For Veterans

President Obama announced a new initiative that will allow some U.S. service members to receive civilian credentials and licenses for skills they learn in the military. This effort is aimed at boosting employment among post-9/11 veterans. Service members obtain skills while serving and those skills should be transferable to the private sector. All too often, however, these talented and dedicated individuals face barriers that can make it difficult to find jobs that make use of their skills.

In the private sector individual States set requirements to obtain certification and licenses. A military medic might have saved many lives in battle but that does not qualify that medic for certification to obtain a civilian EMT job. A military truck driver is not automatically certified to operate a rig in the private sector.

A Defense Department task force is working with major U.S. credentialing agencies for engineering, logistics, machining, and maintenance and welding skills to get “industry-recognized, nationally-portable certifications. Obtaining certification in the military is no guarantee of getting a job post-service but it is another step in helping service members who are transitioning into civilian life to find jobs.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides more opportunities for veterans to receive reimbursement for pursued education and certification. However, Veterans can only apply these benefits to licensing *or* certification exams that are approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Members of the armed forces have fought gallantly and were trained for military jobs by the best. Their experience and qualifications should not be wasted. They should be given every opportunity to succeed in civilian life. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families make great sacrifices in the service of our Nation. When their service is concluded, we owe it to our veterans and their families to help them accomplish a successful transition to the civilian labor market.

Occupational certification represents an excellent opportunity for displaced workers to learn a new skill and transition into a new and rewarding career.

MilitaryConnection.com is the Go To Site for jobs across the board requiring certification and licensure. Check us out.