The Forever GI Bill is a great piece of legislation and the first major update to the Post 9/11 GI Bill since its inception back in 2008, almost 10 years ago. The House passed the Forever GI Bill on a 405-0 vote Monday night, and unanimously in the Senate on Wednesday. The bill will now go to President Trump for his expected signature.
However, not much has been said as far as how the estimated $100 million costs over the next 10 years will be funded.
Lessons Learned in the post 9/11 GI Bill Rollout
If you recall, the rollout of the Post 9/11 GI Bill in 2009 was a total disaster. One of the big reasons for the launch fail was the VA had not been allocated money by Congress to upgrade their IT system so that it could handle the application, approval and pay processes that were part of that new GI Bill structure.
Not only was their software outdated and not capable of handling the necessary changes, but so was their hardware and their whole IT system. By comparison, the Montgomery GI Bill issued one payout per month to the student. The Post 9/11 GI Bill required three payouts during a semester: one for tuition to the school, a book stipend per semester to the student, along with a monthly housing allowance for each month in school. The difference in supporting the two GI Bills was like comparing a Model A car to one of today.
This time around Congress seems to have learned their lesson by allocating $30 million to the VA as part of the legislation, to cover necessary IT upgrades required to support the Forever GI Bill.
If signed, the rollout is slated for August 2018. The VA will have both the time and money to get their IT structure in place. Veteran Affairs House Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said “We realize that we can’t dump all these new regulations on their lap and say, ‘Here, fix it for this fall semester.’”
Paying for the New GI Bill
The $30 million IT upgrade will be paid through a 1% reduction in the Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance for new enrollees over the next five years. This reduction brings the housing allowance amount down to and in line with what the active duty personnel receive as part of their pay and allowances.
One idea to help pay costs that was taken out of the bill, because of the severe backlash from veterans’ organizations, was the idea coined as a “tax on troops”. Under it, new enlistees would have paid in $100 per month for the first 24 months of service if they wanted the GI Bill, much like it has been (and still is) for the Montgomery GI Bill. But, it only required a $100/month payment for the first 12 months instead of 24.
Having that provision in the original legislation all but killed the original Forever GI Bill. However once taken out, and with sleeves rolled up and bipartisan support, this new version arose from the dead and will be a great and needed change to the Post 9/11 GI Bill if signed by the President.