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Lawmakers Urge GI Bill Extension
Military.com  |  By Terry Howell  |  May 09, 2007
Veterans who want to take advantage of the Montgomery GI Bill but have found their eligibility has expired may soon get a second chance with new legislation introduced on Capitol Hill last week.

In an effort to extend the time veterans have to take advantage of their GI Bill benefits, Washington Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell introduced the GI Bill for Life Act that would eliminate the 10-year time limit placed on GI Bill benefits.
 
The GI Bill for active duty servicemembers and veterans is a "pay to play" benefit that requires each servicemember to make a $1,200 non-refundable contribution up front. In return for the contribution they can use their entitlement-up to $1,075 per month for 36 months-to help pay for education, apprenticeship, and job training.

The catch is the GI Bill automatically expires 10 years after the veteran leaves active duty service. It's this "use it or loose it" aspect of the GI Bill that has left many veterans feeling misled and cheated.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs reports, nearly 30 percent of eligible veterans are unable to use any of their education benefits and most eligible veterans are only able to access a portion of their GI Bill before the 10-year limit is reached.
 
"GI Bill benefits should not come with an expiration date," Cantwell said in a May 1 press release announcing the bill. "When our servicemembers leave the military, family obligations, work commitments and economic difficulties often get in the way."

Many veterans postpone going to school due to several factors including, employment constraints, family obligations, illness and disabilities associated with military service.  In many cases 10 years have pass and they simply lose their benefits.

"We need to remove this arbitrary time limit and make sure our veterans can get valuable skills training when the time is right for them," Cantwell added. "Veterans should have access to their education benefits for life."

On the other side of Capitol Hill, House Armed Services Committee member and fellow Washington lawmaker Rep. Rick Larsen (D), will soon introduce identical legislation in the House.
 
"Times have changed, and we owe it to our veterans to keep up," Larsen said a press release. "In today's changing economy, veterans should be able to get the education they need when they need it."
 
The Montgomery GI Bill includes active duty as well as reserve component programs: The Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserve and the Reserve Education Assistance Program. Unlike the GI Bill for active duty, the Reserve GI Bill does not require a $1,200 contribution, but it does require a service commitment of six or more years.
 
In addition, enrollees in the reserve program receive up to $309 per month for 36 months in education benefits, and the Reserve GI Bill expires after 14 years - or when the individual leaves the service. In other words, veteran reservists who are out of the service aren't eligible to receive any GI Bill benefits.

The so-called "Cantwell/Larsen Montgomery GI Bill for Life Act of 2007" - S. 1261 - which is cosponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), would repeal both the 10 year and 14 year deadlines. It doesn't address the reserve component programs' expiration upon leaving the service, however.

With a renewed focus on veterans' issues on Capitol Hill and large influx of war veterans, advocates feel that such legislation has a better momentum this year.

"This legislation will allow veterans that have earned their GI Bill entitlements to use those entitlements to keep up with changes due to technology over the course of their lifetime, thus keeping them more employable," veteran and former Washington VFW commander Frosty Hulsey said in the Cantwell release. "This bill is a long time overdue. It makes sense and is the right thing to do."

Use your GI Bill before time runs out!

 

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