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Most Important Things for Veterans to Know About GI Benefits

For veterans, there's a lot when it comes to the GI benefits — and they should certainly know of them. Here are the most important things for veterans to know about GI benefits.

Those who served for our country missed out on a lot of the education that they should be gaining knowledge from. That's where the Forever GI Bill comes into play. 

Also known as the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, it was named after the American Legion’s past national commander who created the original GI Bill in 1944. 

The main purpose of this bill is to support veterans to gain an education. And President Trump has signed the bill this past August 16 in Bedminster, N.J.  This marks a new era for those who served for our country — giving them the opportunity to start where they left off in school.

However, there's a lot to come rather than knowing that this bill helps veterans to gain an education. All veterans should know the benefits that come with the GI Bill and in this case, there are a handful of specific benefits. Here are the most important things for veterans to know about GI benefits.

New service members can now use the benefits throughout their lifetime.

This goes for those who were discharged on or after January 1, 2013. And for those who meet the cutoff, the expansion will take away the 15-year time limit to use these benefits. It’s known that this will enable more veterans to complete college or even take higher education courses for jobs of their choosing — which are significant for wage gains.

This means that in the past, veterans had to use their post-9/11 GI Bill within 15 years of their last 90-day period of active-duty service. Now that rule is gone forever, because there no longer is an expiration date for these benefits.

Veterans whose colleges shut down in the midst of the semester will have their benefits restored.

Between the years of 2015 and 2016, many colleges and universities were shut down, some of which were for-profit. This affected multiple student veterans.

"So those who were attending ITT when it closed will have a full restoration of the benefits and be able to use the benefit at a different school," says James Schmeling, executive vice president of District of Columbia-based Student Veterans of America, a nonprofit advocacy group.

However, this benefit isn’t only for those who attended ITT Technical Institution, this goes for service members who attended a postsecondary institution that closed down after January 2015. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, $50 million is going toward restoring benefits to thousands of veterans next year — seen as one of the most important things for veterans to know about GI benefits.

The expanded benefits emphasize STEM programs.

This benefit encourages veterans to enroll in science, technology, engineering, or even mathematic degrees through financial incentives. Student veterans regularly mention that they had to choose other fields since certain STEM Bachelor's degrees can take up to about five years to fully complete.

"They were choosing other degrees that they could complete during the availability of their GI benefit. So extending them allows them to take STEM more seriously than they might have before," Schmeling says.

So, veterans who are interested in any of these fields will be allowed to take them in either nine months more of educational benefits or up to $30,000 — the maximum amount.

All Purple Heart recipients are now eligible for educational benefits.

The many reservists who were injured during the active service didn’t meet any of the full requirements for the GI Bill since September 11, 2001. And with this expansion, those 1,500 Purple Heart recipients are now becoming eligible for the benefits — receiving 100 percent of the benefits offered under the Post-9/11 GI Bill — which is among the most important things for veterans to know about GI benefits.

In the past, Purple Heart recipients were beholden to the same time-in-service qualifications for the GI Bill as other service members. Which means that those without a service-connected disability who didn’t reach 36 months of service were only eligible for a certain percentage of the benefits during the time — not fully.

Any of the GI entitlements can be passed on to another dependent or spouse.

With this benefit, this gives veterans the option and opportunity to transfer any of the remainder of their entitlement to another dependent in situations where the dependent who initially received the transferred benefits dies. Also, a dependent has the chance to transfer the remaining benefits to another dependent after the death of the veteran.

"It's not really a large expansion, but it's a humanitarian need for those who need to transfer," Schmeling says.

Eligibility for Yellow Ribbon Program

From the most important things for veterans to know about GI benefits, the Yellow Ribbon Program is known as a voluntary agreement between schools and the US Department of Veterans Affairs in order to split school costs not covered by the GI Bill — leading to reducing or eliminating the amount of students who must pay on their own.

In this case, the bill will expand eligibility for this program to surviving spouses or children of veterans in August 2018 and active-duty service members in August 2022.

Housing stipends will decrease.

This is certainly one of the greater and most important things for veterans to know about GI benefits. The government will now pay for the expansions that are represented in the GI Bill through a one percent decrease in housing stipends over the next five years. In that case, veterans on the bill are currently receiving a slightly higher housing allowance rate than active-duty E-5s with dependents.

This benefit will take effect on January 1, 2018, and will only apply to the service members who enrolled in GI Bill benefits after that date. At the moment, no one is receiving a housing stipend from the VA.

Once August of 2018 comes along, housing stipends that were previously calculated based on the ZIP code of a student’s school will be determined where a student takes the most classes. Also, reservists will continue to receive their monthly housing allowance under the GI Bill on a distributed rate for any month in which they are activated — preventing from losing an entire month’s worth of funds.

Surviving family members will get more money, but less time.

Of all the most important things for veterans to know about GI benefits, family members need to know this the most: surviving spouses and children of service members who’ve been receiving benefits through the Survivor’s and Dependent’s Educational Assistance Program will see their monthly education stipend increase by $200.

However, the only downside to this is that the same program has previously provided 45 months of education benefits and will decrease to 36 months in August 2018 to align it with the provisions of the GI Bill.

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