Post 9/11 GI Bill Cuts Looming!

It's time to sound the alarm about an imminent threat to the Post 9/11 GI Bill. With the fiscal deficit soaring and political parties clamoring for ways to trim government spending, legislation known as S 3447 (Senate) or HR 5933 (House) has reared its ugly head and threatens to cut down the possible benefits received from the newly established Post 9/11 GI Bill. Who's the culprit? That's where it gets interesting...

UPDATE: This bill has been passed by Congress and signed by the President and will now go into affect at the start of the fall 2011 school year. The below article is still factually accurate as to the pitfalls of the new legislation on the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Who's Wielding the Axe to the New GI Bill?

Like a radical plot twist from the hit series 24, the villains threatening the Post 9/11 GI Bill are not solely politicians, but also our own military veterans associations! The newly established vet organization known as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is the main culprit pushing for what they innocuously call GI Bill 2.0. Far from improving the GI Bill, the changes this organization is lobbying through Congress will significantly reduce the possible benefit that all soldiers can receive if they wish to attend a private college or university. We only wished that was the only downgrade associated with GI Bill 2.0.

GI Bill 2.0 — Downgrade or Upgrade? You Decide.

What changes are included in GI Bill 2.0? Here's what's on the chopping block:

Public schools continue to be funded 100% but state specific caps are abolished in favor of a $17,500 (recently raised to $18,077.50) limit on tuition and fees payments for a school year for private colleges nationwide.

This change is a huge blow to veterans wishing to attend a private institution in an expensive state (where even public schools charge $700+ a credit hour). Fortunately, Congress belatedly realized they were harming many thousands of veterans by applying a tuition cap AFTER these veterans had been accepted to pricey private schools expecting the GI Bill to cover much more of the cost. The Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011 exempts students in the states of Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas from the new tuition cap if they have been continuously enrolled in a program since January 4, 2011. These seven states had the highest tuition rate payouts per credit hour under the original Post 9/11 GI Bill legislation; we can only hope that veterans in all other states won't be adversely affected by the GI Bill 2.0 tuition cap.

Reduced Living Stipend

Another cut included in GI Bill 2.0 is a reduction in the living stipend received. Currently, veterans taking at least 7 college credits received the full living stipend. The proposed change would reduce the living stipend received by pro-rating the stipend for all veterans not enrolled full-time (with online students receiving half the living stipend of those attending a physical classroom). This change seems to make sense, but does amount to an additional cut in payments to some veterans using the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

End to Montgomery GI Bill Cost of Living Adjustment

If that wasn't enough, GI Bill 2.0 also eliminates the annual cost of living adjustment for the Montgomery GI Bill for those who earned that benefit. So in a few years time, the MGIB will become virtually useless for those soldiers who paid $1,200 towards the Montgomery GI Bill when they first joined military service. The cost of college education will only continue to skyrocket and the MGIB was already notorious for not keeping up with the increased cost. This change will further reduce the already rare instances where the MGIB is useful for student veterans.

Why Cut Our Benefits?

Our staff is truly appalled that our own veterans organizations are actively lobbying Congress from funds donated by fellow veterans, to turn around and recommend substantial cuts to our GI Bill entitlement. What right does IAVA have to speak for all veterans in pushing for this change? According to IAVA, they recommended these cuts in order to cover the additional expense of expanding GI Bill coverage for National Guard soldiers and Reservists. National Guard and Reservists called to active duty should qualify for the new GI Bill, but to actively push for substantial cuts to our GI Bill entitlement is a disgraceful means to an end. Surely, other options could have been pursued first. From our research, it appears that these cuts to the GI Bill were included from the start of their negotiations and lobbying with Congress.

Perhaps worst of all, IAVA refused to publish any of of the downfalls of "GI Bill 2.0" on their website...instead choosing to glorify it without any mention of the pitfalls. Upon further research, IAVA seems to have a tendency to be opaque and play partisan politics in favor of the Democratic party. To IAVA we have one clear message: leave the damn politics out of it and do what's best for VETERANS. As both an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, being a member of IAVA is the furthest thing from my mind after learning of their atrocious behavior.

To Arms!

If you feel as our staff does that veterans organizations have no right to push for cuts to our GI Bill entitlement, voice your concerns to the organization leading the charge towards cutting the new GI Bill: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Unfortunately, it seems that much progress has been made towards passage of GI Bill 2.0 before our staff was made aware of their misguided efforts. HR 599, which would enact the cuts proposed under GI Bill 2.0, is currently in the House, with the Army Times reporting that Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat from South Dakota and chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s economic opportunity panel, signing on as a cosponsor of the bill along with Rep. Bob Filner, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. In the Senate, S 3447 appears to be a mirror of the House bill and is sponsored by Senator Daniel Akaka, a Democrat from Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Voice your concerns to your representative in Congress if you feel these proposed changes are unfair to veterans—veterans who will have tuition and fees they currently know will be funded to be stripped away. Our staff is in unanimous consent that the push for GI Bill 2.0 has been opaque, misguided, and will hurt more soldiers than it could possibly help. Other options must be pursued instead of cutting the existing benefits made available to veterans with the passage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

UPDATE: Thankfully our main issue with the Post 9/11 GI Bill 2.0 changes have been rectified with the Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011. It is still disconcerting that Congress and some veterans organizations pushed for the GI Bill 2.0 changes without properly looking out for the thousands of veterans that were hurt by the original legislation.

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Article Last Modified: December 27, 2012

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