New Law Eases Impact of GI Bill Changes on Some Veterans
August 10, 2011
The president signed the Restoring G.I. Bill Fairness Act of 2011 (PL 112-26) on August 3 to provide additional coverage of tuition and fees for veterans already attending private institutions who had previously received benefits that exceeded the new $17,500 annual cap. For veterans attending private institutions in most states, the nationwide cap instituted by the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Improvements Act will increase the amount of tuition and fees covered. The Improvements Act took effect on August 1.
The Restoring G.I. Bill Fairness Act provides that veterans who, since January 4, 2011, were enrolled in a private institution of higher education and eligible for assistance under Chapter 33 (the Post-9/11 GI Bill) are entitled to receive the greater of $17,500 per year for tuition and fee charges or the established charges that would have been paid under the old chart in-state maximums. These transitional benefits will be available only through July 31, 2014, and only to veterans who remain enrolled in the same institution.
Veterans in Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas are the likely beneficiaries of the new transitional benefits. Those states had the highest rates for tuition and fee payments under the old payment schedule, which tied benefits for students attending private institutions to the highest public in-state charges for an undergraduate program. The large variances in reimbursement rates between states were one of the reasons that Congress instituted the new cap.
The Fairness Act addresses concerns about veterans who may have made the decision to attend expensive private institutions expecting veterans’ educational benefits greater than the newly imposed $17,500 maximum. It does not, however, remedy a similar predicament for veterans attending public institutions and paying out-of-state tuition and fees. Those students’ charges used to be covered up to the amount covered for students in private institutions in the state, but under the Improvements Act, reimbursement for veterans at public institutions are now capped at in-state charges. The impact may be mitigated by state laws allowing veterans to pay in-state rates. Furthermore, veterans eligible for 100 percent coverage at both public and private institutions may receive additional support through the Yellow Ribbon program if their institution participates.
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