(Editor’s note: This piece was originally posted at DOD’s Warrior Care blog.)
In case you hadn’t heard, in the last days of the Session, both the House and the Senate passed a bill, S. 3447, that significantly enhanced and changed the Post 9/11 GI Bill and other educational benefits. This effort was led by a coalition of veteran services organizations, and we are proud to have seen it through.
This Bill made a lot of important changes to these programs specifically for wounded warriors and disabled veterans, and I wanted to take a moment to tell you about them and others so you can start to plan for your educational goals.
—Vocational Rehabilitation Program Stipend. Most significantly, a disabled veteran receiving the housing stipend under the Vocational Rehabilitation Program (Chapter 31), which is usually significantly less than the Post 9/11 GI Bill, can now opt to receive the more generous amount under the Post 9/11 GI Bill which is the BAH rate of E-5 with dependents for their local zip code. This will be hundreds of dollars more per month for tens of thousands of eligible beneficiaries.
—Vocational School Training and Apprenticeships Now Covered. The Post 9/11 GI Bill can now be used at many more vocational schools, apprenticeships, and on-the-job-training programs, which means that you can use it to enter into almost any field that you want.
—Housing Allowance for Online Learners. A housing allowance is now available for exclusively online learners, so even while you are recuperating and cannot attend class in person on a campus, you can start your education online and receive the housing support allowance you need.
—Book Allowance for Active Duty. If you are still on active duty, and want to start your education, you can now receive the $1,000/year book stipend that was previously not available for active duty personnel.
—Prep Courses and Test Fees Now Covered. If you have not yet applied for schools, and want to bring your SAT/ACT scores up, the Post 9/11 GI Bill can now be used to fund prep courses and the test fees themselves so you can be more competitive when you apply.
—Time for Eligibility Tolled During Recovery and for Caretakers. The Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30), which has a 10-year expiration date, has been extended for wounded, injured, and ill veterans and their caretakers for the length of their recovery time, which means that time spent in the hospital does not burn benefit time. This same extension also applies to children who are caretakers and have had Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits transferred to them, or recipients of Chapter 35 Survivor’s Benefits. Normally, they must use their benefits before their 26th birthday, but this can be extended for those providing care to wounded, injured, and ill veterans.
You can read a summary of the major changes here. There are a myriad of GI Bill benefit programs available to wounded and disabled veterans, and if you need help selecting the one that is right for you, talk to an educational adviser at your base or local school, or one of the veteran service organizations that make it our business to help you get the benefits you deserve. Feel free to visit Student Veterans of America.
Brian Hawthorne is an Army Veteran who served two tours in Iraq. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of Student Veterans of America, and is receiving his Master’s Degree from the George Washington University.