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Forever GI Bill: Benefits, Eligibility, & Changes

Forever GI Bill

The Forever GI Bill: All the Ins and Outs

The Forever GI Bill is the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act that was signed into law in August of 2017.

This law brought significant changes to Veterans’ education benefits now and in the coming years. These changes will help enhance or expand education benefits for veterans, service members, and their families as well as survivors.

Assistance for Students Affected by School Closures and Certain Disapprovals

The VA can now restore benefits and provide relief to those who have been affected by school closures, or certain disapprovals.

Your GI Bill will not be charged against your entitlement or counted against the total period for when you would receive educational benefits under two or more programs.

The VA can approve something that was disapproved if the VA determines that you qualify with one of these reasons:

  • The educational institution closes.
  • The course is disapproved, or a course that is a necessary part of the program is disapproved because of a new law, regulation, or policy that is implemented after you enroll.
  • You no longer will receive credit, or you lose training time towards completion of the program you are pursuing.

The VA will determine if you are eligible for this on a case by case basis. This took effect 90 days after August 16, 2017, and will apply to courses and programs that were discontinued after August 1, 2015.  For those classes and programs that were discontinued from January 1, 2015, through August 16th, 2017, you can have your entitlement restored if you did not transfer your credits.

The VA might also continue awarding the monthly housing allowance under the Post 9/11 GI Bill program after a permanent school closure, or a certain disapproval of a course. The changes to the monthly housing allowances started August 1, 2018, and will apply to courses and programs of study that were discontinued after August 16, 2017.

Elimination of 15-year Limitation

This will remove the time limits to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for those whose last discharge or release from active duty is on or after January 1, 2013.

This will also apply to children of deceased service members who first became entitled to the Post-9/11 GI Bill program benefits on or after January 1, 2013, as well as all Fry spouses.

Everyone else will remain subject to the current 15-year time limit to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Priority Enrollment

There will be better outreach and transparency to veterans and service members by providing information on educational institutions as far as if they have a priority enrollment system for certain veterans to enroll in courses before other students can.

REAP Eligibility Credited Toward Post-9/11 GI Bill Program

This would be for those who had established eligibility to educational assistance under the REAP (Reserve Educational Assistance Program) before November 25, 2015, and lost it because of the sunset provision. They can elect to have their service credited towards the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Using the GI Bill at Technical Schools and Non-institutions of Higher Learning (IHLs)

You can now use your Post-9/11 GI Bill educational assistance to pursue accredited independent study programs at these educational institutions that are not institutions of higher learning:

  • Area career and technical education schools that provide postsecondary level education
  • Postsecondary vocational institution

Work Study Expansion

This will remove the expiration date of June 30, 2022, for certain qualifying work-study activities where you would be paid an additional educational assistance allowance.

These activities include:

  • Outreach services for an SAA.
  • Providing hospital and domiciliary care and medical treatment to veterans in a state home.
  • Activities related to the administration of a national cemetery or a state veterans’ cemetery.

Changes to Licensing and Certification Charges

The entitlement charges for licensing and certification exams as well as national tests under the Post-9/11 GI Bill will end up being pro-rated based on the actual amount of the fee charged for the test.

Changes to Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance

The amount of entitlement that new eligible individuals will receive under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program will decrease.

It will be reduced from 45 months to 36 months.

This will apply to those who first enroll in their programs of education on or after August 1, 2018. Those who did enroll before then would still qualify for the 45 months.

This will also increase the amount of educational assistance that is payable for institutional courses and institutional courses under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program.

Those who are eligible would be able to receive a monthly allowance of $1,224 for full-time coursework, $967 for three-quarter time, and $710 for half-time coursework. This went into effect, October 1st, 2018.

Changes to Transfer of Benefits (TEB)

If you have transferred your entitlement to a dependent, you can now designate a new dependent if the original dependent passes away before using the entitlement.

A dependent who has received the entitlement can transfer their entitlement to another eligible dependent if the service member or veteran who made the transfer passes away.

This will apply to deaths on or after August 1, 2009. A dependent whom the entitlement is transferred to was able to use it after August 1st, 2018.

RELATED: Transfer Your GI Bill to Spouse or Dependent

Consolidation of Benefit Levels

This will eliminate the 40% benefit level and expands the 60% benefit level with the Post-9/11 GI Bill program. If you have aggregate service of 90 days but less than six months of active duty service, not counting entry and skill training, you will now qualify at the 60% benefit level. This will not take effect until August 1, 2020.

Informing Schools About Beneficiary Entitlement

The VA must make information about the amount of educational assistance to which you are entitled under chapter 30, 32, 33, or 35 to educational institutions.

This information would be provided to them through a secure information technology system that is accessible by the educational institution.  This information would be updated on a regular basis to reflect any amounts that are used by you for your education. If you are pursuing a course of education, you may elect not to provide the information to the educational institution.

GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance

If you use the Post-9/11 GI Bill on or after January 1st, 2018, you will receive a monthly housing allowance that is based on the DoD’s reduced BAH for monthly housing rates. If you used these benefits before January 1st, 2018, you would continue to receive a higher monthly rate based on the non-adjusted BAH rates.

Monthly Housing Based On-Campus Student Attends the Majority of Their Classes

The MHA (Monthly Housing Allowance) under the Post-9/11 GI Bill is to be calculated based on the zip code of the campus where you go physically go to school for the majority of your classes. This is instead of the location of the institution of higher learning where you are enrolled.

This applies to your first enrollment in an educational program on or after August 1, 2018.

Reserve Components Monthly Housing Allowance

The VA will prorate your monthly housing allowance under the Post-9/11 GI Bill for members of the reserve components of the armed forces. This change will be for those in quarter or semester terms that commence on or after August 1, 2018.

More Benefits for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)

The VA will provide up to 9 months of additional Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for those who:

  • Have or will soon exhaust entitlement of their Post-9/11 GI Bill.
  • Have applied for assistance.
  • Are enrolled in a program of education that leads to a post-secondary degree that, per the guidelines of the applicable regional or national accreditation agency, requires more than the standard 128 semester, or 192 quarter credit hours.
  • The program will need to be for a standard, undergraduate college degree in biological or biomedical science, physical science, science technologies or technicians, computer and information science and support services, mathematics or statistics, engineering, engineering technologies or an engineering-related field, a health profession or related program, a medical residency program, an agriculture science program or natural resources science program, or other subjects and fields that are identified by the VA as meeting national needs.
  • Have completed at least 60 standard semester, or 90 for quarter credit hours in a field listed above, or have earned a post-secondary degree in one of these fields and is also enrolled in a program of education that leads to a teaching certification.

Priority will be given to those who are entitled to 100% of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and to those that require the most credit hours. The VA can pay for each eligible individual for up to nine months of additional benefits. The total cannot exceed $30,000. The VA will not be authorized to issue any Yellow Ribbon payments. These benefits cannot be transferred. This will go into effect on August 1, 2019.

Pilot Programs for Technology Classes

The VA will develop a pilot program for eligible veterans who are entitled to educational assistance under chapter 30, 32, 33, 34, or 35 of title 38, United States Code, or chapter 1606 or 1607 of title 10, United States Code. This program will give the opportunity to enroll in high technology programs of education that the VA determines provide training and skills that are sought by employers in a relevant field or industry. This will take effect 180 days after August 1, 2018.

Purple Heart Recipients

Those who have been honorably discharged and were also awarded a Purple Heart, on or after September 11, 2001, will be entitled to Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits at the 100% level for up to 36 months. This started August 1, 2018.

Reserve Component Benefits

Those who have served as Guard or Reserve members under 10 U. S. C. 12304a and 12304b will be able to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. You may use this entitlement to pursue a course of education beginning on or after August 1, 2018. This applies to service in the Armed Forces on or after June 30, 2008.

Reserve Duty That Counts Toward Post-9/11 Eligibility

Any time a Reservist was ordered to active duty to receive authorized medical care, be medically evaluated for a disability, or complete a Department of Defense (DoD) healthcare study on or after September 11, 2001, will now count as active duty toward eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill program. You may use this entitlement to pursue a course of education beginning on or after August 1, 2018.

Yellow Ribbon Extension to Active Duty Service members

As of August 1, 2022, active duty service members may use the Yellow Ribbon program.

Most of these additions have already gone into effect, but a few will be added in the years to come. The Forever GI Bill will make things better for veterans, service members, and even family members while they attempt to get their education and work towards their career goals.