Both the Senate and the House of Representatives recently approved the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017, also known as the Forever GI Bill®. The bill is currently at the White House, waiting for President Trump’s approval. If he signs the legislation as expected, it will represent the biggest change to VA Educational Benefits in over a decade. The Forever GI Bill® encompasses several major changes to the existing GI Bill® which we’ve detailed for you below.
Ends the 15 year time limit for using VA Educational Benefits
This gives veterans more time after their service ends to attend college. It also means that a more experienced and diverse set of veteran students will be entering – or reentering – the workforce upon graduation.
Extends VA Educational Benefits to all Purple Heart recipients
Currently a Purple Heart recipient must have served for at least three years to qualify for VA Educational Benefits. With the new bill, though, they can receive VA Educational Benefits no matter how long they served.
Restores Educational Benefits if a college shuts down mid-semester
Currently, students lose their full semester’s worth of benefits if their college suddenly closes or is shut down in the middle of the term. The new bill will restore that term’s worth of Educational Benefits.
Benefits will be extended to more people
The Forever GI Bill® allows for 25,000+ National Guardsmen and reservists to accrue the same Educational Benefits as active duty military. It also extends coverage of the Yellow Ribbon Program and the Post 9/11 GI Bill®.
Provides additional benefits for those studying STEM fields
Veterans would be able to apply for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) scholarship that would give them either nine additional months of GI Bill® benefits or a $30,000 lump sum.
Dedicates more resources towards improving the program’s tech and training
This bill earmarks $30 million to improve I.T. for GI Bill® claims processing, and it requires that the department provide training requirements for school certifying officer. The goal is to make the entire program run more smoothly, with faster claims processing and more clarity on what is required of students.
These expanded benefits will cost over $3 billion over a decade, which means the funding needs to come from somewhere. The plan to pay for these benefits involves decreasing the GI Bill® living stipend so it matches what is received by active duty service members. Some are opposed to the bill for this reason, but most military and veteran organizations are strongly in favor of the Forever GI Bill®. As a tech college with many veterans in attendance, CIAT is supportive of the change and excited to see how it will benefit our student body.
To learn more:
Section by Section of The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017
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