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Officials Tout Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2010 – With more than 260,000 students attending about 6,000 colleges and universities this fall under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, officials are continuing an active outreach effort to ensure current military members and veterans don’t miss out on the new program’s education benefits.

Participation is up significantly from last year, when 180,000 students used Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to start the fall 2009 semester, Keith Wilson, director of education service for the Veterans Benefits Administration, told American Forces Press Service.

For the first time since the U.S. government offered the original GI Bill benefits after World War II, about 50,000 of the students covered have been family members –- wives, husbands and children of enrollees. This “transferability” feature was a big draw of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Defense Department officials said, and remains an important recruiting and retention incentive. So far, the military services have approved 145,000 servicemember requests to transfer benefits to about 331,000 family members, Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez reported.

Last week, Pentagon personnel chief Clifford Stanley and the service recruiting chiefs called the education benefit a huge factor in helping them achieve recruiting and retention successes in fiscal 2010.

The vast majority of the students currently taking advantage of GI Bill benefits attend public universities. However, Wilson said, continued growth within the Yellow Ribbon program that enables students to attend some of the country’s most prestigious and high-end private schools.

The 3,000 participating colleges and universities agree to waive or offset up to 50 percent of costs above the highest public in-state undergraduate rate, and the Veterans Affairs Department matches the same amount.

As VA officials laud the Post 9/11 GI Bill’s popularity and growth, officials are continuing to tweak the systems that drive it to make them faster, more responsive and more customer-friendly. Last fall, as VA experienced some “hiccups” rolling out the new benefit, it took an average of 48 days to issue payments after receiving enrollment notification from a college of university, Wilson said.

This fall, he said, it took about 17 days.

“We have experienced a fundamental improvement in our ability to pay people timely,” Wilson said. “But we hope to cut it down even more. What we would like to see is a 10-day turnaround on these things, and we are confident we will get there.”

To meet that goal, Wilson is counting on automation to cut the time required to make eligibility decisions and calculate benefits –- now largely a manual process. New systems are being phased in, he said, and the initial systems are now being used to process all claims. The next step, he said, is to integrate data feeds from other VA systems.

“Once we get them in place, our goal is for a lot of the work to not require human intervention at all,” Wilson said. “It will take us weeding through these and making sure we get it right.”

These improvements could prove particularly important if Congress votes to broaden eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and extend some of its benefits. Among changes being considered are measures to extend benefits to National Guardsmen activated under Title 32 authority and both Guard and Reserve troops for time served in full-time support roles. Senate Bill 3447, the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010,” seeks additional new benefits, including a partial housing allowance for students pursuing distance education.

Wilson, who testified during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in July, said VA generally supports most measures in the bill, but is working with Congress to tweak language to ensure it provides the anticipated benefits without creating unforeseen problems. He also emphasized that the program must be funded to cover any additional costs.

“There were several pieces of [the legislation] that we were in support of from a conceptual standpoint,” he told AFPS. “We did have concern about the technical language, and then making sure the costing is acceptable to everybody.”

In the meantime, VA continues actively reaching out to servicemembers and veterans to make sure they know about the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit.

“What we’re working the hardest on right now is getting the word out to veterans about what a great program it is,” Wilson said, citing direct mailings and other ads that target both groups as well as family members.

Expressing pride in how far the program has advanced during the past year, Wilson said the best measure of its success is illustrated by the students taking advantage of its benefits.

“We have significantly more students in school, and they are pursuing their dreams,” he said. “At its core -- that is what is successful.”

Wilson challenged students to follow through with their educations and make the program count, just as the original GI Bill recipients did after World War II.

“We need the servicemembers and veterans of the country to be the leaders of the next generation of Americans,” he said. “We have given them the opportunity to step up to the plate, but ultimately, they have to graduate and succeed.”

 

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Related Sites:
Post 9/11 GI Bill
Special Report: GI Bill Transferability Has Arrived


Comments

Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

1/6/2011 5:33:15 PM
I also retired 01 November 2009 and was never told that I would need to transfer my benefits prior to that date, even though I asked retirement services at Schofield and visited the VA GI Bill website almost daily up to my retirement date in order to make sure there wasn't going to be any such requirement. I was informed today by the Army that the law states that a Soldier must have been on Active Duty when requesting a transfer of benefits and that there is nothing they could do about it now. I'm sure the Army must have made it a requirement that a retiring Soldier who hasn't used his/her Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits and hasn't transferred the unused portion to his/her dependents must sign a waiver. I never signed any such waiver and was never told that I couldn't transfer after retirement. I wrote to my Congressman today because this is a great injustice and is just plain wrong. Just because the Army couldn't get its act, our dependents shouldn't have to suffer.
- Mike, Virginia

12/14/2010 11:41:21 AM
I retired with 25 years of service in Nov of 09 after serving in OIF 08-09. I was told at the time I retired that I had earned eligibility for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and that I could transfer that eligibility to my children. Now that I'm trying to transfer that eligibility, I'm being told that I can't, because I didn't do it before I retired. That was never once brought up in any of my Retirement/GI Bill briefings, and is really a despicable trick! There’s no legitimate reason for disallowing that option after retirement. If I can still use the benefit, why can’t my children? We earned it! Please fix this. I can’t get back in to fix it myself!
- Robert, Louisiana

11/30/2010 5:13:30 PM
my son just retired this past january after 23 years service. He also told me he was not informed that the GI bill had to be transferred while on active duty. He was very upset when he could not send his daughter to Houston Univercity. He is now back in harms way in Afgahnistan working for a contractor in order to pay his daughter's tuition.
- stan logan, el paso tx

11/6/2010 4:12:46 PM
This is a great program indeed. However, as with any new program there are some hiccups and people/veterans/retirees who actually need this program and get passed by. Specifically, the program does not pay fro trade schools (only colleges and universities). For example, I (100% eligible)was denied tuition and payments for welding school(which incidentally is significantly less expensive for 18 weeks than four years at a university) because in their words"It is not and institution of higher learning". So guess who gets to scrounge/borrow and go into debt just to acquire skills to get a job in post military life. Add to that the problems encountered while trying to transfer my eligibility to my son who started college this year, I was never told that the transfer had to be completed while still on active duty, so again, more cash out of my pocket. 23 years of honorable service and this is the treatment I get. Good looking out big brother.
- Bob Franklin, Missouri

10/19/2010 11:38:30 PM
This program is fantastic and the fact that so many soldiers have been able to use this program shows the need that was and is there. To that, I challenge that we take this same concept and apply to all service members with dependents that are in K-12 schools living on military installations but have access to schools that are poor performers and give them the option to take the military impact funds and turn them into vouchers so families have school choice and the ability to get their kids to private schools if need be. Competition is key. It is sad when our service members are willing to answer the call of duty selflessly yet we can not provide adequate public education for many of these military members dependents. When service members have to worry about whether or not their children are getting a good education, then I argue that this becomes a quality of life issue and more importantly a retention issue.
- Desiree, East Coast

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