The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission recently recommended making major changes to the various education assistance programs offered by the VA. The recommendations included measures to cut bureaucracy, trim costs, and combat aggressive schools that prey on service members and veterans.
The final report of the commission's two-year study included recommendations to:
- End two of the nine current GI Bill programs
- Increase the amount of time a service member must serve before they can transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits to their dependents
- End the housing allowance for dependents using transferred Post-9/11 benefits
- Limit tuition payments to classes taken for "professional development" only
Currently there are nine different GI Bill programs, each one paying different benefit amounts and each one requiring different qualifying factors. The commission recommended ending the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty and the Reserve Educational Assistance Program. The majority of personnel eligible for these programs are also eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which is a far more generous program.
Currently over 80% of all education benefit recipients receive the Post-9/11 GI Bill and it is seen as a major recruitment and retention tool for the Department of Defense, the report even cited one study that said 74% of service members joined the military to receive education benefits. The commission stated that incorporating the various GI Bill programs into one major program would reduce administrative costs at the VA and simplify the education benefit system. The commission also recommended increasing the amount of time a service member must serve to be able to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their dependents. Currently a service member must have served at least 6 years and agree to serve 4 more to be eligible for this transfer. Under the recommendations, a service member must have served at least 10 years and agree to serve 2 more to be eligible to transfer benefits to their dependents. The ability of Service members to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill to their dependents, while very popular is seen as a retention tool by DoD. Increasing the amount of time a highly trained service member will remain in service is seen as cost-effective and beneficial to overall readiness.
Another recommendation by the commission related to transfer of the Post-9/11 GI Bill to dependents was the elimination of the housing allowance payment to all dependents. Currently children who are using their parent's transferred benefit can receive a monthly housing allowance while attending classes. This was written into the original law assuming that a child who is attending college would necessarily have to maintain their own separate household and therefore have additional costs. However, with the increased growth of online schools this is not necessarily the case today.
The final recommendation was to limit Tuition Assistance to those courses that can be defined as "professional development." Tuition Assistance was originally created because service members weren't allowed to use their GI Bill on active duty. That was changed many years ago and this restriction seeks to stem the growth of aggressive and deceptive school recruitment targeting service members and veterans.
The committee recommended a time frame of six months to two years for implementation of these changes. It now falls to Congress to take action on them.