ARLINGTON, Va. --
Former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb believes today’s military deserves a GI Bill rivaling that of the World War II era where full tuition, housing allowance and books are covered. So, on his first day in office as senator for Virginia in January 2007, he introduced the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
"This is a great day for our veterans,” Webb said during a statement made the day the bill was signed into law June 30, 2008, by President George W. Bush. “This bill properly provides a modern and fair educational benefit to address the needs of those who answered the call of duty to our country--those who moved toward the sound of the guns--often at great sacrifice.”
The senator believed the current Montgomery GI Bill was proper for a peacetime military, but a new and improved program was needed during wartime, said Bob Clark, assistant director of accession policy for the office of the Secretary of Defense.
The Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008 was passed by an overwhelmingly lopsided vote in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House voted 416-12, while the Senate voted 92-6.
The new law expanded education benefits to service members who served on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. The changes are scheduled to go into effect Aug. 1.
"I would like to emphasize that this is not simply an expansion of veterans' educational benefits,” Webb said. “This is a new program, a deserved program.”
According to Maj. Gary A. Bourland, manpower and reserve affairs, military policy, Training and Education Command, service members eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill need to enroll on the www.gibill.va.gov Web site to initiate the program’s benefits.
The post 9/11 GI Bill offers an improved basic allowance for housing, pays full tuition for a public college, a $1,000 stipend for books, 15 years to use benefits after separating from the military as opposed to 10 years with the MGIB and a new transferability of all benefits to a dependent.
Members will not be able to begin to elect to transfer educational benefits until after June 15. No benefits will be paid by the Veterans Affair until Aug. 1 when the new educational bill is initiated.
Only active or reserve duty service members who amassed at least 90 days on active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, will be considered for determining the individual’s eligibility for the new benefits. However, individuals honorably discharged for a service-connected disability who served 30 consecutive days after Sept. 10, 2001, may also establish eligibility.
“The Montgomery GI Bill was a commitment-based program which required service members to enroll and pay $1,200 out of their pocket and complete their contract with honorable service,” Clark said.
The new bill’s benefits and eligibility are no longer based on enrollment or requiring the service member to “buy in” to the program.
“You’re eligible after 90 days of service,” Clark said. “Your benefit package is based on service time like a sliding scale and with no enrollment.”
Also, for veterans attending classes after Aug. 1, the benefits automatically rollover to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, if the veteran is enrolled in the MGIB and currently eligible for the new bill Clark said.
If the service member took part in the $600 buy up program and attends an institute of higher learning those benefits will be lost with the post 9/11 GI Bill. But if the individual attends education outside of college the buy up benefits will apply with the MGIB.
He said those service members who have paid the initial $1,200 to enter the MGIB program will receive the money back on the last stipend payment of the 36 month GI Bill benefits. If the service member had used any of the MGIB the money paid back will be proportionate and not the full $1,200.
However, Clark also said the individual would have to specifically ask to use the MGIB at that point.
“For individuals with little service Post-9/11 the old GI Bill may be more beneficial to them,” Clark said.
The new program covers the tuition and fees for the individual, but not to exceed the maximum in-state tuition for a public institute for higher learning. The program also pays the school directly, where as the MGIB paid the individual.
One of the most noticeable changes to the educational program is how service members will now receive a basic allowance for housing. The BAH will be the equivalent of an E-5 with dependants and is based on the school’s zip code.
“The basic allowance for housing is easily the biggest part, it’s huge,” said Alex Ellis, 24, who served in the Marine Corps from 2002-2007 and is currently paying for school with the old GI Bill. “Having that extra money to live off campus and away from the 18-year-olds is nice.”
Ellis said the changes to the current program are long overdue.
When the GI Bill started in WWII, the program provided service members with the opportunity to go to school full-time with not necessarily having to work while doing it.
In addition to BAH, service members will also receive a $1,000 stipend for books.
“The $1,000 for books is huge,” Ellis said. “It’s absurd how expensive text books are, last semester I spent between $450 and $500 dollars on books out of my pocket.”
Originally, members of the Department of Defense were concerned about the changes to the GI Bill.
“While helping recruiting this could bring down the retention of service members,” Clark said. “So a transferability option was inserted into the bill which allows service members to transfer benefits to their dependents.”
The entire benefit package is transferable to a dependent.
In order to transfer benefits, service members must be eligible for the new GI Bill and be in the military on Aug. 1, with at least six years of active or reserve service and enlist for another four years.
“The main thing for Marines to know is that this is a wonderful program,” Clark said. “Whether you’re using it during or after active duty or sharing it with the ones you love.”
For questions regarding the new educational benefits, visit www.gibill.va.gov.
Active Duty Completed after Sept. 10, 2001 Percentage of Maximum Amount Payable
At least 36 months 100 percentAt least 30 continuous days on active duty 100 percent
and discharged due to service-connected disability
30 months to 36 months 90 percent24 months to 30 months 80 percent18 months to 24 months 70 percent12 months to 18 months 60 percent6 months to 12 months 50 percent50 percent 40 percent