Infographic on the Forever GI Bill - What You Need to Know

The Ten Most Important Things Every Veteran Needs to Know About the Forever GI Bill

Accessing benefits is essential for veterans who are re-integrating into civilian life.  While obtaining benefits isn’t always easy, veterans who apply and then work with an attorney to appeal benefit denials or unacceptable rating decisions can often win substantial disability benefits, such as Total Disability Individual Unemployability (“TDIU”) or benefits related to Military Sexual Trauma (“MST”), which can make their transition back much easier.

In addition to accessing TDIU and other disability benefits, it is important that veterans have access to education benefits so that they can find meaningful employment outside of the military. While previous versions of the GI Bill offered some education benefits, the Forever GI Bill, formally known as the Harry Colmery Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (“the Act”), modernizes and dramatically expands education access for veterans and their families. This blog provides an easy guide to understanding the ten most important ways the Act affects you.

The Act Eliminates the 15 Year Time Limit

Before the Act, veterans only had 15 years to use their education benefits. The Act lifts that limitation for veterans who left active duty on or after January 1, 2013, all children who became Fry Scholarship eligible after January 1, 2013, and all Fry Scholarship eligible spouses. This is effective immediately.

Veterans Who Experienced School Closures or Disapprovals May Have Their Benefits Restored

The Act allows for total entitlement restoration for veterans who attended a program that was discontinued from January 1, 2015 until August 16, 2017 as long as the program was through an accredited institution and none of the credits were transferred to a similar program. If a veteran attended a program which closed after January 1, 2015, they may be eligible for partial entitlement restoration. This is effective immediately. Restoration applications can be found here.

The Act Allows the GI Bill to Cover Programs at Technical and Vocational Schools

The Act expands the GI Bill to apply to independent study programs at technical and vocational schools which provide postsecondary education, even if those programs are administered wholly or partly online. This is effective immediately.

Residual REAP Benefits Will Be Credited to the GI Bill Program

Under the Act, all reservists who were eligible for the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (“REAP”) but lost their benefits due to the sunset of the program will receive credit towards GI Bill benefits. This is effective immediately. Those who are eligible will be contacted by mail.

Work Study Opportunities Are Now Permanently Authorized

Whereas before the Act Congress had to approve work-study programs every few years, some work-study opportunities are now permanently authorized. This is effective immediately.

Purple Heart Recipients Will Receive 100% of GI Bill Benefits

Any individual who received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001 will soon be eligible for 100% of GI Bill Benefits, including 100% of tuition at the in-state rate for 36 months and additional funding for housing and textbooks. This is effective as of August 2018.

The Yellow Ribbon Program Will Be Expanded

The Yellow Ribbon Program is an agreement between the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (“VA”) and schools whereby they split costs to make private schooling and graduate programs, which would otherwise exceed the GI Bill’s tuition cap, accessible to veterans. The Act will allow surviving spouses or children of service members to access this program as of August 2018, and will begin to include active-duty service members as of August 2022.

STEM Degrees Will Be More Accessible

To accommodate lengthier programs, such as those in science, technology, engineering, and math (“STEM”), the Act provides an additional year of GI Bill funds, up to $30,000, to veterans or surviving family members on a first-come first-serve basis. This is effective as of August 2018.

The VA Will Measure Eligibility More Generously

Whereas before the Act service members who were on active duty for more than 90 days but less than six months were eligible for 40% of GI Bill benefits, those same service members will soon be eligible for 50% of GI Bill benefits. Similarly, service members who were on active duty for more than six months and less than 18 months will be soon eligible for 60% of benefits. This is effective as of August 2020.

Additionally, the Act allows member of the National Guard and Reserve who have been activated since September 11th, 2001 to count their time receiving medical care or recovering from injuries towards their GI Bill eligibility. This is effective as of August 2018.

Benefits Will Be Transferrable After Death

Before the Act, benefits could not be transferred from one dependent to another after the veteran’s death. The Act fixes this problem by empowering dependents of deceased service members to make changes to the service member’s benefits. This is effective as of August 2018.

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