At the beginning of May, the American Legion spoke in front of Congress in opposition to changes to the GI Bill.
The Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvement Act of 2010, a modification to the GI Bill, covers tuition and cost of living expenses for students who are military veterans. It will be effective Aug. 1.
The Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), would temporarily preserve higher rates for tuition and fees for programs of education at private colleges. These rates were capped at $17,500 per academic year by the 2010 act, leaving some student veterans with higher out-of-pocket costs for the schools they are attending.
Robert Madden, assistant director of the Legion’s Economic Division, testified on May 3 before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. He, along with others, believes the changes will especially hurt student veterans at private colleges.
The Legion supports Miller’s bill (H.R. 1383), but wants the act to be extended to student veterans attending out-of-state public institutions.
In addition to restoring higher tuition rates to all current student veterans, Madden said in his written testimony that the Legion wants Congress to add interval pay to include those months when veterans are between semesters and in need of the housing allowance to meet their financial responsibilities.
This means that if the quarter ends Dec. 15, housing allowance is paid for the first 15 days of December only. Benefits begin again when the new quarter starts.
Victor Garcia, a senior biological sciences major, served both overseas and in the U.S. from 1996 to 2003.
“Right now we get paid for breaks,” Garcia said. “For times such as between Fall and Winter quarters.”
Capt. Kiley Laughlin, recruiting operations officer at the UC Davis Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), said overall, the post-9/11 GI Bill is far superior to the older version.
Laughlin is a recipient of the bill, as he served 17 years in Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. He graduated from Chico State.
“As a recipient of the bill, it has changed my life,” Laughlin said. “As someone of limited financial means, it paved the way for my college education.”
Garcia said he understands the changes to the act, but that he feels the overall objective should be repaying veterans for their service.
“I do understand that benefits aren’t free and funds shouldn’t be misused,” Garcia said. “If the purpose of the bill is to thank vets for their service, they shouldn’t have to pay for any of their tuition.”
The tuition cap would cover costs for most in-state California schools.
“With UC and CSU programs this really isn’t an issue in California, but states with [fewer] program opportunities, you will see vets having more problems,” Garcia said.
Other changes to the act include reimbursement for national exams – such as the SAT, LSAT, ACT and GMAT – and licensing and certification tests.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached email@example.com.