Getting the Most Out of Your GI Bill Benefits
The GI Bill has undergone many expansions since its inception in 1944. With the new Colmery Act, it’s time to revisit the GI Bill benefits.
In August 2017, President Donald Trump signed Congress’s Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 into law. Commonly known as the ‘Forever GI Bill,’ the Colmery Act signaled a major and much-deserved expansion of GI Bill benefits. The president signed the bill into law after it received unanimous support in both chambers of Congress.
The upshot of the legislation is that it allows our military veterans to use the education assistance of the GI Bill in less restrictive ways. In short, the Colmery Act lets veterans use these benefits in whatever way best suits their individual situation. But while the Colmery Act marks a new epoch in the application of the GI Bill, it is just the latest stage of its evolution. The following sections will provide an overview of The GI Bill’s current benefits.
GI Bill Benefits Basics
Originally established in 1944, the GI Bill was intended to help World War II vets transition back into the civilian society and workforce. It included help with the tuition and living expenses involved in these vets attending high school, universities, and vocational programs.
Many veterans began successful careers with the help of GI Bill benefits. Additionally, the original GI Bill provided vets with affordable mortgages and low-interest business loans.
The GI Bill was deemed an almost immediate success. It not only helped individual veterans receive much-needed post-service training, it also contributed to an overall expansion of the American economy. By the mid-fifties, almost 8 million military vets had taken advantage of the bill’s education and training benefits.
The GI Bill has been altered a number of times since its inception, most importantly, these changes involved expansion of veterans’ benefits. Until the passing of the Colmery Act of 2017, the most sweeping changes to the GI Bill were made with the Post-9/11 GI Bill of 2008.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill became law on June 30, 2008. It expanded the education and training benefits of the previous GI Bill substantially. The benefits of this ‘New GI Bill’ can be summarized as follows:
- It allowed for up to four years of tuition benefits, with the total amount depending on how long a vet served on active duty after September 11, 2001
- Its ‘Yellow Ribbon’ provision granted tuition at more expensive private schools, with the government sharing the expense with participating institutions
- It allowed for a living stipend while the vet was enrolled in a learning institution
- Perhaps most importantly, it increased the time window during which vets could access education and training benefits to 15 years after their time of service
A Brief Look at the Colmery Act
It is imperative that we help keep vets and their families informed about the benefits they’ve accrued through the GI Bill. A brief look at the recent Colmery Act is a convenient way to help do so. Here are the most significant changes the Colmery Act will entail:
- There will no longer be a time limit for accessing GI Bill benefits. This applies to any vet who left military service after January 1, 2013.
- Purple Heart recipients will now receive 100% of the benefits offered under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This applies regardless of their length of active service.
- More vets are now eligible for the Yellow Ribbon program.
- The Colmery Act allows for more time and money for STEM degrees.
- Veterans who were hurt by school shutdowns will get their benefits back.
GI Bill Resources
Fortunately, there are many resources to help military vets understand the complexities of the GI Bill. Here is a brief sampling of these resources:
- The VA’s GI Bill Home Page
- Applying for GI Bill Benefits
- Deciding on a School
- GI Bill Comparison Tool
- Post-9/11 GI Bill Calculator
The GI Bill has provided much-deserved assistance for our military veterans and their families since its establishment in 1944. It has helped millions of vets pay for undergraduate degrees, graduate schools, and job training programs. In discussing the evolution of the GI Bill, it is difficult to avoid using terms like ‘benefits,’ ‘help,’ and ‘assistance,’ but in a grand sense, these terms are misapplied.
There is simply no question that our military vets have earned everything the GI Bill helps them access. It’s with ample justification that the GI Bill has been the law of the land for over 70 years.
Our military veterans deserve to receive the educational and job training opportunities they might have missed while rendering service to their country, therefore we hope as many veterans as possible take advantage of the benefits the GI Bill provides. And so do their families. Hopefully, the above information has provided helpful information and simplified the process of accessing these well-deserved opportunities.