How the Forever GI Bill Changed Your Military Education Benefits
The GI Bill is one of the most popular military benefits. Created to help service members returning from World War Two, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the “GI Bill of Rights” created a program with features that we know today as the GI Bill.
Multiple Versions of the GI Bill®
At press time, there are multiple versions of the GI Bill, including the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and the changes made through the Forever GI Bill.
There have been many changes to this program over the years including the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The Forever GI Bill refers to changes to the GI Bill program enacted through the Harry Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, commonly known as the “Forever GI Bill.”
Today, most who serve (Active, Guard, Reserve) become eligible for benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill after serving on active duty for 90 days after September 10, 2001.
The clock on your GI Bill eligibility may start counting after basic training and technical training, so don’t expect to use your GI Bill benefits immediately once you start your career in uniform. Much may depend on how much training you must do before you are given your first active duty assignment.
If you haven’t explored your GI Bill benefits in a while, it’s a good idea to stay current on the latest program changes, and there have been many. GI Bill benefits are more accessible than ever, but knowing your entitlement is half the battle when planning and budgeting for your college career is time.
You can get help from an admissions counselor, but you may also contact the Department of Veterans Affairs directly for assistance with your GI Bill benefits.
The Forever GI Bill
The Forever GI Bill is not a brand new version of the program. Instead, this legislation makes key changes to the program meant to enhance and expand certain benefits, consolidate others, and make the program as a whole more user-friendly.
One example, one change to the GI Bill made with this Act allows students to apply for restoration of their GI Bill entitlement if the school they used the benefit at closed while they were attending.
Another change that makes the entire program more user-friendly is the elimination of a 15-year time limit to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill. This applies to those who retired or separated from military service on or after January 1, 2013.
GI Bill Housing Allowance
The VA official site lists the following about who can use the GI Bill with the monthly housing stipend based on DoD BAH rates.
“Those who first use the Post-9/11 GI Bill on or after January 1, 2018, will receive a monthly housing allowance based on the Department of Defense BAH for monthly housing rates.”
Expansion of the Yellow Ribbon Program
The Yellow Ribbon Program was created to help GI Bill users pay for higher education costs at approved private colleges, out-of-state schools, and even schools overseas. The Yellow Ribbon Program covers the “above-and-beyond” costs the GI Bill does not pay for. In general, to qualify for Yellow Ribbon funds you must be able to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill at the 100% benefit level and at least one of the following must apply to you.
- Minimum military service of at least 36 months on active duty with an honorable discharge or;
- You were awarded a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged, or;
- Minimum military service of at least 30 continuous days (all at once, without a break) on or after September 11, 2001, and you were “discharged or released from active duty for a service-connected disability” or;
- You’re a dependent using benefits transferred by a veteran or:
- Eligibility to be a Fry Scholar
The big change to the Yellow Ribbon program? On August 1, 2022, the Yellow Ribbon Program includes expanded eligibility for active duty service members who qualify at the 100% GI Bill benefit level and for spouses using transferred GI Bill benefits of an active-duty service member who qualifies.
Forever GI Bill Changes For Dependents
Under the Forever GI Bill, GI Bill recipients who transferred their GI Bill benefits to a dependent can now designate a new dependent if the original dependent dies. In cases where the veteran dies, the VA official site states, “a dependent who received transferred entitlement can now designate a new eligible dependent” and transfer any remaining GI Bill entitlement to a different eligible dependent.
Another change; Chapter 35 DEA benefits, also known as Survivors’ & Dependents’ Educational Assistance program; a reduced entitlement for DEA users from 45 months to 36 months. This applies to anyone who uses DEA starting in August 2018; those who used DEA before this time qualify for a maximum of 45 months.
Forever GI Bill Changes For Guard And Reserve Members
Some of the important changes in this bill affect those serving in the Guard and Reserve, including authorization for GI Bill benefits under Title 10 U.S.C.
The VA loan program was changed to allow a prorated housing allowance for those who leave active duty. Prior to this, those who left active duty could not draw a housing allowance until the next full month after leaving active duty.
This change is meant for all active duty including Guard and Reserve members who are called to active duty. Under the new guidelines, it is possible to receive housing stipend payments on the day of discharge.
The Forever GI Bill also allows Guard and Reserve members to be credited for any time ordered to active duty to receive medical care. This is effective for all ordered to active service, “to receive authorized medical care, to be medically evaluated for disability, or to complete a Department of Defense health care study on or after September 11, 2001.” All that active duty time now counts toward Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility.
REAP Eligibility is now used as a credit for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. REAP, also known as the Reserve Educational Assistance Program, was closed and there were Guard and Reserve members who lost REAP benefits as a result. If you had REAP eligibility prior to November 25, 2015 and lost it due to the “REAP sunset”, you can choose to have that military service applied toward the Post 9/11 GI Bill instead.
Forever GI Bill Changes to Licensing and Certification Testing Payments
Under the Forever GI Bill, the benefit paid for those taking licensing tests or certification training is prorated to match the actual fee charged for the exam. This was intended to reduce the overall cost of providing these payments.
Forever GI Bill Options for Those Awarded the Purple Heart
Those awarded a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, may be eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits at the 100-percent benefit level for up to 36 months. There is also an extension of the Yellow Ribbon Program (see above) allowing Purple Heart recipients to use Yellow Ribbon funds.
Forever GI Bill Options for Those In STEM Programs
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers an additional 9 months of Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits to those in STEM studies. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
You will need to talk to a counselor at your school to learn whether the STEM option is available at that institution, and what it may require to apply for and receive the additional nine months of benefit. You can also call the Department of Veterans Affairs to get more information on STEM options under the GI Bill. Remember, this benefit is open to those using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you may not have the same option under the Montgomery GI Bill.
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.