The Post 9/11 GI Bill Shot Clock

There has been quite a bit of news coverage lately concerning benefits that veterans from our most recent wars are eligible to receive for their service.  Many educational institutions and training programs have come under scrutiny as a result of questionable practices, but why does it appear rampant these days?

The answer, simply put, is the remarkable educational benefits in the Post 9/11 GI Bill.  The bill is generous, and pretty much everyone who served more than 90 days in uniform since September 10th 2001 is eligible.

The intent behind the GI bill is best summed up by Senator Jim Webb, a former Marine who was highly decorated for his service in Vietnam:

“The Post-9/11 GI Bill started with a simple concept: that we owe those people who have served since 9/11 the same type of quality educational benefits that those who served in World War II received.”

The bill is indeed tremendous in its scale and scope.  Millions of men and women are entitled to the provisions in the legislation, and in cases where the veterans don’t need to go back to school they can pass eligibility to their children.

Recipients are entitled to 36 months of benefits.  With summers off, this makes a four year university degree possible for every veteran or serving member of the armed forces who desires one.  The dollar amount paid by the program equals the in-state tuition for state schools, and with a stipend for books and a housing allowance, it is possible for a veteran to attend a top-notch college or university and earn a degree.

Unfortunately, there is also the opportunity for the veteran to squander the benefit by falling victim to those organizations and institutions that more interested in taking their money than ensuring that they receive a quality education.

Webb, who introduced the bill to the Senate the day after he was sworn into office, recognized the problem and has introduced new legislation to address the situation.

“Some for-profit educational institutions are providing our students a good education, but abuses by certain institutions could put the integrity of the Post-9/11 GI Bill program at risk,” said Webb.

To counter the abuses, he introduced the Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act.  The act requires schools participating Veteran Administration and Department of Defense educational programs to meet the educational standards currently required for Pell Grants, federal student loans and other federal education programs. To receive funding from the VA, the schools must also disclose both default and graduation rates in addition to other information that students need to make informed choices about their education.

The problem for vets and servicepeople is that the 36 months of GI Bill eligibility are set in stone.  The recipient cannot get those months back in case he or she makes a poor decision and uses their benefits for an education at a dubious institution.  Once those benefits are used up, they are gone and the veteran is out of luck.  The educational institution takes the money and the vet loses out.  Since there are so many veterans and so much money devoted to the GI Bill it has become a cash cow to some disreputable institutions, and it is for that reason that Senator Webb moved to change the rules.

There is help at the local level, too.  This past weekend the North County Times ran an article by Mark Walker that highlighted the work of Pat Uetz, who as a retired Marine Colonel is heading up the University of San Diego’s Initiative to Protect Student Veterans.  He is spearheading a very effective effort to help veteran students.

“If you are a current or former student veteran of a for-profit education company and believe you were misled or are unsatisfied with your education, or you are considering enrolling in a for-profit company, then contact the USD Veterans Legal Clinic as soon as possible,” says Pat.  “They will assist you and there is no charge for the clinic’s services”.

You can contact the clinic at (619) 260-7470 or email to veteransclinic@sandiego.edu.  For additional information on USD’s Veterans Legal Clinic and USD’s other free legal clinics go to http://www.sandiego.edu/law/free_legal_assistance/.

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