By Debbie Gregory.
The “Forever GI Bill,” a sweeping expansion of GI Bill education benefits, is on its way to the Oval Office.
Passed by both houses of Congress, the bill will increase veteran’s benefits by more than $3 billion over the next decade.
One important change, reserved for those who become eligible after January 1, 2018, is the removal of the 15-year limit on using their GI Bill benefits, which offers them more flexibility.
Additionally, the Forever GI Bill boosts education assistance for National Guard and Reserve troops, Purple Heart recipients and for the dependents of fallen troops.
Reservists called to active duty under sections 12304(a) and 12304(b) are now eligible. Previously, only reservists called to active duty by presidential order as a result of a national emergency were eligible. This applies to all reservists mobilized after Aug. 1, 2009, but reservists can receive payment only for classes that start after Aug. 1, 2018.
Reservists who were receiving REAP payments may now be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Currently, there are less than 4,000 people eligible for this benefit.
Purple Heart recipients will get the full GI Bill amount, regardless of how long they served on active duty.
For veterans who were caught up in the collapse of for-profit schools Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, the legislation would fully restore their GI Bill education benefits.
Of course, all of this comes with a price tag, and the expansion will be paid for by reducing the increases in housing allowances paid under the GI Bill to new beneficiaries. As of January 1, 2018, the GI Bill housing allowance will decrease an average of $100 a month. Active-duty BAH is also affected, decreasing each year by 1 percent every year from 2015 to 2019, so that by 2020, BAH will only cover 95 percent of a military member’s housing cost.
The housing allowance for GI Bill students will now be based on the campus location where classes are attended, not necessarily the main campus.
Effective August 1, 2018, Dependent’s Education Assistance (DEA) monthly payments will increase by about 50 percent, but the maximum number of months that a dependent can get DEA decreases from 45 to 36.
Also effective August 1, 2018, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs are eligible for the “Edith Nourse Rogers Scholarship” which will pay veterans up to $30,000 if they have used up all their GI Bill benefits and have at least 60 semester/90 quarter hours credit toward a STEM degree. It also will pay those who already have a STEM degree and are working on a teaching certification.
The High Technology Pilot Program, scheduled to start in the spring of 2019, covers the full cost of high technology training offered by a company versus a school.
MilitaryConnection.com has a comprehensive education area, and we invite you to check out the numerous education resources at https://militaryconnection.com/education.