President Obama has signed the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvement Act (GI Bill 2.0) into law. The reforms are being praised for streamlining the GI Bill – mainly by doing away with the state-by-state tuition and fee rates. However, the law also adds some complicating factors, like an annual cap which only applies to private schools and new housing stipend limits based on the number of classes a student takes each term.
While no one would argue the need for change, the bill comes with several trade-offs that some vets, and veterans program administrators, find hard to accept. Like most legislation there is always unintended consequences – both winners and losers.
- National Guard members, who didn’t qualify under the old rules, can now use both AGR and title 32 time to count toward their Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility.
- Active duty servicemembers and their eligible spouses will qualify for the $1000 annual book stipend.
- Students attending 100 percent of their classes online (distance learning) can now qualify for a housing (living) stipend of up to $673.50 a month for full-time enrollment.
- Veterans seeking degrees of all levels – under-grad through doctorate – will have 100 percent of the in-state tuition and fees paid by VA, as long as they attend a state operated (public) institution of higher learning. (Non-resident students will have to fund any tuition and fees which exceed the school’s in-state tuition rate).
- Veterans seeking vocational, technical, certificate, on-the-job-training, and apprenticeship programs will be able to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
- Veterans who need to take placement exams to apply for school (LSAT, GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT) will be eligible for reimbursement for the exam fees.
- Eligible NOAA and USPHS personnel will be able to transfer Post-9/11 benefits to dependents.
- Voc-Rehab participants will have the option to use their Post-9/11 housing stipend instead of the VR&E subsistence rate.
- Veterans who must rely on the housing stipend to cover their living expenses during mandatory school break periods will find the payments end during such breaks.
- Veterans enrolled at less than full-time will see their housing stipend prorated to match their rate of pursuit – the number of credit hours taken each term.
- Veterans whose private school tuition exceeds $17,500 a year will have to find alternative means for covering their tuition.
Note: Yellow Ribbon still applies and may be available to help cover the additional expenses.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs who is just now getting the kinks worked out with GI Bill 1.0. Some are forecasting that it will take up to 18 months to adapt the application and enrollment process to meet the new rules. Hopefully this won’t mean increased back logs and payment errors next fall when this new law goes into effect.
Note: Most of these changes go into effect in August and October of this year.
Some would argue that the trade-offs are necessary to cover the cost of expanding the benefits. But this is of little comfort to those who will find themselves on the losing end of these compromises.
White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters that the administration will work with Congress to continue improving this important program this coming year. Let’s hope we can hold them to that. Guess we’ll call the next one GI Bill 3.0.