Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

Highlights - The New GI Bill

  • President Bush signed the bill June 30, 2008
  • The new GI Bill assures young veterans a chance at a free four-year public college or university degree, starting August 2009.
  • Spouses and children will see benefits, too. Reservists will see more money for college. Even vets who have served after 9/11 and who got out years ago could get a free college education.
  • Bill was truly a bi-partisan effort. Sen. Jim Webb introduced the historic legislation. House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid did a great job of bringing both parties and Houses together. Republicans improved the Bill by adding the option of being able to transfer benefits to family members.
  • JWV is extremely pleased that the president signed a GI Bill worthy of its name.
  • Servicemembers work very hard and make great sacrifices everyday to earn this benefit. The rising costs of college have far outpaced the previous educational benefits available to our military. This GI Bill is much closer to the spirit of the 1944 Servicemen's Readjustment Act. It will make a real difference to many military veterans and their families.

Provisions of the bill

For Active Duty Troops:

  • The bill gets rid of the current enrollment requirements, replacing them with language mandating at least three months' active duty service in the military since Sept. 11, 2001, for partial GI Bill benefits.
  • Anyone who has served at least three years on active duty since then is eligible for four years of tuition costs at their home state's universities, plus a monthly stipend for housing and living expenses which averages about $1100 nationwide, depending on where the veteran attends college.
  • Each year, the veterans will also be eligible for $1,200 in tutoring services and $1,000 more to cover books. Altogether, the benefit could top more than $25,000 a year in the most expensive states.
  • If troops or veterans attend state schools that are less expensive, they won't get to pocket the difference - the benefit only covers what veterans are actually charged by their school. If they decide to go to a private school or out-of-state college, they'll have to cover the difference between their higher tuition bill and the state-assigned reimbursement figure.
  • The benefit lasts for 15 years now, instead of 10, giving troops extra time after leaving the military to either use their benefit or pass it along.

For Spouses and dependents:

  • Under a provision backed by the Pentagon, troops who served at least 10 years on active duty will be able to transfer their benefit to a spouse or dependent child. Spouses can receive the money even sooner, if their servicemember has served at least six years and agrees to another four-year contract.
  • Families can divide the benefit up however it benefits them most, as long as they don't exceed those 36 months of college classes. For example, a retired soldier can use two years of benefits to pay for a two-year degree program, then transfer the last two years to a spouse or child.
  • For long-serving servicemembers, the changes mean that their college-age children could get a free college education starting fall 2009, provided they attend a state-backed school.

For Reservists and Veterans:

  • Guardsmen and reservists who served at least three years on active duty in the past seven years automatically qualify for the full tuition benefit just like other troops. Those who served less active time, but at least three months, will receive between 40 and 90 percent of the tuition benefit, based on a sliding scale.
  • More importantly, the benefit can be used within 15 years of their separation from the service, instead of the current requirement that they remain in the Guard or Reserve to receive the money.
  • For those veterans who have already used all of their GI Bill benefits, the changes don't offer any new money. Many of the most vocal supporters of the bill, veterans upset over how little they received for college, acknowledged the changes will help the next generation of young servicemembers more than themselves.
  • But veterans who have not yet used up their education benefits, or those who never signed up for the GI Bill when they were serving, can take advantage of the new rules.
  • As long as they served at least three years on active duty after Sept. 11, 2001, they're eligible for the same free tuition.