The Post 9/11 GI Bill is one of the greatest veteran benefits of all times – better than any GI Bill before it. But like all benefits, some things that were meant to be good are not necessarily so, and require changes to amend them into something better. Two of these things are break pay and the STEM scholarship.

Break Pay

Remember back in 2011 before “GI Bill 2.0” when students received their Post 9/11 GI Bill monthly housing allowance (MHA) even when on semester breaks and during the summer? It was called break or interval pay, but the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 removed it to fund other changes in that Act. But it might be coming back. The BREAK PAY for Veterans Act introduced by Rep. Gilbert Cisneros (D-CA) would again establish break pay if approved in Congress.

As expected, the removal of break pay causes veterans income to plummet when on breaks from school. This extreme fluctuation of income causes financial hardship to veteran students whose only income (or most of it) while in school is their MHA of their Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Coined “a commonsense bill that will allow student veterans to have a fair, rational benefit that they can build their budgets around”, it will help create a predictable income for them, while using their GI Bill benefits.

Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship

Part of the changes brought about by the “Forever GI Bill” was this scholarship, also known as the STEM Extension. Effective August 1, 2019, veteran students enrolled in 5-year degree plans can request an additional 9 months of GI Bill entitlement or a lump sum payment up to $30,000 in any of the following fields:

  • Agriculture science program
  • Natural resources science program
  • Biological or biomedical science
  • Computer and information science and support services
  • Engineering
  • Engineering technologies or an engineering-related field
  • Health profession or related program
  • Mathematics or statistics
  • Medical residency program
  • Physical science
  • Science technologies or technicians
  • Other subjects and fields identified by the Secretary as meeting national needs
  • Education program leading to a teaching certification (if already having a 5-year degree in one of the above fields)

But another requirement to qualify for the STEM Extension is already having completed at least 60 credits in the chosen field of study at the time of application. This credit requirement takes many otherwise qualified veterans out of the running.

However, if passed, H.R. 2196 sponsored by Rep. Andy Bar (R-KY) and cosponsored by Reps. Phil Roe (R-TN) and Mike Levin (D-CA) would remove the 60-credit requirement, thus opening up the STEM Extension to all veteran students otherwise meeting all of the other scholarship qualifications.

Rep. Roe, ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, commented on the STEM Extension proposed legislation saying “by eliminating the credit hour requirement for a STEM degree program to qualify for this scholarship, we are ensuring that the scholarship functions as intended and that all student veterans interested in a STEM degree are able to qualify for the additional funding.”

Now we wait to see if either or both of these proposed legislation initiatives pass to make a great veteran education benefit even better.

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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.

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