New "Forever GI Bill" Expands Benefits to More Veterans, for Longer Times

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16, 2018

In late 2017, President Trump signed into law the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act (H.R. 3218) – known as the “Forever GI Bill” – initiating an extensive expansion to the Post-9/11 GI Bill with 34 provisions aimed at making post-service educational support available to more veterans for a longer amount of time.New "Forever GI Bill" Expands Benefits to More Veterans, for Longer Times

The law – named after the American Legion national commander who wrote the original GI Bill language in 1944 – was unanimously passed by both chambers of Congress in August 2017. The new law expands the current Post-9/11 GI Bill that been utilized by more than 1.7 million veterans and their dependents pursuing a secondary education, representing $75 billion in support. The new law represents the largest overhaul of the bill since its creation, with some changes taking place immediately and others rolling out over time.

"Forever GI Bill" Provides Additional Benefits to Veterans

Among the updates, the most notable is the fact that veterans who transitioned out of the military after January 1, 2013, will not be limited to the previous 15-year deadline to use their GI Bill benefits.

Additional benefits include:

  • Expanded compensation plans will be available for veterans participating in work-study programs. Additionally, certain work-study programs will be permanently authorized (previously it had to be re-approved by Congress every few years).
  • Purple Heart recipients will now be eligible to receive 100% of benefits regardless of how long they have served. This includes coverage of tuition at eligible schools for up to 36 months and books and housing stipends.
  • Reservists who had eligibility under the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) and lost it due to the sunset of the program will have that service credited toward the Post-9/11 GI Bill program. The new bill also offers additional benefits to reservists and National Guard members.
  • The removal of the 15-year timeline will also apply to dependents using the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship, which extends GI benefits to qualifying veteran families.
  • The VA will begin calculating housing stipends based on where a student takes the most classes, as opposed to the ZIP code of the student’s school.
  • Veterans affected by recent college closures may be eligible for restored benefits and special assistance. This is especially important since a reported 40% of GI Bill funds currently go toward tuition at for-profit colleges, which are currently experiencing a higher rate of closures.
  • Veterans can now use their GI Bill benefits at an eligible area career and technical school, or a postsecondary vocational school, even if a portion of the program is online. Previously, most non-college degree programs were not approvable if any portion of it was online or outside of the classroom.
  • Veterans pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) undergraduate degrees may now be eligible for an additional nine months of support. The changes to the bill also leave the door open for expanded benefits for other subjects that are deemed of national importance in the future.

For more information on the Forever GI Bill, explanation of GI Bill benefits and tools to help choose the right school, visit the VA’s GI Bill site.

Written by Megan Hammons

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