Provisions of the Forever GI Bill are scheduled to go into effect Aug. 1, as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continues to work on systems and procedures that will help student veterans and campuses access the new benefits for the fall semester.
Known formally as the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, the measure—passed in August 2017—expands the Post-9/11 GI Bill primarily by redefining eligibility and removing the 15-year cap for benefits that had forced veterans to “use it or lose it.”
When fully implemented, the bill will:
- Restore educational benefits for student veterans forced to discontinue due to the temporary or permanent closure of a school or if they are unable to transfer those credits to a new institution. This protection was added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges.
- Expand full GI Bill benefits to all Purple Heart recipients. Currently, a veteran must be medically retired from the military or have 36 months of active-duty service to qualify. Approximately 1,500 Purple Heart recipients aren’t currently eligible for full education benefits.
- Grant a potential fifth year of Post-9/11 Bill eligibility to student veterans pursuing science, technology, engineering, or mathematics degrees.
- Remove the time limit on accessing education benefits for veterans who become eligible after Jan. 1, 2018. Previously, vets receiving Post-9/11 benefits had a 15-year time limit on accessing education benefits.
- Expand the Yellow Ribbon program to include surviving spouses and children of service members killed in the line of duty.
- Allow veterans to attend schools or enroll in programs that cost more than the GI Bill tuition cap.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing July 18 to look at whether the VA is prepared to implement the changes.
Robert M. Worley II USAF (Ret.), director of education service at the VA, told committee members that while progress has been made, there are a few remaining areas where interim measures will be required while the agency works to fully implement the law.
One such area is the changes made to how the VA calculates the monthly housing stipend for student veterans. These provisions have been of particular concern to institutions and veterans because of their potential to impact whether veterans receive their housing benefits on time. Currently, the process for calculating housing stipends is based on the location of the institution’s main campus. The Forever GI Bill changes that calculation to the location of the campus where a student takes the most classes.
The VA sent a letter last week to the campus officials who certify student veteran enrollment, letting them know the new system expected to be ready on July 16 has been delayed until mid-August. The letter gives additional details on how campuses should proceed in the interim.