The “Forever” GI Bill Explained
On August 16, 2017, the Forever GI Bill was signed into law in an effort to make educational benefits more accessible to service members and their dependents. The bill was named the Forever GI Bill because it removed the 15-year time limit that veterans have to use their GI Bill benefits, making those benefits available to them for the remainder of their lives.
What Did the Forever GI Bill Change?
First, the Forever GI Bill allows veterans who were discharged on or after January 1, 2013 to use their GI Bill benefits for the rest of their lives, lifting the 15-year limit on using benefits. The Bill also lifts the 15-year time limit for dependents to use their benefits through their Fry Scholarship, giving them no limit as to when they can use their benefits.
Expanding Benefits to More Members of the Guard and Reserves
The Forever GI Bill expanded eligibility for benefits to members of the Reserves and National Guard. Now, members of the Reserves who were called to active duty under either or both of the following situations are eligible for GI Bill benefits:
- Called to active duty under Section 12304(a) (when a governor requests federal assistance in response to a major disaster or emergency)
- Called to active duty under Section 12304(b) (when the Department of Defense mobilizes reservists in support of a combatant command)
Previously, only Reservists called to active duty by presidential order for a national emergency were eligible for GI benefits. The above eligibility applies to reservists mobilized after August 1, 2009, but they will only be able to receive payment for classes that start after August 1, 2018.
Benefits Expanded to All Purple Heart Recipients
Under the new law, all veterans who received a Purple Heart will get the full amount of benefit under the GI bill, regardless of how long they served on active duty.
When Your College Shuts Down
The Forever GI Bill restores GI benefits for veterans whose college closes or loses accreditations after January 1, 2015. Previously, if a GI Bill recipient’s school shut down, resulting in the veteran not receiving credit for the classes they took, they would not be reimbursed for the money spent. Now benefits will be restored for veterans who fall under this category.
Benefits for STEM Education
Effective August 1, 2018, veterans who are enrolled in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program will be eligible for additional benefits under the Edith Nourse Rogers Scholarship. This program will pay veterans up to $30,000 if they meet the following criteria:
- Are enrolled in a STEM program
- Have used all of their GI bill benefits
- Have at least 60 semester or 90 quarter hours credit towards a STEM degree
The scholarship will also be available to veteran who already have a STEM degree and are working to obtain a teaching certification.
Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Benefits
Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) benefits are available to the children and spouses of veterans who are considered to be totally and permanently disabled by VA due to their service-connected conditions. Under the Forever GI Bill, monthly payments of DEA benefits will increase by 50% beginning August 1, 2018, and the maximum number of months recipients have to receive benefits will decrease from 45 to 36 months.
Increase in Amount of Benefit
The amount of benefit a veteran or dependent is eligible to under the GI Bill depends on the amount of time the veteran served in the military. These are the new benefit amounts as they correspond to amount of time in service:
- 0-90 days – no benefit
- 90 days to 6 months – 50% of Forever GI Bill benefits
- 6 to 12 months – 60% of Forever GI Bill benefits
- 12 months or more – 100% of Forever GI Bill benefits
Expansion of Yellow Ribbon Program
The Yellow Ribbon Program will extend to Purple Heart recipients and Fry Scholarship recipients. The Yellow Ribbon Program is a benefit that can help pay for out-of-state private higher education or graduate school tuition that is not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
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