Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New GI Bill gives Guard, Reserve members their educational due

The new GI Bill will include National Guard and Reserve members in what experts are calling the, "... most comprehensive and generous educational benefits the U.S. government has ever offered."

The new bill is slated to be made available to military members in August of this year.

According to a recent article in the Army Times, veterans' education benefits will undergo a "life-changing" transformation that will suddenly make a four-year college degree affordable for a new generation of wartime veterans."

The old bill, known as Montgomery GI Bill, offered up to $48,000 in tuition benefits to anyone who served in any branch of the military except the National Guard and Reserves. National Guard members and Reservists received about $12,000 under the same bill.

Not anymore.

According to Keith Wilson, education spokesperson for the Veterans Administration, National Guardsmen and Reservists didn't really have a stake in the old GI Bill.

"Now we have one program that covers both the active duty and the Guard and Reserves," Wilson said in an interview with Army Times.

Indeed, everyone who entered the military on or after September 10, 2001, and has at least 90 days of active duty service is eligible under the new law.

The range of benefits includes tuition and fees equal to each state's most expensive state institution, for in-state, undergraduate study. However, servicemembers who elect to attend a more expensive private college are eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program, where the VA and the school will split the difference between the benefit and the actual cost, Wilson said.

Also included in the benefit is a monthly housing allowance, based on the Department of Defense's basic housing allowance.

Those who qualify for the bill may be eligible for;
- A stipend of up to $1,000 per year for books and supplies
- Up to $1,200 toward tutorial assistance
- Up to $2,000 for licensing or certification tests
- Up to $500 to help cover transportation costs for students in remote areas

Ever since 9-11, National Guard members and Reservists across the country have been expected to step up to the plate. They have fought, and in some cases died, alongside their active duty counterparts. Indeed, over half of those returning as veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are from the nation's National Guard and Reserves.

It's about time we treat soldiers and airmen in the National Guard and Reserves the same way we do other veterans. Not only is it a great way to help returning military members and their families, but it is a wonderful way for our nation to say 'thank you' to those who have sacrificed so much for their country.

For more information about the new GI Bill, visit the VA website here. Oregon Guard members are encouraged to contact their education office, or see the military liaison at the school of your choice.
Oregon Army National Guard members: please contact CW3 Diane Beach at 503-584-3456 for more information.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Emerging Digital Media Manager, Oregon Military Department

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