For the first time in history, active-duty servicemembers, veterans and their families will be able to use the GI Bill as a lifetime benefit thanks to a new law that provides greater access to education and workforce training.
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 – also known as the ‘Forever
GI Bill’ – was signed into law in August, honoring The American Legion’s first past national commander who wrote the original GI Bill in 1944. This important legislation not only improves and extends benefits, but also allows military individuals to invest in their future with fewer restrictions and time limitations.
“This is the first concerted effort that we’ve seen to improve and reform veterans’ education benefits for reserve and National Guard servicemembers” said Paul E. Dillard, chairman of The American Legion’s National Veterans Employment and Education Commission. “Now certain deployments and medical orders are eligible for credit towards the GI Bill. It also adds a unique provision that bumped up eligibility by 10 percent.”
Specifically, this “law authorizes services by (National) Guard and Reserve members, under 10 U.S.C 12304a and 12304b, to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. An individual entitled to educational assistance as a result of this section may use such entitlement to pursue a course of education beginning on or after August 1, 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website.
When Reservists are ordered to active duty for medical care, be evaluated for disability or complete a Department of Defense (DoD) health care study, that time now counts toward eligibility.
Reservists who had eligibility under the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) and lost it due to the program’s sunset clause may have that service credited toward the Forever GI Bill program.
The VA will also prorate the monthly housing stipend, under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, for Reservists.
Dillard said that when it comes to fostering greater citizenship through economic empowerment, Colmery was a visionary who saw an opportunity to create a benefit rooted in the idea that the individual, not the government, could decide how and where to use it.
“What’s special about making the GI Bill a ‘forever’ benefit is that servicemembers will have the flexibility they need to pursue their educational aspirations,” he said. “These improvements may seem small, but the impact cannot be overstated.”
Johnathon Clinkscales is a media relations specialist for The American Legion.