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Further Details on Changes to the G.I. Bill in H.R. 3016

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Washington, February 10, 2016 | comments

About a year ago, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) issued a report “to conduct a review of military compensation and retirement systems and to make recommendations to modernize such systems.”  The report’s aim was to, in part, “ensure the long-term viability of the All-Volunteer Force” and “enable the quality of life for members of the Armed Forces and the other uniformed services and their families in a manner that fosters successful recruitment, retention, and careers for members of the Armed Forces and the other uniformed services.”

Part of that report suggested eliminating the ability for veterans to transfer a specific benefit, covering the cost of housing while they are a full-time student, to dependents if the veteran decided not to use it. MCRMC found that the benefit often paid out much more than what was needed for an individual to find affordable housing, and the savings could be used to enhance other parts of the GI Bill. Their findings on the housing benefit include (pages 166-167):

"The Post-9/11 GI Bill housing stipend often exceeds the actual housing costs of dependent beneficiaries. For example, in academic year 2013-2014, New School University in New York reportedly had the highest estimated room and board cost in the country at $18,490. The BAH per month for an E5 with dependents in New York City in 2013 was $3,258, and for 2014 it was $3,744. Assuming a 9-month academic year, a student using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits at New School for 2013- 2014 would receive $31,752, which is $13,262 more than the estimated cost of room and board. Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, OK reportedly had lowest estimated room and board cost in the United States in academic year 2013-2014, at $3,900. Using the same assumptions, a student using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits would receive $8,658 in BAH, $4,758 more than the estimated cost of room and board."

In H.R. 3016, we made a modest change to the transferability of housing benefits to children going forward. It is important to note that this does not affect any child already receiving the benefit, service members will have 6 months to transfer the benefit even after the legislation passes, and the benefit is not entirely eliminated, despite official recommendations from the MCRMC.

This reduction to better conform to real-world housing costs allows us to enhance over a dozen other parts of the GI Bill and other veteran programs. The money is going directly back to veterans in a number of ways:

  • Expansion of the Fry Scholarship so more children and spouses are able to receive the benefit. The Fry Scholarship provides the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits of servicemembers who died in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001, to their spouses or children.
  • Allowing individuals using the Fry Scholarship to also receive the Yellow Ribbon Program
  • Allowing time spent by service members on certain medical leave orders to count towards their Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility
  • Expansion of VA’s Work-Study program
  • Elimination of the limit on home loans so more veterans will now be able to use the benefit
  • Expansion of medical care for newborns of women who receive maternity care through VA
  • Service dog training and handling for veterans suffering PTSD symptoms and other mental health issues
  • Improvements to claims processing for GI Bill claims and Vocational Rehab claims

Having served in Iraq, I know the promise this nation holds to our veterans. I will never take the issue of adjusting earned benefits lightly, but recognize that there are opportunities to make the money we deservedly spend on veterans go farther and help more veterans.

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Tags: Veterans