Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008

Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 is Title V of the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008, USBill|110|HR|2642 , an Act of Congress which became law on June 30, 2008. [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/06/20080630.html HR 2642 signed into law.] The act amended Part III of Title 38, United States Code, to expand the educational benefits for military veterans who have served since September 11, 2001. At various times the new education benefits have been referred to as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the 21st Century G.I. Bill of Rights, or the Webb G.I. Bill, with many current references calling it simply the new G.I. Bill.

The law is an effort to pay for veterans' college expenses to a similar extent that the original G.I. Bill did after World War II. The main provisions of the act include funding 100% of a public four-year undergraduate education to a veteran who has served three years on active duty since September 11, 2001. The act also provides the ability for the veteran to transfer benefits to a spouse or children after serving (or agreeing to serve) ten years. While recipients of Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits will see an immediate increase in benefits by $220 per month, the full Post-9/11 benefits will not take effect until August 2009.

The act was originally proposed by Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who introduced the original form of the bill in January 2007 as his first legislative proposal. Webb hoped that these benefits would help current veterans as much as the original G.I. Bill helped the Greatest Generation in shaping America.

Overview

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 improves educational benefits for certain individuals who began serving on active duty in the Armed Forces on or after September 11, 2001.

The main benefits include:
*Four academic years of educational benefits for an approved program up to the cost of the most expensive in-state undergraduate public tuition in the veteran's state of residence, currently ranging from approximately $3,500 in Wyoming to over $13,000 in Michigan.
*One for one matching of additional tuition at more expensive private schools, up to 50% of additional cost.
*A monthly living stipend based on housing costs of a servicemember of pay grade E-5 with dependents in the area of the learning institution. This rate varies greatly nationwide; the current rate for New York City is $2,444, while the same rate for El Paso, TX is $876. Veterans attending schools online or through correspondence will not receive this benefit.
*A benefit eligibility period of 15 years after leaving active duty (compared to 10 years in the current Montgomery G.I. Bill).
*Elimination of the $1,200 program enrollment fee paid by the veteran at the beginning of military service currently required by the Montgomery G.I. Bill.
*A $1,000 dollar annual book/supplies stipend.
*Up to $2,000 towards one licensing or certification test, not charged against the 36 month entitlement.

The eligibility requirements include:

*Requiring individuals to complete the requirements of a secondary school diploma (or its equivalent) before applying for such assistance.
*Full benefit eligibility after 36 months of active duty service beginning on or after September 11, 2001.
*Proportional benefit eligibility for service between 3 and 35 months active duty on or after September 11, 2001.

The transferability provisions include:
*The ability to begin transferring benefits to a spouse after six years of active duty service with a commitment to serve an additional four years of active duty service.
*The ability to transfer benefits to a child after ten years of service.

ection breakdown

*Section 3311: "Educational assistance for service in the Armed Forces after September 11, 2001 - Entitlement". This section prescribes multiple categories of veterans entitled to educational benefits under this Act. In general, to qualify, veterans must have served at least two years of active duty, with at least some period of active duty time served beginning on or after September 11, 2001.

*Section 3312: "Educational assistance - Duration". Veterans are entitled to receive educational assistance for a period of time that is linked to their entitlement, as measured by Section 3311 above. In general, veterans may not receive assistance for more than a total of 36 months, which equals 4 academic years.

*Section 3313: "Educational assistance - Payment and amount". In general, veterans may receive monetary assistance to pursue an approved program of education as follows: (i) payments covering the established charges of the program, (ii) a housing stipend based on a servicemember of pay grade E-5 with dependants in the area of the educational institution (iii) an annual stipend of $1,000. This Section prescribes the timing of such payments and revised payment guidelines related to less-than-half-time education, apprenticeships, on-the-job-training, correspondence school, and flight training.

*Section 3314: "Tutorial assistance". Veterans may receive additional payment for tutorial assistance, not to exceed $100/month, for a maximum of 12 months, or until a maximum of $1,200 is used.

*Section 3315: "Licensure and certification tests". Veterans may receive payment for one licensing or certification test, not to exceed the lesser of $2,000 or the test fee.

*Section 3317: "Public-private contributions for additional educational assistance". Establishes a system where private colleges and universities can voluntarily participate in the program. The government will pay up to 50% of the cost greater than the most expensive public program.

*Section 3319: "Authority to transfer unused education benefits to family members." Allows transfer of a veteran's unused benefits to 1) a spouse after six years of service with an agreement to serve at least four more years and/or 2) a child after ten years of service.

*Section 3321: "Time limitation for use of and eligibility for entitlement". Veterans have 15 years (as measured under the provisions of this Section) to use their educational entitlement.

*Section 3322: "Bar to duplication of educational assistance benefits". Veterans who receive educational benefits under this Act may not receive concurrent assistance under another similar program; instead, veterans must elect one program over another.

*Section 3324: "Allocation of administration and costs". Besides addressing administrative items, this section also prescribes ways for veterans to choose to elect into this Act's program from the existing Montgomery G.I. Bill program.

Controversy

Although the bill is widely considered an important piece of legislature, some flaws in the new GI Bill have been noted. Specifically, the fact that servicemembers who participated in the $600 "buy-up" program will no longer be compensated. The buy-up program allowed servicemembers who elected to pay an additional 600 dollars to receive an increased GI Bill benefit upon use, however this has been ignored by the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The Department of Veterans Affairs has stated that servicemembers will not collect the additional payment and also will not be reimbursed their $600 contribution. Although it was stipulated in the "buy-up" application that no refunds will be given, the application gave no directions for future GI Bill amendments.

Legislative history

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and former Secretary of the Navy, originally introduced the Senate bill in 2007 as USBill|110|S|22. A House companion bill was introduced by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA).

After earlier passing the House and Senate in different forms in May 2008 mainly with support from Democrats and a few Republicans, a bipartisan deal was brokered and the bill passed as an amendment to H.R. 2642, commonly referred to as the war funding bill.

On June 19, 2008 the veteran education assistance benefits, along with 13-week unemployment benefit extension, passed as an amendment with a vote of 416-12. [cite news
last = Hulse
first = Carl
coauthors =
title = House Approves Veterans’ Education Aid in a Deal on War Spending
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = New York Times
date = 2008-06-20
url = http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/20/washington/20spend.html
accessdate = 2008-06-28
] On June 26th, the Senate voted 92-6 in favor of the final version of the bill. [cite news
last = Eisman
first = Dale
coauthors =
title = Sen. Webb's new GI Bill gets overwhelming OK in Senate
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = The Virginian-Pilot
date = 2008-06-27
url = http://hamptonroads.com/node/470399
accessdate = 2008-06-28
] President George W. Bush signed USBill|110|HR|2642 into law on June 30, 2008. [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/06/20080630.html HR 2642 signed into law.]

Bill supporters

Prior to passage, the bill received support from many Nationwide Organizations such as AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), and the Student Veterans of America (SVA).

Bill opponents

Some Department of Defense officials, John McCain and President Bush had argued that the measures would hurt servicemember retention in a time when retention is critical for the military. A Government Accountability Office study that had been cited by opponents states that retention will drop by 16%, while proponents counter that the same study predicts recruitment will be up by 16% due to the new incentives this bill would create. Senator Webb also pointed out that currently, "recent studies show that 70% of all enlisted members get out at or before their initial enlistment."

While President Bush had initially threatened to veto the bill, in early June 2008 the White House signaled he might be willing to sign it along with the war funding bill. He wanted to see transferability between spouses and dependents added onto the new G.I. Bill, making it more valuable to career military personal that would like to pay for their spouse or child's education. [http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-06-04-gi-bill_N.htm] On June 19, 2008 this provision was added to the war funding bill and President Bush indicated he would sign such a bill.

Presidential candidates' positions

Among the bill's initial opponents was Republican presidential hopeful, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who had introduced a competing bill. Sen. McCain's bill would have increased the basic education benefit by the current G.I. Bill by almost $3,000 a year and added another $4,200 a year for service members who stayed in the military for at least 12 years. [http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/2008/06/12/new-gi-bill-could-bring-more-college-benefits.htm] With the added transferability provisions for continued military service, Sen. McCain has said he now supports the bill because it encourages additional service beyond three years, mitigating his earlier concerns. [http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2008/06/mccain-now-supp.html] Sen. McCain, who has not voted in the Senate since April 8th, was campaigning in Ohio on June 26th and was not present for the final senate vote on the bill. The only other senator not voting was Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was recovering after surgery to remove a brain tumor. [http://thinkprogress.org/2008/06/27/mccain-gi-bill-skip/]

Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, who had expressed early support for the Webb version of the veteran education benefits, [http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2008/06/mccain-now-supp.html] voted for the final bill on June 26th. [http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=110&session=2&vote=00162]

2008 U.S. Presidential campaign issue

In May 2008 the issue became a campaign issue with both candidates attacking the others' position. [http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/05/22/obama-mccain-spar-over-gi-bills-education-incentives/]

During Senate debate on the bill, Senator Obama made the following comment:

Senator McCain responded in a written statement:

cquote|I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did.

It would be easier politically for me to have joined Senator Webb in offering his legislation. More importantly, I feel just as he does, that we owe veterans the respect and generosity of a great nation because no matter how generously we show our gratitude it will never compensate them fully for all the sacrifices they have borne on our behalf. Perhaps, if Senator Obama would take the time and trouble to understand this issue he would learn to debate an honest disagreement respectfully. But, as he always does, he prefers impugning the motives of his opponent, and exploiting a thoughtful difference of opinion to advance his own ambitions. If that is how he would behave as president, the country would regret his election.

ee also

*G.I. Bill

References

External links

* [http://warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=3e8bb381-6ca4-4737-ada5-820f3592b390 Facts About S-22]
* [http://www.gibill2008.org/ GIBill2008.org]
* [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-2642 Current status of bill from GovTrack.us]
* [http://education.military.com/money-for-school/gi-bill/new-gi-bill-overview Overview of the new GI Bill and FAQ]


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