Draft legislation floating around Washington would require new enlistees to pay $100 per month during the first 24 months of their service for access to education benefits that are now free just for serving their country.

The House Committee on Veterans Affairs has been working in preparation for an April 26th hearing. The House’s goal, according to reports, is to have GI Bill 3.0 legislation pushed through by Memorial Day.

Current GI Bills

Under the New Post 9/11 GI Bill, service members earn 36 months of entitlement for serving at least three years in one of the active military branches –  enough for four 9-month academic years and a bachelor’s degree free of charge. Once out, they have up to 15 years from their date of discharge to use those benefits or they lose them.

When they use their GI Bill, their tuition is paid by the VA to their school of choice and the service member gets both a book stipend and a location and credit load-based housing allowance.

Under the Montgomery GI Bill, full-time students get a flat monthly amount of $1,857 and they must pay all of their own education expenses.

Features of the proposed change

There are some good features of the proposed change. It is the opinion of this writer that paying for it, and the way they are going about it, just happens not to be two of them.

Three of the good features worth mentioning include:

  • Removing the 15-year limitation – one change veterans have been asking for since the inception of the Post 9/11 GI Bill in 2009.
  • Re-instating entitlement to veterans who were enrolled in for-profit schools that shut-down – providing a way for the VA to restore benefits for the affected members, something currently prohibited by law.
  • Closing loopholes that currently excludes some Selected Reservists from getting Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits although they have served on what should be a qualifying active duty tour.

Expand the Buy-Up Program

Something this writer thinks would be more worthwhile than charging new enlistees $2,400 for their GI Bill would be to expand the use of the Buy-Up Program. For those not familiar with it, service members can pay $600 and “buy” extra entitlement that increases the value of their MGIB-AD by $5,400 – or 2.9 more months of education at $1857 per month.

Currently, the Buy Up program can’t be used with the Post 9/11 GI Bill because that GI Bill is based on entitlement use and not a dollar amount. What the VA pays per month of entitlement can vary depending on the school chosen and zip code of that school, whereas under the MGIB, a full-time student is paid a flat rate per month regardless of the school.

In addition to the good features of this bill, continuing to provide the Post 9/11 GI Bill free of charge and giving service members various options to buy additional entitlement would be more palatable and give them more say in choosing their education benefits than charging them for basic education benefits that should be free.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.