Changes to the GI Bill: A Quick Review

By Carol Church

The GI Bill has been an incredibly important piece of legislation for service members, providing highly valuable education and mortgage assistance to millions of veterans since World War II. After rumblings of change for some time, a new bill has recently been passed that alters some provisions of the bill. Known as the “Forever” GI Bill because it extends education benefits for a lifetime (instead of ending them at 15 years after discharge for recent veterans), it is generally good news for service members. Below, you’ll find a summary of some of its more important provisions.

End of the 15-year phase-out for post-9/11 GI Bill benefits

In the past, veterans had to use their education benefits within 15 years of their last active duty period. This rule no longer exists for anyone who leaves the military after January 1, 2013. Thus, these education benefits can be used nearly “forever.” The end of the 15-year rule also applies to spouses receiving benefits through the Fry Scholarship program.

More benefits for Purple Heart recipients

  • Those who received a Purple Heart on or after 9/11 are now entitled to receive money at the 100% benefit level, even if they did not serve for 36 months.
  • Coverage for career / technical school and new technology courses
  • GI Bill benefits can now be used to pay for schooling at career and technical schools.

More time to complete certain degrees

Some desirable and lucrative degrees in science and technology may take additional time to complete. Under the new law, there is money for students to take an additional year of classes in certain subjects, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Extension of Yellow Ribbon benefits

The Yellow Ribbon program helps lower the costs of education by reducing the amount of money students have to pay towards expenses not covered under the GI Bill. Previously, the program was available only to those eligible for 100% GI bill coverage, but it will now be available to surviving spouses and children as well as members on active duty.

Help for students who got scammed

It is extremely frustrating for students to use their education credits on a school or university that then folds, taking a student’s credits with it. Under the new law, students in this situation can have their educational benefits restored without penalty.

Easier to transfer benefits

One of the great aspects of these education benefits is that the veteran can transfer them to his or her dependents. In the past, however, it was not possible to change who got the benefits if the person they were transferred to died. Now this can be done. In addition, dependents whom have had benefits transferred to them by the veteran now can transfer the benefits to another eligible dependent if the veteran has died.

Changes to survivor/dependent benefits

Under the new bill, veterans’ survivors and dependents who are receiving money for education can get more money, but it will be available over a short overall time period (36 months, instead of 45).

Different eligibility rules

Thought it is too complicated to get into there, the percentage of benefits received by servicemembers with different amounts of active duty has changed, generally to make it easier to get more benefits. This change will help Reserve members.

Housing stipend changes

Where is the money for all these changes coming from? There will be a slight decrease in housing stipends for students—1%. This will only apply to those enrolling in benefits after Jan 1, 2018, not to those currently receiving stipends.

How to Collect Benefits

To find out more about GI benefits and individual eligibility, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website or your local Veterans Affairs office.

Join us Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 11 a.m. ET for a 90-minute webinar, “Paying for College: The Forever GI Bill and Repayment Plans.” RSVP today!

References:

Gross, N. (2017). Trump signed the ‘Forever GI Bill.’ Here are 11 things you should know.

Mahadevan, A. (2017). Here’s How the Newly Revamped GI Bill Impacts Veteran Education Benefits.

Military.com. (2017). The New Forever GI Bill – What It Means For You.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2017a). Forever GI Bill – Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2017b). Forever GI Bill – Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act: Summaries.

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