New ‘Forever GI Bill’ makes changes to student veteran benefits

New ‘Forever GI Bill’ makes changes to student veteran benefits
In this Feb. 19, 2014 photo, the Metro State Veterans Network (MSVN) student organization participates in a military celebration of African American History Month in New Main Great Hall. The MSVN and staff in the Veterans and Military Student Center in Founders Hall 201 support students using state and federal educational benefits like the Forever GI Bill. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota National Guard

SGT. LEWIS

Retired Marine Sgt. Lewis is a professional writing and technical communication major.

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Last summer, lawmakers approved changes to the post-9/11 GI Bill that immediately removed the 15-year time limit to access college aid for eligible veterans pursuing a degree or certificate.

Veterans discharged after Jan. 1, 2013 can now use their 36 months of schooling assistance any time in their life and never worry about losing that benefit after 15 years.

If a school loses accreditation or is identified as predatory, any credits that did not go to helping the veteran earn a degree will now be restored. The beneficiary can reuse the time wasted from their 36 months of benefits. Also, if a school shuts down before a veteran is able to get their degree, those credits that do not transfer towards that veterans degree will now be reimbursed as well.

Additional provisions of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, commonly known as the Forever GI Bill, will take effect in August 2018.

Veterans pursuing a degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields will get up to nine months added to their 36 months of benefits.

Surviving spouses will now receive 36 months of GI Bill benefits instead of 45 months. Surviving spouses only receive these benefits if they do not remarry.

Surviving children of the veteran can now only use their GI Bill benefits until the age of 26.

Sergeant Logan Crossley served as a tank crewman in Afghanistan and is now a student at Metro State. “Since we all know that nothing is free, the government has decided to shorten the survivor benefits from 45 to 36 months,” Crossley said. “While this is unfortunate, I suspect it doesn’t effect the majority of veterans and their spouses.”

The bill did not make changes to a required in-class time policy to receive housing benefits from the GI Bill. If school is only providing online courses for a semester, that veteran receives no housing benefits.

This has been a big concern for Julie Olson in Metro State’s Veterans and Military Student Services office and a liaison to the Department of Veterans Affairs. “I wished they would have looked at the restrictions put on students who study online,” Olson said. “Some don’t meet the requirements and will lose their housing benefit.”

Retired Marine Sgt. Lewis is a professional writing and technical communication major.

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