Veteran students paying the price for out-of-state military service

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By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans of the armed forces have served to defend the citizens of all 50 states.

The GI Bill is one of the most useful benefits available to veterans. Not only can it help smooth the transition back to civilian life, but by covering much of the cost of tuition, it can strengthen their financial situation upon separating from service.

Among the most significant aspects of the GI Bill is that it covers the tuition of public, in-state colleges and universities. Things become less clear when it comes to out-of-state students who often have to cover the difference between rates out of their own pocket. While this may not seem like much of an inconvenience, it is often an issue because troops are required to travel so much as part of their service. Such was the case with Navy veteran Ted Spencer, a North Carolina native who found himself being charged out-of-state rates despite having grown up in North Carolina and paying income tax during his time in the Navy.

Nearly 500,000 veterans took advantage of the GI Bill benefits in 2012. However, despite the bill’s advantages, differences in legislation between states have often left some veterans paying more than they expected to, McClatchy’s Washington Bureau reports.

Veterans can figure out whether the Post-9/11 GI Bill will cover all of their tuition and fees costs by comparing the maximum tuition covered in the state where they want to go to school to the cost that the school charges and the maximum fees to the school’s fees.

There are a few cases in which the school might charge you more than the maximum benefit you can get using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The most common cases would be if a veteran goes to a public school as an out-of-state student, goes to graduate school, or chooses a private or professional school.

If the tuition payment is higher than the tuition payment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and if the school participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, the tuition amount may be reduced.

Another issue is that policies differ considerably from state to state. Some states, such as Maine, Ohio and Louisiana, offer veterans in-state tuition if they are stationed in the U.S. outside of their home state. Several other states, such as Texas and Rhode Island, have legislation pending. Others, including Florida, Tennessee and Nebraska, have no such plans.

With so many differences from state-to-state, there has been a considerable effort on Capitol Hill to craft legislation that would apply equally to all veterans. This initiative has been led by Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, who crafted the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013. The proposed law would require public institutions to allow all veterans using the GI Bill to attend school under in-state rates.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Student Veterans of America and the American Legion support the legislation.