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The Webb GI Bill: How It Affects the Military And Their Families

Aug 13, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

On June 30, 2008, new legislation was signed into law expanding education benefits for post-9/11 veterans and their families. The Post 9/11 Veterans’ Educational Assistance Act of 2008, sometimes called the Webb GI Bill or the Post 9/11 GI Bill, was introduced by Senator Jim Webb from Virginia on his first day in office. Although Senator Webb is a Democrat, the bill attracted wide bipartisan support—although notedly not from President Bush himself.

The Benefits: What You'd Get Under the New GI Bill

After World War II, the original GI Bill was enacted to provide full tuition benefits to veterans. In the 1980's, the GI Bill was revamped and its benefits reduced. Under the Montgomery GI Bill, as the new version was called, veterans could receive tuition payments up to only a certain amount, adjusted every few years to keep up with inflation and college cost increases. As of August 2008, the current rates have included up to $1,321 per month for full-time students, less for students attending school part time; lower rates also apply for those attending institutional training programs, apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs.

Soldier In A Classroom
The Post-9/11 GI Bill increases benefits to cover all tuition and fees for four-year degree programs up to the amount of the most expensive public school tuition in the state where the veteran’s school is located.  Amounts vary by state, as well as the number of months a veteran has served on active duty since 9/11.

If you have more tuition than what’s covered under the GI Bill, you may be eligible for further benefits if your school participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, in which the school contributes 50% or more of the tuition costs on top of GI Bill assistance.

But tuition assistance isn’t all you get. The new bill also provides a monthly living stipend based on the average living costs of a service member with a pay grade of E-5 with dependents in the area where you live. Average cost-of-living stipends can range from almost $3,000 per month in New York City to $876 in El Paso, Texas. This benefit is only available to veterans who are enrolled in traditional schools; veterans attending programs entirely online won’t be eligible for a cost-of-living stipend.

The program also includes an annual stipend of $1,000 per year to pay for fees and books; as much as $100 per month in tutorial assistance; up to $2,000 to cover the cost of one licensing or certification test; and an increase in the length of time you’re eligible to use your GI Bill benefits after your tour of duty ends: 15 years instead of 10 under the current bill.  

Eligibility: Who Qualifies for the New GI Bill

To qualify for the new GI Bill, you must:

  • Serve at least 90 days total on or after September 11, 2001 and receive an honorable discharge.  You have to serve at least 36 months to receive the full set of benefits, however.
  • Earn a secondary school diploma or GED before applying for higher education benefits.
  • Be the spouse of a veteran who has served at least six years of active duty on or after 9/11, with the commitment to serve at least four more years.
  • Be the child of a veteran who has served at least ten years of active duty service on or after 9/11.

Schools within the U.S. are covered, as well as international schools, although not at the same rate.

Other Veterans’ Assistance Programs: Choosing One.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill doesn’t replace the Montgomery GI Bill or other Veterans’ assistance programs, and as a veteran you’ll have to choose which one is best for you.  At first glance, the Post 9/11 GI Bill looks like a better deal: it gives out more per month in general than the Montgomery Bill does; sometimes a lot more, depending on your state.  It’s also very generous in paying for living costs, fees and books.  

But not everybody gets the full benefits of the new bill. If you’re attending school part-time, served for less than four years, or plan to attend a program shorter than four years in duration, you may receive more benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill. You’ll have to choose, however; you can’t receive compensation for both.

Incidentally, those already receiving benefits under the Montgomery GI bill should see their rates rise by approximately $220 per month.

For a complete comparison of the new GI Bill with other forms of veterans’ assistance including the Montgomery GI Bill, click here.

Getting Your Benefits: How to Apply.

You’ll be able to apply for the Post-9/11 GI Bill on August 1, 2009—earlier for those who are applying for benefit transfers from a spouse or parent. The full application for the new GI Bill can be found here.

The Webb GI Bill greatly expands benefits for most returning veterans serving in post-9/11 conflicts.  With its generous provisions for tuition, cost of living, fees and other incidental costs, it’s likely to open many educational doors for returning vets and their families.

 Youtube: 21st Century G.I. Bill SDSU





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