Are the New Changes to the GI Bill Really An Overall “Win” For Vets?

| December 21, 2010 | 18 Comments

Lost in all the noise about the repeal of DADT was news that the lame-duck Congressed passed a bill that implemented major changes to the GI Bill. Of course since this bill was passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress, IAVA considers it a win but the American Legion considers it a positive as well (Strangely, I haven’t seen anything on VoteVets about it).  Here are the changes to the GI Bill that will take effect Aug. 2011 according to IAVA:

In 2008, historic New GI Bill legislation was signed into law.  Since then, IAVA has been fighting for critical upgrades where the benefit was lacking. These upgrades, which were passed last week, will impact 400,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans within the first year.  These include:

  • 85,000 full-time National Guardsmen who will become eligible for the New GI Bill
  • 58,000 students at private and graduate schools will have increased?tuition benefits
  • 25,000 distance learners will receive a monthly living allowance
  • 21,000 disabled vets using Vocational Rehab will receive additional allowances
  • 19,000 Active Duty service members will receive an annual book stipend
  • 6,000 vocational students will receive tuition/fees and a?monthly living allowance
  • 6,000 On The Job training/Apprenticeship participants will get access to an?expanded program
  • 6,000 schools will receive increased fees for processing vets’ paperwork
  • 180,000 new recruits will not have to pay $1,200 to buy into the old GI Bill

Sounds great right? Well of course thats not the whole story. Here are some of the other changes this bill makes to the GI Bill from the Marine Corps Times (emphasis is mine):

Living stipends, based on military housing allowances, are now fully paid to a student who is taking a course load that makes them more than a half-time student. This means that someone taking a full load is getting the same living stipend as someone taking fewer credits. The bill would change this by prorating living stipends based on the number of credits, which means people taking less than a full course load would be receiving less money.

Distance learning students, currently ineligible for living stipends unless they are taking at least one class at a traditional school, would be eligible for the monthly payment equal to one half of the national average for military housing allowance for an E-5 with dependents. That is less than sought by distance learning schools but more than they are getting now.

So clearly there are some changes to the post-9/11 GI Bill that IAVA didn’t discuss on their website (along with other Veterans groups) that will have a detrimental impact on some veterans, especially those attempting to work or do internships which limit their ability to take a full course load. In regards to my own situation, I know my last semester I am planning on doing an internship (which I cannot receive credit for since I would have already received the maximum amount of credits for an internship) and taking only three classes since I don’t need to take a full load to graduate. Under the current rules, I would receive a full BAH stipend, but under the new rules I will be receiving less money. I can think of  ten other veterans I either served with or know at Arizona State that will be negatively impacted by this rule change as well. I guess using some people’s math, thats a “win” for me and other vets.

Also, the reason why the GI Bill originally didn’t offer a stipend for online-only students and why in the future that stipend will only be half of regular students’ stipends is because the Democrats who have controlled Congress declared war on for-profit online universities. Now granted some of these institutions have pulled some shady stuff in the past but many state-schools and private colleges offer online degree paths. Again using a personal example I could complete both of my degrees completely online at Arizona State and then get real experience by doing an internship or working fulltime in addition to saving the VA about 1000 dollars a semester since the online programs are cheaper at ASU (as is the case for many state-schools). But instead I am forced to go sit in a classroom and wish I was back in Iraq (Yeah, thats how much I hate going to class). Online programs are also better for veterans with families or other work commitments since its more time-flexible. If anything, in some cases, the VA should be encouraging vets to do online-only programs.

Now, obviously there are some good parts to this bill. It expands educational benefits for the National Guard and sets aside more money for wounded Vets in addition to making it easier for Vets to attend private schools. However, I think it is a bit disingenuous of IAVA  and other vet groups not to highlight the downsides to this bill, especially considering it will effect a lot of veterans currently using the GI Bill.

Category: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Politics, Veterans Issues

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  1. Doc Bailey says:

    my experience with the GI bill has been an nightmare. Form the $3000 Emergency check (which they took back without telling me) to not being clear when or how much they’ll pay. This year and last year has been a rollercoaster. I’m going to have to join the guard to get stability in my life. Imagine that!

  2. Operator Dan says:

    Doc,

    This bill is supposed to address those problems with processing but I am not holding my breath.

  3. 2549 says:

    I started my masters degree while active duty at the University of South Carolina via their new online program (the on-campus classes are recorded and streamed online). Since leaving, I’ve not been eligible for VA benefits because I’m not a full time student. I wasn’t eligible for this new Post 9/11 GI Bill because I wasn’t physically attending classes. I’m paying out of state tuition, too, because I’m no longer active duty and don’t have that exemption. Even if the VA covered my part time course load, the reimbursement rate wouldn’t cover out of state tuition. I can’t transfer into an in-state school because the in-state school will only except a fraction of my coursework as transfer credit. I’d be spending more money (and time) redoing courses I already had credit for.

    I ran the numbers and the cheapest course of action (both actual dollars and value of my time) was to stick it through and pony up on my own.

    I’m not complaining. Far from it. I’ve never considered college to be an entitlement. I’m just laying out the delta between the bill of goods sold to me at my enlistment and what I’m receiving now.

  4. DaveO says:

    One thing they could fix is paying on time. Colleges, universities, and Vo-Tech schools are really big into being paid on time.

  5. Dave Thul says:

    I agree with all that the delay in payments is terrible. I attend AMU, which has 2 month semesters, so every 2 months I re-register with the VA. The effect is that I am always three months behind getting paid.

    But Dan, I have to disagree with you on online schools and BAH. There is no reason to get paid BAH for the location of the school. I live in southern Minnesota, which gives an E-5 BAH of $1053 per month. AMU is in Virginia, and gives a BAH of $1500 per month. Why should the VA pay me more just because my online university is located in a high BAH area?

    Basic Allowance for Housing is (supposed to be) to compensate you for the cost of rent where you live. Anything else is scamming the system.

  6. Operator Dan says:

    “But Dan, I have to disagree with you on online schools and BAH. There is no reason to get paid BAH for the location of the school. I live in southern Minnesota, which gives an E-5 BAH of $1053 per month. AMU is in Virginia, and gives a BAH of $1500 per month. Why should the VA pay me more just because my online university is located in a high BAH area?”

    It shouldn’t pay you based on where you school is but where you live, I agree with that. They can simply base your BAH based on your home of record with the VA.

  7. Bluefalcon says:

    Without the first change, there was a loophole in the Post 9/11 GI Bill which allowed veterans to go to school part time (6/12 credits) and receive full BAH. BAH in places like NYC is over $2700 a month. A vet who figured out this loophole (and trust me, many of us did) could go to college for 8 years instead of 4, receiving over $2700 a month, pulling in well over $100k in his/her college career. That’s why the BAH needed to be prorated – to ensure the longevity of the program.

    On the second issue (BAH for distance learning), something is better than nothing, although I agree that it should be equal to those attending classes I’m person, even though I believe that there is something lost by not attending classes in person (even if that something is learning how to deal with ass clowns).

  8. Old Tanker says:

    Every time I read a post on this GI Bill I just have to shake my head…it was so much smoother for me after Desert Storm, it worked very well in fact.

    The bill would change this by prorating living stipends based on the number of credits, which means people taking less than a full course load would be receiving less money.

    This is precicesly how the old one worked. The only thing I didn’t like was it maxed out at 12 credits. I majored in Chemistry and Minored in Physics which required quite a bit of lab work. I routinely had 15-19 credits and had to pay for every one of the credits, the University didn’t stop charging me more after 12 credits….

  9. 1AirCav69 says:

    I am so in support of the new GI Bill. I recieved $175 a month….period. My trailor payment was $100 and lot rent 50. Kinda ate that up. Working at least 2 jobs while attending was a real pain in the ass…but doable. My dad, WWII, recieved 90 a month plus tuition. books, and staying on campus. They changed it for Vietnam Vets….for the worse. I am so glad you guys are getting so much more and hopefully you can get your education or your family, and not have to load trucks all night for UPS and tend bar on weekends to the wee hours. Vocational Rehab paid for my Masters, which was a much better deal then our old GI Bill. I hope you ALL use it! You have earned it.

  10. DaveO: So are landlords, funnily enough, something the VA still has not seemed to figure out.

    Operator Dan: The problem with that is that it would pin people’s BAH to the place where they get mail, which is usually /not/ where the veteran is Actually Living, but rather the most permanent mail address they have.

    BlueFalcon: Had to be 9, not 6. But let me explain to you precisely why this fucks veterans.

    1) Currently, if you’re taking a 12 credit load, you have a one-class margin of error. Let’s say you get in a class that’s going to screw your GPA, or you can’t handle for some reason. There’s still a chance to drop-or if you fail one class, you don’t have to refund any housing money, because it doesn’t put you below the line. Now, if you need to drop or if you fail even one class, they’re coming after money you undoubtedly don’t have because you needed it for rent.

    2) They don’t double or lengthen your time for the period you take fewer credits. It’s why I’m so bitter about summer session counting as part of the year. So taking less credits can work, but you screw yourself long term.

    3) And the summer session is where this is really going to suck. It’s pretty impossible to take 12 credits in summer without going insane. So that means either you get screwed on your rent, because your landlord sure isn’t giving you a discount for summer, or you get screwed on grades and time and sanity.

    If they really wanted to fix a problem, they’d fix the fact that we only get paid rent money for days school is in session, instead of, you know, the days we actually have to pay rent while going to school, which is all of them.

  11. Sig says:

    My NG intel unit will be heavily affected by this, mostly positive. I have roughly 40% of my company on active duty, most of them providing active support to the global war on contingencies or whatever we’re calling it this week. One freshly-minted SSG has been on active duty for 4 years, but through no fault of his own has never deployed. Now he’ll be able to get a VA loan, whereas before he’d have to wait an additional two. That’s no small thing.

    I’m looking at starting my master’s degree in 2012 with a UW school that has a very competitive, well-ranked online program. Due to the difference in how fees and tuition are charged, it would have cost me nearly three times as much as going in-person, but allowed me to stay on full-time orders. I haven’t finished crunching the numbers and looking at my options, but I had tentatively concluded it would be better just to go full-time, commute 90 mins each way, and eat the costs. This may close the gap somewhat.

  12. One minor point: what the school considers “full/half/quarter time” and what the VA does aren’t necessarily the same.

    I do work-study at my school’s VA office (great program, BTW), and my school considers 12 credits full time…but because of the length of the semester, the VA considers only 7 credits full time. I haven’t seen anything in the legislation that changes that. So, where I’m at, you can do a 4 credit science class (with lab) and another 3 credit class…and the VA says that’s full time.

  13. Kelly says:

    I have a question that no one seems to know the answer to!! I am a spouse of an AD soldier who transfered entitlement to me… I am attending full time online… will I receive the BAH?

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