The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law by President Obama on November 25, 2015. There are many education and GI Bill changes in the new law, we will cover a few of the major changes here.
The Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) GI Bill Is Ending
According to the law, the REAP program ended on the date the law was signed, November 25. However, those people who currently or previously were in the REAP program have until November 25, 2019 to use their benefits. According to the VA, around 13,700 people used REAP in fiscal year 2014, the most recent date for which they provide data. The number of people using REAP has been declining around 25% annually since the inception of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2009 since most recipients are eligible for both programs and the Post-9/11 GI Bill is far more generous.
Reserve Reintegration Programs
Reservists and Guard Members will get more reintegration and quality of life training before during and after activations, mobilizations, and deployments. They will now receive 4 paid training sessions.
- One pre-mobilization session focusing on preparing eligible individuals and affected communities for the rigors of activation, mobilization, and deployment.
- One mid-deployment session focusing on helping them cope with the challenges and stress associated with mobilization, decreasing feeling of isolation during mobilization, and preparing them for the challenges associated with reintegration.
- Two post-deployment session focusing on:
- reconnecting them with their families, friends, and communities;
- providing information on employment opportunities;
- helping them deal with the challenges of reintegration;
- ensuring they understand what benefits they are entitled to and what resources are available to help them overcome the challenges of reintegration; and
- providing a forum for addressing negative behaviors related to operational stress and reintegration.
Expansion of Education Counseling During Outbriefing
Congress feels there is not enough training on the various education opportunities available to veterans during the required Transition Assistance Program (TAP) training. This is evidenced by numerous GAO reports that say the military and VA aren't doing enough to help separating members transition to civilian life, and numerous veterans reporting problems finding work after leaving the service. To that end, they have inserted language into the law to require TAP training to include:
- Preparation for higher education or training.
- Preparation for career or technical training.
- Preparation for entrepreneurship.
- Other training options as necessary.
No More Unemployment While Getting The GI Bill
Congress was surprised and upset to learn that many veterans were receiving free tuition at school, a housing allowance to pay all their housing costs, $1,000 a year book stipend from their GI Bill and then turning around and drawing unemployment. This was a loophole in the law nobody saw coming and apparently quite a few people took advantage of, enough to cause Congress to insert language into the law prohibiting the receipt of unemployment benefits while receiving the Post-9/11 GI Bill.