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Bill provides tuition help for veterans

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By Congressman Virgil Goode

In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Post-9/11Veterans Education Assistance Act, a bi-partisan expansion of the G.I. Bill, which was signed into law on June 30. Sixty four years have passed since the enactment of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the landmark legislation commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. Last Congress marked the 20th anniversary of the Montgomery G.I. Bill, an equally important measure that updated the original G.I. Bill. Now, in 2008, Congress passed legislation that fully invests in the future of our heroes and supports those who have borne the heaviest burdens of war.

I cosponsored several similar bills intended to expand the G.I. program and I was pleased to vote for this measure addressing the educational needs of those who served and sacrificed for our country so honorably. The bill was carefully crafted to provide deserved benefits to encourage recruitment of new service members, but also included provisions that promote retention of our skilled military personnel.

Effective August 1, 2009, the bill provides up to 36 months in lump-sum tuition payments equal to the highest in-state tuition rate in each of the 50 states, a monthly housing stipend, and a $1,000 annual stipend for books. Those individuals who serve at least 36 months commencing on or after September 11, 2001, or who were discharged for a service-connected disability after 30 continuous days of service, would be eligible for the full entitlement. These individuals would also be eligible for a “Yellow Ribbon G. I. Education Enhancement Program,” if the tuition payments failed to cover the full cost of their chosen school. Under certain circumstances, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the participating institution would split the remaining cost. A proportionally smaller entitlement would be extended to those on active duty for less time, so long as the individual serves an aggregate of 90 days after September 11, 2001.

A key, new feature of this expansion of the G. I. Bill provides that those who stay in the military have the opportunity to transfer their education benefits to their spouses and their children. Requirements for transferability are: (1) six years of service, coupled with an additional service agreement of at least four years, grants up to 36 months of transferability to a service member; (2) spouses would be eligible to receive the transferred benefits after the service member has reached six years of service; (3) to transfer the benefits to children, the service member would need to serve ten years before transferring. In addition, the bill included language to create similar transferability programs in the three existing GI educational benefit programs: the Montgomery GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill-Select Reserve, and the Reserve Educational Assistance Program.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has published a helpful brochure that details all the changes to the GI benefit programs if you would like more information. To access the brochure, visit their website (www.gibill.va.gov).

Please keep in touch with me on issues that are important to you. You may write Congressman Virgil Goode, 70 East Court Street, Room 215, Rocky Mount, VA 24151; or fax to 1-540-484-1459; or call toll-free to the Danville office, 1-800-535-4008.