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Supreme Court Decides GI Bill Case In Favor of Veterans

The United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a veteran who sued the Department of Veterans Affairs over his GI Bill benefits.

James Rusdill is a veteran who joined the Army as an enlisted soldier, served three different times, and signed up for both the Montgomery GI Bill as an enlisted member and the Post 9/11 GI Bill as an Army officer.

VA GI Bill guidelines say you cannot use both programs at once, and typically, military members are required to choose one program or the other. Rusdilll argued he is entitled to use both benefits up to the 48-month cap.

The Supreme Court agreed with Rusdill in a 7-2 decision that saw two Justices dissent.

Related: GI Bill Benefits Guide

Majority Opinion of the Supreme Court on the Rusdill Case

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion in the Rusdill GI Bill case written by Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson holds that Rudisill can use the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post 9/11 GI Bill “in any order” up to the federal 48-month cap on the benefit.

Chicago’s WGN News quoted the Justice on the ruling. “The bottom line is this: Veterans who separately accrue benefits under both the Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bills are entitled to both benefits.”

Important GI Bill Nuances

Justice Brown is also on the record noting, “Rudisill earned two separate entitlements to educational benefits, one per the Montgomery GI Bill and the other per the Post-9/11 GI Bill, by serving in the military for nearly eight years over three separate periods,” which is not viewed the same way as an officer or enlisted member who serves multiple “hitches” with no break in military service.

The WGN News report also notes dissent from Justice Clarence Thomas, who seemed to take issue with the entire case, along with fellow Justice Samuel Alito.

According to WGN, “In a dissenting opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas accused the majority of going around Congress.”

According to the report, Thomas wrote,“In my view, the Court ignores the statutory mechanism that Congress created in favor of an interpretation that reaches a desired outcome.”

However, certain lawmakers have gone on the record opposing such viewpoints.

What Elected Officials Say

The official site for Virginia Senator Tim Kaine includes a press release about the Supreme Court decision (unlike the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has apparently issued no press release or statement about the ruling at press time) quoting many elected officials who support the 7-2 decision.

One of those is Senator Mark Warner from Virginia.

“James Rudisill bravely served his country with courage and selflessness, yet was denied the benefits he earned through his multiple periods of military service,” said Warner.

He adds, “The purpose of the Post-9/11 GI Bill was to ensure that the men and women of our armed services received appropriate earned benefits for their service to our country.”

Warner says trying to deny or limit these benefits is “counter to the spirit of the law, meant to honor and support the millions of veterans who have sacrificed so much for our nation both before and following 9/11.”

The Supreme Court case has the potential to affect nearly two million veterans but some sources dispute that notion, claiming the Rusdill case is more unique and that other veterans don’t bring Rusdill’s circumstances to the table, so to speak, where GI BIll entitlements are concerned.

Related: GI Bill Benefits Guide

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief 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.