In January 2021 Congress passed legislation that includes 32 upgrades to the GI Bill.
We asked Charmain Bogue, executive director of Education Service for the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Benefits Administration, to highlight a few of the biggest changes that student veterans should know about. From modernizing ways students can update their enrollment (texting is now available) to holding schools more accountable, the provisions in the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 are improvements that add better support through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Of the 32 provisions, 27 had been implemented by Aug. 1.
“Over the last couple of months we have been working pretty aggressively to implement Isakson-Roe—that’s what we call it for short—and there were a number of provisions in there that expanded existing programs, strengthened our oversight and enforcement activities for schools, as well as protected students who were affected by the pandemic.”– Charmain Bogue, executive director of Education Service for the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Benefits Administration
One improvement Bogue is excited about is the expansion of the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) program, which trains veterans for high-demand IT careers in a matter of weeks. Congress boosted funding from $15 million each year to $45 million to accommodate the demand for the program, which has a waiting list to enroll.
“On average we see folks complete their program in about 12 weeks. After they’ve completed the program—in about 60 days—they’ve actually secured employment, and the average salary for these folks is $60,000. I mean, tell me how many fields that are out there that you can go to school for a couple of weeks and then come out making $60,000. It’s a pretty amazing program.”– Charmain Bogue, executive director of Education Service for the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Benefits Administration
Another change requires student veterans to verify their enrollment every month—which can be done by text—to ensure their monthly housing allowance (MHA) is being paid accurately.
“We wanted to be able to make any necessary adjustments quickly if there were changes to their program so we can quickly get notifications out to students about any changes in their monthly housing allowance, as well as to prevent any over payments for students.”– Charmain Bogue, executive director of Education Service for the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Benefits Administration
The Isakson and Roe bill also extended protections for students whose programs were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Part of the challenge, Bogue said, is getting the word out about the changes. The VA now communicates with veterans via text, social media and media outlets to keep them informed. She has this advice for student veterans.
“Make sure you reach out to us. Make sure you stay connected to us to find out how this program has evolved, what you’re eligible for … And if you think you’re eligible for something, apply, apply, apply.”– Charmain Bogue, executive director of Education Service for the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Benefits Administration
There are multiple ways veterans can find out more about VA’s Education Services or the GI Bill. The Education Call Center is available at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.–6 p.m. CST) for any questions about GI Bill benefits. Veterans can also check social media: Facebook at facebook.com/gibilleducation and Twitter @VAVetBenefits. Or they can visit the website at benefits.va.gov/gibill