WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) – The GI Bill helps veterans pay for school after they leave the Armed Forces. Now, Congress has approved some major changes to give veterans more options.
“This is primarily about giving more flexibility and choice to our veterans so they can use the benefits they so richly deserve and they earned,” said Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.
Cotton is an Army veteran who served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said the reforms boost assistance to National Guard and Reserve veterans and pay for veterans to receive non-traditional education, like computer coding boot camps and independent study.
“We want to make sure the benefit that they are receiving is most tailored to their life choices,” he said.
The legislation represents $3 billion over 10 years for GI tuition assistance. It’s paid for by a small reduction in cost of living expenses for new GI Bill enrollees — a plan that’s drawing support from major veterans organizations.
One of the most profound changes applies to veterans who leave the military after 2013. It ends the 15-year time limit to use GI benefits that pay tuition, and it grants 100 percent benefits for certain Purple Heart recipients.
“Somebody who earned a Purple Heart and didn’t have enough months of qualifying benefits would only get a partial benefit or no benefit at all,” said Walter Ochinko
Ochinko, a policy director with the organization Veterans Education Success, also points to a provision for increasing benefits for the dependents of fallen soldiers.
“It’s a wonderful expansion of the benefit, and it rectifies a lot of the gaps,” he said.
President Donald Trump is promising to sign the legislation. If he does, the first provisions go into effect on January 1.