By: Brian Hawthorne
As I wrote last winter, many important changes have been made to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and many of them will come into effect between now and October 1st. These benefits are an important thank you for your military service. You earned them, and you should seriously consider taking advantage of them by making college or vocational school part of your transition.
- The new changes to the Post 9-11 GI Bill were signed into law last year, but Service members are feeling the impact now.
Many of the larger changes to the bill are already in effect, but there are some that will not be in place until October 1st. One excellent change that is in place is the VA’s new payment processing system, so payments are happening much faster now. Other large changes are highlighted below:
- The eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill has been expanded for National Guardsmen mobilized for a national or local emergency under Title 32, or those who are part of the Active Guard/Reserve Program. This means that if you have active duty time that was not previously counted toward your entitlement, you should contact the VA so that they can reevaluate your benefit. They have been doing this automatically, however, so they may already be aware of the changes.
- Effective October 1st, veterans and active duty Service members can use their benefit for non-degree seeking programs such as on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and flight school programs. If you are interested in obtaining a professional certification or license instead of a college degree, the GI Bill will now pay for it.
- Interval pay, or break pay, is no longer available between semesters. While this means that you cannot receive partial housing allowance over the winter break, it also means that you are not wasting your entitlement on only a few hundred dollars. Remember that you can start and finish an entire semester with only one month of benefits left, so that one month of entitlement that you used over winter break to receive housing allowance could actually be worth more than $10,000 later on. Just don’t forget to save a little bit along the way to cover you in December.
- The payments that have been going out for the fall semester are using the new simplified payment rates, where in-state public schools are paid for, including graduate programs, and students in private schools receive the same $17,500 across the country. This eliminates the confusing state-by-state rate that was hindering many student veterans from attending more expensive schools.
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment students can now receive the more generous E-5 with dependents BAH rate, which should significantly ease their cost of living while enrolled in school.
- Active duty Service members can now receive the $1,000/year book allowance. The allowance is pro-rated depending on how many credits you are pursuing.
- The GI Bill will now pay for multiple licensure and certification exams such as EMT, CDL, etc., as well as covering college admissions prep courses and the registration fees for tests such as the SAT.
I know it’s a lot to digest, but these changes are all very important and you can begin taking advantage of most of them immediately to advance your education and career. Whether you choose higher education or vocational training, the GI Bill is a great asset, especially in this tough economy.
It goes without saying that having more credentials and degrees makes you more competitive in the job market. Unfortunately, many veterans are learning this lesson the hard way as they struggle to find work coming out of the military. And the struggle is even greater for our wounded, ill and injured Service members and veterans. Take the pledge now to make your first job out of the military an education, and you will find that the combination of military experience and formal education will serve you well.
[caption id="attachment_1853" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Brian Hawthorne is a two-tour Iraq Veterans, and now works with the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy on improving services related to educational opportunities for transitioning wounded, ill and injured Service members."]
Brian Hawthorne is an Army veteran with two tours in Iraq. He is the Education Manager for WWCTP, and is working on his Master’s Degree from the George Washington University.