By Debbie Gregory.
Apparently, Congress was surprised to learn that many veterans were receiving free tuition at school, a housing allowance to pay all their housing costs, $1,000 a year book stipend from their GI Bill, AND unemployment.
This was a loophole in the law that Congress is closing up. Language inserted into the 2016 National Defense Act, approved last December, now prohibits the receipt of unemployment benefits while receiving the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
An exception was carved out for veterans involuntarily separated from the military under honorable conditions.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays not only tuition for student veterans but also a living stipend, equal to the Basic Allowance for Housing.
The Department of Labor is working with state and federal agencies so that they can identify which veterans are receiving unemployment checks, GI Bill checks or both. But for now, no such central information system exists, in part because unemployment benefits are handled differently in each state.
According to the 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report, when it comes to employment and income, Veterans as a whole are faring well, with employment and earnings generally comparable to the non-Veteran population. And while veterans are taking advantage of their GI Bill education benefits to pursue higher education and certification programs, there is room for improvement.
In recent years about half of all servicemembers transitioning into civilian life have faced a period of unemployment within 15 months of separation. In addition, some groups lag behind the non-Veteran population in economic outcomes (for example Veterans over 55).
The new law has not specified the timeline for enforcement of the changes, so individual states are not required to enforce it until the new guidance from the Labor Department is released.