American servicemen and women finally have something to look forward to as legislators get something done these dog-days of August in The Swamp.
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017, also known as the “Forever GI Bill,” sailed through Congress and to President Trump’s desk. The new measure, which passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and a 405-0 vote in the House, will make significant changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the college incentive for veterans and active duty troops. Liberty Nation has the high points.
The current law covers all tuition and fees for public institutions and up to $22,805.34 per academic year at private schools. It also provides a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) equivalent to an E-5 pay grade with dependents based on the school’s location and a stipend for books and school supplies. A percentage is available once a service member has served ninety days active duty, and full benefits are available after three years.
The “Forever” part stems from a change in the time limit. Current beneficiaries have fifteen years after their discharge date to use the incentive or lose it entirely. The current law eliminates that for anyone eligible after January 1, 2018. Those who already qualify will remain under the old deadline.
The “Forever GI Bill” also broadens eligibility for Reservists and National Guardsmen placed on active duty, as well as anyone who received a Purple Heart. Currently, service members must be in the Armed Forces for at least three years to receive full benefits and at least ninety days to receive any at all. Purple Heart recipients, regardless of time in service, would be eligible for the full incentive.
The percentages earned between ninety days and three years have also grown. Those having served at least ninety days but less than six months would see their rates increase from 40% to 50%, and those serving at least six months but less than one year would see a raise from 50% to 60%.
This update will also provide more money to those in STEM programs and create a new “High Technology Pilot Program” which would cover the cost of technology training not offered by a school. Additionally, grant recipients would receive a reimbursement should their college close or loses accreditation and cause the loss of credit for courses already completed.
There are downsides, however, primarily in BAH payments. The military budget in 2015 introduced a cut. Each year from 2015 to 2019, housing funds have been or will be reduced by 1%, and is only expected to cover 95% of costs by the year 2020. Originally, the Post 9/11 GI Bill was exempt from this change. Now the monthly allowance is set to decrease by $100 starting January 1, 2018.
The GI Bill is an outstanding resource for veterans and their dependents and has been one of the pillars of success for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines transitioning out of their respective services and into the civilian world. It is refreshing to see the partisan dogfight that is the norm in the House and Senate calm for a brief moment to provide this updated, and mostly expanded, benefit to our men and women in uniform and their families.
This legislation is an outstanding feather for the Trump administration’s hat. So what’s next? What do you think about the expansions? Do you believe that this is a sign of more Congressional unity to come? Tell us our the comments section.