GI Bill changes for fall semester

Since its enactment two years ago, the Post-9/11 GI Bill has on more than one occasion been changed and amended to accommodate the costs of modern college education. Before the new wave of student veterans returned to school for the fall semester, it changed even further.

Modern GI Bill benefits now cover the actual net cost of all public in-state tuition and fees, rather than basing payments on the highest in-state tuition and fees rate in the state. Accordingly, a nationwide cap of $17,500 has been set for annual tuition and fees for aid in attending private colleges or universities. This limit would have reduced benefits for an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 students who are presently enrolled in private school. A recently passed law, however, protects these students from facing aid reduction provided they were enrolled in or admitted to private school on or before Jan. 4. These students also must continue to be enrolled until they exhaust all 36 hours of their allotted benefits.

But perhaps the most noteworthy change to the legislation took effect halfway through the fall semester. On Oct. 1, the Post-9/11 GI Bill began awarding benefits for active service performed by National Guard members. On that date, non-college degree granting programs also gained coverage under the new GI Bill. This includes aid for flight schools, correspondence training, and apprenticeship and on-the-job training.

The American Legion lobbied hard for these additions.

"The American Legion lobbied extensively to Congress for both the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill Improvements Act of 2010," said Bob Madden, deputy director of the Legion's Economic Division. "With the passage of the Improvements Act, an additional 400,000 veterans became eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. We see this as a win."

Per the legislative changes, the Post-9/11 GI Bill no longer pays its users housing stipends during holiday breaks and before or after summer class sessions. Days of "break pay," as it was known, were formerly subtracted from the total 36 months of benefits allotted. So, theoretically, the removal of break pay allows veterans to take classes beyond the original date their benefits were scheduled to be exhausted.