A new bi-partisan bill has passed the House and Senate with flying colors. And they just so happen to be red, white and blue.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is changing. It will soon be known as the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017 — or the “Forever GI Bill.” Most notably, it eliminates the 15-year time limit on the use of education benefits for new recruits. The bill has been deemed a sweeping success: There were only nine days from the time it was introduced in the House to when it passed. And the vote? Not a single one in opposition at 405-0. There was a brief floor debate – where there wasn’t any actual debate since everyone was in favor. From there it went to the Senate and was unanimously approved prior to summer recess.
In addition to bipartisan support, the Forever GI Bill has strong support of key Veterans associations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Student Veterans of America and the American Legion.
About the Forever GI Bill for New Recruits
Like the current Post-9/11 GI Bill, it will benefit veterans seeking higher education after three years of active duty service. However, only veterans enlisting after January 2018 will be eligible for the Forever GI Bill. The use-it-or-lose-it limits for those enlisted prior to this date will still be in place.
In all, there are 28 changes to the original bill. In addition to the lifetime education benefit, here are other notable changes.
Recipients of the Purple Heart will no longer need three years of active-duty. This could impact hundreds of troops each year.
National Guard members, reservists, survivors, and dependents will enjoy looser GI Bill eligibility requirements.
Under the Fry Scholarship, survivors of those lost in active duty will be able to use the GI Bill benefit to qualify for the Yellow Ribbon program. This helps cover the tuition costs and more of private institutions.
GI Bill recipients enrolling in STEM-based degree programs will receive additional funds. Should technology training not be offered by a school, a new “High Technology Pilot Program” would cover external program costs.
The GI Bill expansion is expected to increase associated costs by $3 billion within a decade.
The For-Profit School Impact
Many veterans were impacted by recent for-profit school closures. And unlike those who utilized Pell Grants, GI Bill students lost the benefits used toward their degree when the doors closed. The expanded bill takes this into account, retroactively restoring benefits for any credits that did not transfer to another postsecondary school.
Forever GI Bill Concerns
There are still some big unknowns right now: Does the agency have the technology and resources to support the upgrades? What will the roll-out look like? For one thing, it will take a major overhaul to the Department of Veterans Affairs IT systems. There are 28 changes to the bill and each will require the proper technology to effectively administer them. VA officials have expressed concerns.
Supporting Veterans Throughout a Lifetime
The Forever GI Bill is now headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law. It’s expected to be finalized between late summer and early fall, and is sure to continue to draw widespread support. Increasing accessibility and student outcomes for U.S. veterans are just two of the many benefits. In turn, it will be a bright spot for higher education in the U.S.