Some recent changes will affect how one of the military’s most valuable benefits can be used — and who qualifies for them.
In January of 2021, Congress passed Public Law No: 116-315, putting into law a multitude of updates to veterans benefits, including 32 provisions impacting the GI Bill. Among the most impactful of the changes, veterans who have used their Veteran Readiness and Employment benefits will no longer lose their GI Bill benefits as a result. This will have widespread implications for veterans who used VRE benefits for a service-connected disability but are still seeking education assistance from the GI Bill.
Another big change helps those who were negatively impacted by COVID-19. If a GI Bill beneficiary was attending an educational institution that was closed between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 21, 2021, they’re eligible to receive up to four weeks of their Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). Additionally, GI Bill benefits will be extended 661 days past the original expiration for veterans who experienced a temporary disruption in education due to the pandemic. There is also coverage for those who were forced to withdraw from their educational program due to illness or taking care of someone who was ill.
For those veterans who have been out of the military for more than three years and want to attend a public university outside of the state they live in, the non-resident tuition rate has always applied. Now, all GI Bill recipients will be charged the in-state tuition rate when attending these universities. Additionally, if an overpayment is made to the school by the VA, veterans will no longer be penalized. For recipients living abroad, the new law has also allowed foreign schools to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, potentially contributing up to 50% of a recipient’s tuition who is receiving the maximum GI Bill benefits.
The VA also has some technical programs that it covers through the GI Bill, including the Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship and Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) programs, both of which saw changes in the new public law. The VET TEC program received an annual funding increase of $30 million, bringing their total annual budget to $45 million. VET TEC also extended eligibility to service members who are within 180 days of separation. The Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship will now allow scholarships for students enrolled in dual secondary degrees — when one of the programs meets the program criteria — and health care professionals completing clinical training to become licensed to practice in a state or locality. The 48-month entitlement limitation on aggregate benefits and the 81-month entitlement limitation have also been eliminated for this scholarship.
These changes make the GI Bill and its many programs more accessible, as well as eliminate predatory practices by schools. GI Bill recipients won’t be penalized for disruptions outside of their control, making this benefit even more valuable to those who earned it.