A change in wording can make all the difference, as post-9/11 veterans recently discovered.
Under the new GI Bill, formally known as Chapter 33, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs covers student fees. This was a problem for private university students, who are generally charged “tuition” rather than fees, because assistance to private university students is based on how much assistance public university students receive.
A deal was made this month between the State of California and the Department of Veterans Affairs, ensuring that veterans attending both public and private universities will receive their tuition support according to the new GI Bill.
“The problem had more to do with how veterans were going to be covered and what is the highest tuition amount,” says Phil Knox, assistant director of advising services at UC Davis.
The Federal VA started accepting applications for the new program in May and the interest has been high. The bill allows veterans to concentrate on their studies, instead of worrying about loans or balancing work and school, said Craig Osborn, a representative of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Veterans are taking advantage of the higher end schools, more now than in the past,” he said. “Under the old GI Bill you had to work to make ends meet.“
Veterans attending private universities today may still have to work to make ends meet, but the boosted support under the new GI Bill should mean they have greater opportunity to attend more expensive schools.
To be eligible for the new GI Bill, an individual must have served at least 90 days of aggregate service after Sept. 10, 2001, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ website.
There are several benefits to the GI Bill. Tuition and fees are paid for, with payments made directly to the school of choice. There is also a yearly book stipend of $1,000 paid proportionately to enrollment. Veterans will receive a monthly housing allowance, the amount depending on the location of the school.
The monthly housing stipend in the Sacramento area can be as much as $1,700, with dependents, said Osborn.
The entitlement to these benefits lasts 36 months, or four years of study.
The VA offers veterans jobs at their branch offices. Jobs are offered under a work-study program where veterans can make $8.00 per hour, tax free – the equivalent of making $12.00 per hour.
The new GI Bill took effect on Aug. 1. It has expanded the number of people who can receive aid from the VA, following in the steps of the original GI Bill under former President Franklin Roosevelt, which aimed to help World War II veterans with their educational needs.
Now the biggest challenge facing the VA is to activate the GI Bill’s benefits in time for the back-to-school season.
“The timing delayed everything,” says Knox. “The VA is now hard-pressed to send out the benefits.”
ANA QUIROZ can be reached at the firstname.lastname@example.org.