Brace yourselves. Changes are coming to the GI Bill as we know it.
President Donald Trump signed the Forever GI Bill into law in August 2017. With this new bill, changes are in the works, including transferring benefits, housing allowances and the deadline to access GI Bill funds.
What the New GI Bill Means for Military Families
This is arguably the most important change to the bill since it extends the time that beneficiaries have to complete their education.
It allows for unexpected life events or changes along the way.
This is limited to veterans, troops and designated dependents who became eligible on or after January 1, 2013.
Under the current GI Bill, non-active duty students rate the Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) for an E-5 with dependents based on the location of their school. Additionally, students receive a portion of the total allowance based on how many credits they are taking. In order to qualify, students must be enrolled at greater than half-time.
Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the housing allowance will be calculated using the reduced BAH schedule.
Previously, the GI Bill has been exempted from the yearly 1% BAH reduction started in 2015 and ending in 2020. Students using the GI Bill before January 1, 2018, will continue to receive their current housing allowance rates.
Additionally, the location used to calculate housing allowances will be tied to the location where students physically attend classes. This could impact students who attend a satellite campus in a location with a lower BAH rate. This change goes into effect on Aug. 1, 2018. Students enrolled before this date will follow the current rules.
Housing for members of the reserve will be prorated by quarter, semester or term starting on Aug. 1, 2018.
Currently, eligibility for GI Bill benefits is calculated based on time in service or discharge due to service-related injury. Under the Forever GI Bill, all Purple Heart recipients will be rated at the 100% funding level or with 100% of their tuition and fees of in-state tuition paid for.
Additionally, certain members of the Reserve will be eligible for benefits under certain conditions. If Reserve troops deployed to support a combatant command or within their state in response to a natural disaster, they may now be able to access GI Bill benefits. This includes Reservists who deployed in these capacities after 2009.
Reservists who used the Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP) will now be able to access the GI Bill under certain circumstances. Students who qualified before Nov. 25, 2015, but whose benefits have expired may choose to have that time in service credited toward the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This change applies to coursework started after Aug. 1, 2018.
Previously, students could be considered eligible for 40% of total GI Bill benefits (40% of in-state public college tuition and fees paid for) based on time in service. This category has now been eliminated.
Instead, the 60% level has been expanded to include more veterans. The minimum benefits level is now set at 50%, meaning that up to 50% of tuition and fees at an in-state public college would be paid by the VA.
Overall, more veterans and designated beneficiaries will be able to access higher education or career training with increased funding possible.
Veterans can designate a dependent to receive GI Bill benefits. In the past, if that person passed away, the benefits disappeared.
Now, veterans are able to select another eligible dependent should their original designee die. Dependents who have received benefits are also able to pass on the GI Bill to another designee. This is only able to happen after the veteran who earned the benefits has passed away.
This now allows GI Bill benefits to continue on beyond the veteran or original designee in the event of death. This could prevent these valuable benefits from going unused.
If your college closes before you earn a degree, the GI Bill now offers protections. Time spent at a college that has closed can now be partially or fully reinstated.
Students can also potentially earn GI Bill time back for courses that were not approved or for courses in which no credit was earned.
This is retroactive to programs, courses and colleges that were discontinued after Aug. 1, 2015. The change takes effect 90 days after the bill was signed.
Programs and Licenses
Students may begin using their benefits at accredited area career and technical schools that provide post-secondary education and/or vocational skills. This allows students to pursue a career path outside of traditional college level education.
Veterans at the 100% benefits level, with at least 60 credit hours of work and who will be reaching the end of their benefits before they complete an eligible degree in science, math, engineering, medicine or certain teacher training programs can apply for an extension.
This is a one-time 9-month benefit bonus. It cannot be transferred or be used in conjunction with the Yellow Ribbon Program. There is a $30,000 cap. This change begins on Aug. 1, 2019.
Entitlement charges for professional licensing and certification exams will be prorated based on the actual amount charged for the test.
Spouses and dependents who qualify for the Fry Scholarship may now also access the Yellow Ribbon Scholarship as well. This opens up new funding possibilities to supplement the GI Bill at private colleges or out-of-state schools. Purple Heart recipients will also be qualified for Yellow Ribbon Scholarships. These changes take effect on Aug. 1, 2018.
Beginning on Aug. 1, 2022, active duty troops using the GI Bill will be able to access the Yellow Ribbon Program. This will expand their ability to complete coursework at a larger number of institutes of higher learning while still serving their country.
Students who were eligible under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program now have 36 months of benefits instead of 45 months. This change applies to students who enroll after Aug. 1, 2018.
This same change increases the amount payable per month to $1,224 for full-time students, $967 for students enrolled at three-quarter time and $710 for half time enrollment. This increase is effective Oct. 1, 2018.