July 15, 2008 – On June 30, President Bush signed into law the new GI Bill, which boasts the most comprehensive education benefits package since the original GI Bill was signed into law in 1944. This benefit package does not go into effect until Aug. 1, 2009, to allow the Veterans Administration time to draft regulations, train staff and build the computer software needed to administer the new benefits. It could take some time for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to begin paying benefits. Benefits will not be paid for any training or education programs completed before July 31, 2009.
The new GI Bill was framed to be similar to the benefits given to World War II vets. Then, returning GIs were covered for the full cost of tuition and books for whatever college they entered; in addition, they were paid a monthly stipend. Under the new GI Bill, payment rates will go up but will be based on the college or university costs in the service member's state of residence. Eligible students will also receive a monthly stipend for books of up to $1,000 per year and a monthly housing allowance of about $1,000.
The new education benefits are forecasted to go into effect in 2009 and will be available to all service members and veterans, including members of the National Guard and Reserve who have served on active duty for at least 90 consecutive days since Sept. 11, 2001.
If you have served a total of at least 90 consecutive days on active duty in the Armed Forces since Sept. 11, 2001, you are eligible. However, the amounts of benefits you receive under this program are determined by the actual amount of service you have accumulated post 9/11 service. To be eligible for the full benefit, you must have three years of active duty service after 9/11 or have been discharged due to a service- connected disability.
Here is a quick reference showing the percentage of total combined benefit eligibility based on the following periods of post 9/11 service:
· 100% – 36 or more total months
· 100% – 30 or more consecutive days with a disability-related discharge
· 90% – 30 total months
· 80% – 24 total months
· 70% – 18 total months
· 60% – 12 total months
· 50% – 6 total months
· 40% – 90 or more consecutive days
Unlike the Montgomery GI Bill, the new GI Bill will allow you to use this benefit for up to 15 years after your last discharge or separation from active duty.
Service members who have served at least 10 years on active duty will be able to transfer their benefits to a spouse or dependent child. Spouses of service members who have served at least six years and agree to another four-year contract can also receive the benefit. The transferred benefit will cover the cost of tuition only. Benefits may be divided as long as they don't exceed 36 months of college classes. For example, a retired soldier can use half of the benefits to pay for a two-year degree program and then transfer the remaining half to a spouse or child. College-age children of long-serving service members could get a free college education starting fall 2009, provided they attend a state-backed school.
For additional information, call the Office of Veterans Affairs at 773-6663 or 774-6100.