Another Post 9/11 GI Bill fix (GI Bill 2.1) is in legislation right now to fix some of the issues caused by the GI Bill 2.0 (which was supposed to fix issues in the original Post 9/11 GI Bill, also known as the New GI Bill). Initially, it all started when the Post 9/11 GI Bill began on August 1, 2009. Congress had good intentions to reward our latest war heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan with an updated GI Bill.
From the beginning, two of the issues were:
- No monthly housing allowance for students taking all online classes.
- Veterans retiring before August 1, 2009, and fully qualifying for the transfer option, were unable to transfer benefits to dependents.
The first one I never understood why it was not included in the original Post 9/11 GI Bill. Just because some students attend all of their classes online, why would they not be authorized a housing allowance? Their classes may be in the virtual world, but they live in the physical world just as students do who attend classes at brick and mortar schools. All students have to buy food to eat and have a place to live, regardless of their education venue.
I contacted one of my U.S. Senators about this issue. The Senator’s staffer personally called me with a reply. She said Congress knew the Post 9/11 GI Bill had issues, but they felt it was “good enough” to field and Congress would address those issues in future legislative sessions.
Fast forward to December 2010. One of the inclusions in the GI Bill 2.0 was authorizing full-time online-only students a monthly housing allowance up to $673.50 starting on August 1, 2011, which by the way is 50% of the average housing allowance for brick and mortar school students.
Evidently, online students only eat half as much and their housing needs are half as great as students taking the traditional college route. In reality, the only real difference is online-only students don’t have the commuting costs of traditional students. While not equitable, it is at least more than they were getting before (and it will give Congress something to fix it in a future session).
What is interesting to note is legislation follows one rule of physics – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. While they fixed issue of the no monthly housing allowance for online-only students, they paid for it by limiting private and out-of-state school GI Bill funding to $17,500 per year for tuition and fees per student.
Under the original Post 9/11 GI Bill, a private or out-of-state school student received an amount equal to the highest public school undergraduate program for the state where their school was located. For a student taking two semesters of 12 credits each semester, that GI Bill amount ranged from a low of $3,210 in Puerto Rico to a high of $44,928 in Texas. The average is $37,980.32 for tuition and fees per year. The good news is for students qualifying at the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill tier, they will still be able to use Yellow Ribbon Program to help pay for tuition and fees provided their school has a Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA and that agreement covers their chosen career program.
Now, as part of the GI Bill 2.1, there is legislation in session that addresses the private school/out-of-state issue again, as these 30,000 students voiced their displeasure at having to come up with funding mid-way through their four-year program to pay for the reduction of funding caused by the GI Bill 2.0. So in response, the U.S. House passed a bill that would grandfather students already attending private or out-of-state schools at the same rate of GI Bill funding as before the GI Bill 2.0 change.
Under the Congress pay-as-you-go plan, that additional $50 million price tag would be paid for by freezing Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance raises for all students for two years (remember that equal but opposite reaction?). Of course, you can imagine the outcry from public school students, so the House bill that had passed was changed from the housing allowance freeze to higher costs for veterans getting a second or more VA home loan. The Senate has yet to address the GI Bill 2.1 issues.
For readers not familiar with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the second issue surfaced when Congress wrote the New GI Bill and worded it such that to access the transfer option, qualifying servicemembers had to be serving in the Armed Forces “on or after August 1, 2009”. To qualify for the transfer option, servicemembers had to serve for at least six years (of which at least three years had to be after September 10, 2001) and agree to serve an additional four years.
So there ended up being thousands of 20-year plus veterans, who fully qualified for the transfer option, but because they retired before August 1, 2009, they never had an opportunity to make a transfer request.
In the last legislative session, Senator Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced bill S.3447 that would have allowed career veterans retiring between December 8, 2001 and August 1, 2009 an opportunity to make a transfer request. However, the bill never made it to a vote and subsequently
died at the end of the session.
In the current session, Representative Rodney Alexander (R-LA) introduced a bill that would allow career veterans who have at least 90 days of service after September 10, 2001 and retired between September 30, 2001, and September 30, 2011, the opportunity to transfer any remaining Post 9/11 GI Bill education entitlements to their dependents.
So what began as a good gesture to our Nation’s war heroes has evolved, and continues to evolve, into a mess usually with the expense borne by the very ones it was designed to honor – our veterans. Amazing!
Photo thanks to US Army Korea – IMCOM under creative common license on Flickr.