Millionth Post-9/11 GI Bill Recipient Announced
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2013 The millionth recipient of the Post-9/11 GI Bill was announced today by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Steven Ferraro, an Army veteran from Staten Island, N.Y., is studying communications at Middlesex County College in Edison, N.J.
“I’ve always wanted to go to college and further my career,” Ferraro said. “... The [Post-9/11] GI Bill made it a lot easier.”
Middlesex is a community college with 12,898 students, more than 200 of whom are veterans or service members.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is available to veterans who served for a total of at least 90 days after Sept. 10, 2001, and to those who were discharged for a service-connected disability after at least 30 days of continuous service.
"As we commemorate one million beneficiaries served, we're also getting ready to help the next million use this benefit to get a quality education and find meaningful employment," said Allison A. Hickey, undersecretary for benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"Providing quality education and helping our veterans find meaningful employment is part of our obligation to those who serve," said Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.
"Veterans bring the same determination and focus to their studies that they use serving our country,” she said.
Ferraro enlisted in 2003 and served until earlier this year, ending his Army career with a stint as a drill sergeant at Fort Sill, Okla., he said. He deployed to Iraq in 2008, where he was stationed in Baghdad on a joint security team.
Ferraro chose to attend Middlesex County College, he said, because his brother, also a veteran, attended the school and said it had a veteran-friendly environment.
Without the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Ferraro said, attending school would have been a financial struggle for his growing family.
Among transitioning veterans, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most popular benefit offered by the VA, Hickey said. About 70 percent of service members attending transition programs say they plan to use the program.
"VA has distributed more than $34 billion in tuition and benefits under the post-9/11 G.I. Bill to more than one million beneficiaries since the program began in August 2009,” she said.
More than 10,000 colleges, universities, trade schools and other educational institutions participate in the program, Hickey said.
"That makes the Post-9/11 GI Bill the most extensive educational assistance program since the original GI Bill was signed into law in 1944,” she added.
The program is being used for a wide variety of certifications, Hickey said. Aside from the traditional undergraduate and graduate degree programs, Post-9/11 GI Bill users are attending culinary schools, commercial driving courses and heating, ventilation and air conditioning certification courses.
Forty percent of filed claims are completed in less than five days, she said.
“We have so many veterans returning ... and they’re going to be looking for jobs. This is the perfect way to transition,” Hickey said.
"Going back to school after serving in the military is a very big challenge, especially with trying to balance school life with a family," Ferraro said.
"I would recommend to all veterans and service members to use their VA benefits to help you make the most out of your next career," he said.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @RouloAFPS)