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The old and new GI Bill

By Staff | Aug 15, 2020

The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the “G.I. Bill,” was a law that provided a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.’s). Many of us, of my generation and older, are familiar with this bill. Both my father, and my wife’s father, took advantage of these benefits.

The G.I. Bill was largely designed and passed through Congress in 1944 in a bipartisan effort, led by the American Legion, who wanted to reward practically all wartime veterans. Benefits included low cost mortgages, low interest loans to start a business or farm, one year of unemployment compensation, and dedicated payments of tuition and living expenses to attend high school, college, or a vocational school. These benefits were available to all veterans who had been on active duty during the war years for at least 90 days and had not been dishonorably discharged.

The original G. I. Bill expired in 1956, but the term “G. I. Bill” is still used to refer to programs created to assist U. S. military veterans. From a website, I found that by 1956, 7.8 million veterans had used the G.I. Bill educational benefits. Historians and economists judge the G. I. Bill as a major political and economic success.

The Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 further expanded benefits providing veterans with funding for the full cost of any public college in their state. The main provisions of the act include funding 100% of a public four-year undergraduate education to a veteran who has served three years on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. The act also provides the ability for the veteran to transfer benefits to a spouse or children after serving (or agreeing to serve) ten years. It also provides for a monthly stipend based on housing costs for a service member of pay-grade E-5 or higher, with dependents, based on the zip-code of the housing institution. The benefit eligibility was good for a period of 15 years after leaving active duty.

In December 2010, Congress passed the Post 9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvement Act of 2010. This new law expands eligibility for members of the National Guard.

The G.I. Bill was also modified through the passage of the Forever G.I. Bill in 2017. This law eliminated the 15-year limitation on the use of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill benefits. Some of the changes were positive; however, some changes reduced coverage and/or eligibility.

There is one additional benefit I would like to cover in this column. It is the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Act. It is often referred to as the “Back-to-Work Program”, or the “Vetsuccess Program.” This is a special training program for service-connected disabled veterans. It assists them to overcome employment handicaps, provides counseling, testing and monitoring, provides for medical care/post completion assistance, and pays for employment services and school costs. It also provides a monthly subsistence allowance.

This Vocational Rehabilitation Program is a 48-month entitlement, but the veteran has 12 years for completion, from date of separation or date of award, whichever is later. The veteran must be evaluated to determine whether the program is feasible based on various factors. Counseling and other services remain following course completion. To qualify, the veteran must be rated 20% or more service-connected disabled, with an employment handicap, or rated 10% or more with a serious employment handicap.

As always, please visit with me about these veterans’ educational or vocational benefits, as well as any other benefits you may have earned.

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