House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., introduced the idea of changing the GI Bill to have service members buy into the benefit. This quickly became a debated topic with strong opinions on both sides.
Later, a meeting was scheduled to hear points from multiple interested parties, but that was quickly called off as well. Finally, last month 35 veterans groups were able to peacefully discuss changes to the GI Bill.
At the conclusion of that meeting, the groups were able to agree on 4 key changes to the GI Bill but could not agree on how to fund them.
Currently, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is a free benefit to service members that meet certain criteria. There is no fee to participate in the program. The GI Bill is estimated to cost the government about $100 billion over the next 10 years.
The idea introduced is that new service members would have to buy into the GI Bill benefit if they wanted to have access to it. This fee would only apply to service members that enter the military after a set point, not current or former service members.
The GI Bill tax is proposed to be $100 a month for the first 2 years of service. While that might not sound like a lot of money to those in Washington, it is substantial to lower enlisted men and women. Once the $2,400 has been paid over that period of time, service members would be eligible to use the GI Bill. The government estimates that this buy-in fee would bring in $3.1 billion over 10 years.
The money taken in from this GI Bill tax would be used to finance adding other groups of service members and their families that do not, under the current GI Bill, qualify for the program. Adding these groups to the GI Bill benefit is what all parties can agree on, but funding it through this tax is not.
As it stands, the groups agreed on 4 changes to the GI Bill.
The first is permitting National Guard and Reservists who deployed under Title 10, Section 12304b and should of qualified for benefits, but didn’t, to be eligible for the GI Bill. Roughly 4,700 service members fall under this category.
The second thing they agreed on is to broaden the eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program to include surviving spouses as well as children of service members that were killed while serving their county. The Yellow Ribbon Program provides extra money to put toward education, which allows recipients to attend schools or take classes that would otherwise cost more than the GI Bill would cover.
The third thing all parties could agree on was to give full GI Bill benefits to every Purple Heart recipient. Sadly, every Purple Heart recipient does not currently qualify for these benefits. As it stands, the service member must be medically retired from the military if they don’t have 36 months of active duty. There are about 1,500 Purple Heart recipients who do not meet these qualifications.
Finally, those at the meeting agreed that there should be assistance for students when a school they are attending closes. Under the current GI Bill, if a school closes its doors before you graduate, you simply lose the money that the GI Bill benefit paid to the school. You don’t get to start over at a new school with new money.
Thousands of veterans were hit hard when ITT Tech closed last year. They weren’t able to recoup any of the money or even transfer credits.
These 4 changes to the GI Bill are great improvements. The only problem is how to fund them. The VFW strongly disagrees with charging service members for the GI Bill but other groups, particularly the Student Veterans of America, are for it.