The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, aka the “Forever GI Bill,” was signed into law on Aug. 16, 2017, and brings changes that enhance or expand education benefits for Veterans, servicemembers, families, and survivors. Some changes are relatively easy to understand, such as the provision that allows Purple Heart recipients to receive 100% GI Bill benefits regardless of time served.
Other changes require more explanation, and raise questions about who is eligible and when. Here are some of the most pressing questions about the Forever GI Bill:
Who Is Eligible For The “Forever” Part Of The Forever GI Bill?
Under previous versions of the GI Bill, students had a time limit of either 10 years (Montgomery GI Bill) or 15 years (Post 9/11 GI Bill) to use the benefits. Under the new rules, “in the case of an individual whose last discharge or release from active duty is on or after Jan. 1, 2013,” the GI Bill benefit “shall not expire.”.
In the case of transferred GI Bill benefits to children or spouses of service members who have died, there are also provisions that address the “15 year rule”.
The text of the new rules includes the following for dependent children “in the case of a child who first becomes entitled to such entitlement on or after Jan. 1, 2013, shall not expire” and for spouses of service members who have died, “in the case of a spouse who first becomes entitled to such entitlement on or after Jan. 1, 2013, shall not expire.”
Who Is Eligible For Restored Benefits For College Closings/VA Disapproval?
The Forever GI Bill adds protections for students who use their benefits at a for-profit college that closes down or is denied approval to participate in the GI Bill program. However, this benefit is not open-ended and applies to school closings or disapprovals after Jan. 1, 2015.
How Did BAH Housing Allowance Benefits Change?
Under the Forever GI Bill, the monthly basic housing allowance is calculated based on the zip code of the campus where the student physically attends the majority of classes, rather than the location of the school where the student is enrolled.
I’m Not Eligible For 100% GI Bill Benefits. Do I Get Anything From The Forever GI Bill?
Those who are not Purple Heart recipients and are not eligible for 100% GI Bill benefits (because of time-in-service requirements) may be eligible for a 10% increase in the percentage they are authorized to use. Those who only served 90 days of continuous active service are eligible for 40% of the benefit under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. That percentage remains the same, but under the Forever GI Bill, those who served more than 90 days but less than six months will be entitled to a 10% increase from 40 to 50%. Those who served more than six months but less than 18 months get a 10% increase, pushing their total benefit to 60% under the Forever GI Bill.
Are Dependent Benefits Affected By The Forever GI Bill?
Yes. In some cases the amount of money paid monthly may increase, but the number of months the benefit is available may decrease. This is true of Dependent’s Education Assistance. In other cases, such as the Fry Scholarship, dependents also get access to the Yellow Ribbon program, which was previously not available to dependents. The Yellow Ribbon program is for those who attend a private school with tuition that costs more than the GI Bill covers. The VA and the school agree to waive the amount in excess of the GI Bill’s coverage, with the VA matching the amount of the waiver in return.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News