By Chris Mandia
Posted in Articles
It had been a long time coming. And when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act on June 22, 1944, it was heralded as the most significant piece of legislation ever produced by the United States government. Veterans of World War II, unlike their predecessors, were guaranteed a myriad of benefits ranging from educational support, job training, loan assistance for homes, farms or businesses and unemployment pay.
This omnibus bill came to be known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. Overhauled on several occasions in order to meet the needs and challenges of an ever-changing world, the G.I. Bill can seem like an uncharted battlefield to many veterans returning home from far-flung climes. And in the case of its most recent form – the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act (aka G.I. Bill 2.0), it is no different. Here’s a head-to-head comparison of the Montgomery G.I. Bill and G.I. Bill 2.0.
Under the Montgomery G.I. Bill, veterans entering the military after June 30, 1985 were required pay $1,200 in order to take full advantage of benefits. Under the new program, any service member serving 90 days of active duty since September 11, 2001 is qualified for said benefits. Along with relaxing general eligibility, expiration of benefits has been extended from ten years to fifteen.
Traditionally, payments rates were annually set nationwide. Varying from year to year, this system was soon outdated and untenable due to the current rise of educational/living costs. To remedy this, G.I. Bill 2.0 now provides upfront tuition payments equal to the in-state undergraduate tuition rate for the most expensive public university in the state of enrollment. In addition to monthly living allowances that can range from $667 to $2,751, qualified veterans are also eligible for $1,000 yearly book stipend.
Absent in previous bills, service members are now allotted a monthly housing allowance. Traditionally, educational benefits themselves were used for room and board – tapping significant amounts of money otherwise used for academic endeavors. Currently, dependent on the zip code of the educational institution where the veteran is enrolled, individuals are paid the equivalent rate of an E-5 with dependents for housing. A monthly stipend is paid directly to the veteran. Service members attending foreign schools are locked into a fixed rate of $1333.
Contingent upon agreement of re-enlistment, currently serving troops with six years of active duty have the ability to transfer their educational benefits. They must qualify for academic assistance themselves and have a spouse or dependent(s) enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS). Under the previous bill, transferability was limited to critical occupational specialties.
Proving to be the most innovative feature of G.I. 2.0 is the “Yellow Ribbon G.I. Education Enhancement Program.” Not addressed in previous bills, this new addition tackles the need for educational support at the graduate school level. Both private and public universities who choose to participate must first offer scholarships or tuition forgiveness to veterans. Entering into an agreement with the Veterans Administration, the school will be compensated, dollar for dollar, with what the university provides – up to the full cost of tuition. This remarkable program is available to service members who served a total of 36 months of active duty or were honorable discharged due to a service related disability.
It’s staggering to think this far-reaching bill almost never came to pass. Impacting the United States socially, economically and politically, the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944 is debatably the most significant piece of legislation ever passed by the US government. From it’s meager beginnings – $500 allotments per school year to qualified veterans, to the quite substantial G.I. 2.0, the Veterans Administration along with the American public have sought to support it’s men and women who’ve served under the red, white, and blue. Not without it’s faults, the current incarnation of the G.I. Bill seeks to take on an ever-changing world.
Chris Mandia is a Southern California-based writer who writes on Military issues. Serving two tours in Iraq as US Marine machine-gunner, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University 2007 and currently attends the University of Southern California’s graduate film program.