Military Advantage

Post-9/11 GI Bill Reform Harms Full-time Students

I called my dad the other day when I heard the good news. “Dad, guess what? I just read how the government fixed the GI Bill by cutting benefits to all veterans using educational benefits. Surprise!” But, all veterans every educational and rehabilitation program will see their total yearly stipend payouts dip because "Interval Pay" (pay between terms like Fall and Spring) has been cut. For full-time students attending year round, the yearly reduction could be as much as 20 percent less than they received the previous year. Click here for specific projections.

What does this mean? A veteran attending college year round can have almost two months per year of interval time between semesters (Fall, Spring, Summer). The Act cuts all interval payments between classes except for national emergencies and Executive Orders, removing the old standard that paid a stipend over shorter breaks between fall, spring and summer semesters, for full-time students. This affects all veterans, not just Post-9/11 veterans eligible for the Bill's benefits. And sadly, the Pre-9/11 veterans, mainly disabled veterans using Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, just get hit with the cuts without the advantages of any of the Act’s benefits. Not one.

In S.3447Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, there are many new, fandangled improvements. The biggest that caught my attention was Section 205 of the bill addressing Post-9/11 disabled veterans using Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment. For these veterans, they can choose to receive the equivalent to E-5 with dependents BAH pay.

The majority of the cuts to pay for the “improvements” came from a severe limitation of the Interval Payment totaling over $2 billion. This is the payment veterans receive in between semesters so that they don’t have to go into debt while in school to pay things like rent and child support. The new rule changes the payment so that it “would be paid out very rarely.” Congress decided veterans don’t need the money. And the cut does not just apply to Post-9/11 veterans eligible for the new GI Bill. It applies to practically all veterans, even the ones receiving the paltry $554 per month who are not eligible for the BAH increase.

The background was that the different between the GI Bill stipend amount and the Voc Rehab stipend amount was pushing a lot of disabled veterans to use the GI Bill and miss out on the specialized help some veterans get from Voc Rehab. You’re talking $1300 per month (national average GI Bill) versus $554 (Voc Rehab veteran with no dependents). While the veteran is eligible for both programs, they can opt for the BAH amount. Once they are no longer eligible for the GI Bill (after 36 months), then what happens? Assumedly, they go back down the Voc Rehab rate, which is $554 per month. Not too great, especially when most students are unable to finish college within the allotted 36-month window, much less students who need extra schooling to accommodate for their disabilities.

Luckily, Uncle Sam had a solution. Senator Akaka and the Committee were:

“concerned that, since the months of educational assistance available to eligible veterans and others is, in most cases, equal to the number of months needed to attain an educational objective, using entitlement for months during which a student is not actively pursuing an educational goal unnecessarily uses months of entitlement that could be otherwise utilized and results in the student’s inability to complete an educational objective with available assistance.”
Done and done. Yet another example of our great government looking out for the little guy, right?

But all of us know that when you hear the words, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,” run away. Yes, in S.3447 there are numerous “readjustments” to the original Post-9/11 GI Bill that needed to be made to make it “more equitable.” In fact, to make it fairer, Congress cut $2.3 billion from the benefit. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “seems like ‘Improvements’ was added to the title of the Act to merely be ironic.” If the Act is intended to help veterans better use their 36 months of GI Bill, then how does the Congressional Budget Office know they will “save” $2 billion with the adjustment? The short answer: they anticipate veterans will not use the full 36 months; otherwise, there would be no savings.

For the full data from this article, please see: www.disabledveterans.org.

Visit the Military.com Education Center to learn more about all the pending changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

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