In case you have missed the current storm brewing over veteran benefits, let’s bring you up to speed.
The House of Representatives voted in February to be allowed to adjust some of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits that are able to be transferred to the children of service members. This month, the Senate is due to vote on the issue and if it passes, it’s off to the president for the final approval.
The proposed changes could extend the service requirement for military members wishing to transfer their benefits to their children, as well as change the BAH allotment.
Currently a service member has to be at six years of active service with an additional signed, four-year commitment in order to transfer their benefits to their dependent. Under the new rules members would have to serve at least 10 years of active service with an additional two-year commitment added in order to transfer their benefits.
In other words, it’s a two-year extension of service for members.
As for the BAH part of the GI Bill, currently anyone except the spouses of active duty service members receive E-5 BAH for the area of the college when they are enrolled full time in a traditional college setting.
If the student (veteran or dependent) is enrolled in a fully online college program, they receive half the national average of E-5 BAH. And those enrolled in a combination of traditional college and online will receive a percentage of the E-5 BAH that is determined by the individual school policy.
The new GI Bill policy would cut the BAH benefits for the children in half.
The proposed changes have drawn sharp criticism from veteran support organizations like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a non-profit advocacy group which focuses on issues pertaining to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. IAVA calls the proposed changes “a very dangerous precedent” and equates the cuts to the GI Bill as the beginning of the House and Senate “slowly whittling away at one of the most important benefits for new veterans.”
One common criticism appearing in conversations on the Internet is that benefits are once again being pulled from veterans with no thought. Critics of the changes also say that allowing the government to pull even half of the BAH from the children of service members opens the door for utilizing the GI Bill benefits as a bank account to make withdrawals from any time one can’t find the money for other needs.
But the way the changes are currently being proposed affects a far smaller percentage of the military community than some news outlets would make it seem.
Veteran benefits are not actually being changed. Any veteran who is choosing to utilize their benefits for their own personal education will still be given the same tuition coverage based on the same amount of time in service as the current plan.
“Even under the new rules, I would transfer benefits to my son,” one active duty sailor told Victory Media. “He is currently in his third year of college and thanks to the GI Bill he will be able to graduate without school debt that the majority of the students have these days.”
Donald Yurko Jr., a retired veteran with 26 years in the Navy, doesn’t understand why “the children of veterans should expect not just to get a free education but BAH as well.”
“If they want those benefits, they are welcome to enlist themselves and earn those benefits that the service members earn,” Yurko Jr. said.
Navy Career Counselor Cesar Cristobal said he doesn’t have a strong stance about the changes being proposed. Cristobal is passionate about explaining to members that if they have the opportunity to transfer a portion of their benefits, they should take advantage of the chance for two reasons.
“One, if members pass away before they transfer benefits then the dependents are not eligible to utilize them,” Cristobal said. “And two, if they transfer even just the minimum percentage now then they will be grandfathered into any new regulations that may come into play.”
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