VA Waives Choice Act Resident-Rate Requirements: Military Connection

Choice Act

By Debbie Gregory.

In order to make it easier for veterans and their families to receive their GI Bill benefits where they choose, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald has delayed the provisions of Section 702 of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act). This action will ensure all GI Bill students are able to continue training at their chosen institutions.

The time allotted for states and territories to comply with Section 702 of the Choice Act is challenging for some states and schools, due in part to the necessary legislative and/or policy changes.  This limited waiver by Secretary McDonald covers programs that are not in compliance for all terms beginning prior to January 1, 2016, in order to allow time for non-compliant states and territories to make the requisite legislative and policy changes.

Under Section 702, the VA must disapprove education programs at public institutions for Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD) benefits if a school charges certain individuals tuition and fees in excess of the resident rate for terms beginning after July 1, 2015.

The current maximum tuition benefit is just over $20,000, so veterans have to dig into their pocket for any university that charges more than that. Out-of-state tuition at public universities often exceeds $20,000 a year.

“Our military members and their families make sacrifices that require them to pack up and move with little notice,” said McDonald.  “They shouldn’t be penalized after they leave military service by burdensome residency requirements.  This waiver will allow students to continue receiving the GI Bill benefits they’ve earned as states work to comply with this important law.”

Many states already offer In-state tuition to any veteran, but there are 18 states that will be affected by this new law. Those are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, D.C., Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Schools that participate in the Yellow Ribbon program grant veterans additional funds to help make up the difference between in-state and out-of-state fees. However, the program has limitations and special requirements, meaning not all veterans will qualify for funding that covers all their expenses.

For more information on GI Bill resident-rate requirements and to see which states comply, visit the GI Bill website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/702.asp.

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.