Congress Poised to Expand Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits

July 28, 2017

The Post 9/11 GI Bill might be getting some drastic improvements if the Senate approves a bill passed by the House earlier this week, and if the president signs it into law. The bill would make the following changes that MOAA supported as priorities:

  • Guard and Reserve members placed on medical hold status now will see that time count toward their eligibility, retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001;
  • Time spent by Guard and Reserve members on 12304(b) will count toward eligibility, beginning Aug. 1, 2018;
  • Recipients of the Purple Heart will receive full eligibility, regardless of how much time they have spent on active duty;
  • Fry Scholarship and Purple Heart recipients now will qualify for the Yellow Ribbon program;
  • Benefits will be restored to veterans whose colleges closed before obtaining their degree; and
  • If the dependent to whom the benefit was transferred dies, the benefit can be transferred to another dependent.  

The bill also would make other changes, including:

  • Eliminating the 15-year deadline to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill for those who became entitled to it after Jan. 1, 2013;
  • Providing a monthly stipend on a pro-rated basis for reserve members attending school while also performing active duty service;
  • Allowing the benefit to be used toward certain licensure and certification tests;
  • Providing additional benefits for individuals pursuing a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) degree;
  • Creating a High Technology Pilot Program that will provide veterans with the opportunity to use the benefit in high-tech programs of education that do not lead to a degree;
  • Authorizing use of the benefit toward independent-study programs (such as a technical school); and
  • Providing for priority enrollment in courses by veterans.   

Many veterans have expressed concern about whether this change would in any way affect the transferability of the benefit to dependents. There is no change to the transferability rules - a servicemember may still transfer the benefit to an eligible dependent while in the service. At discussions with members of both the House and Senate that MOAA attended, congressional members mentioned that keeping the transferability option means that servicemembers will not be incentivized to leave service just to use the benefit because the benefit still can be used by their family. 

Military and veterans' service organizations opposed previous attempts to expand the Post-9/11 GI Bill because of the way Congress proposed to fund the expansion: through cutting other benefits. This bill, however, is funded by subjecting the housing allowance paid by the VA to the same calculations as DoD housing allowances. The 2015 and 2016 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) both made changes to the DoD housing allowance (BAH) calculation leading to a reduction in housing allowances paid to active duty servicemembers. However, the FY 2015 NDAA specifically stated such reductions could not apply to the housing allowance paid by VA. This bill would apply that change to the VA and, thus, fund the expansion of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a generous benefit available to this generation's warfighter, and Congress clearly intends to ensure its continued growth and relevance. The House passed the bill in a rare unanimous vote of 405-0. The bill already has cleared the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, but it is unclear whether it will be called to the Senate floor for a full vote prior to the August recess. MOAA will keep you informed of these and other important updates.  


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