“Forever GI Bill” Headed to President’s Desk for Signature
Both houses of Congress unanimously voted to pass the “Forever GI Bill,” and with the Senate’s August 2, 2017 approval, the measure heads to President Trump’s desk for what is expected to be a quick signature into law. The bill provides the biggest expansion of college aid for veterans in a decade. It erases the fifteen-year requirement for using the benefits fills coverage gaps in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserves.
The bill gives additional payments to veterans who completed science, technology and engineering courses. Additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserves could add up to a $2,300 bump, plus a bigger housing allowance.
Other changes include expanding eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program to surviving spouses and children of service members who are killed in the line of duty. Full GI Eligibility would be given to Purple Heart recipients, eliminating a three-year wait requirement. It also protects veterans by restoring their benefits if an educational institution closes mid-semester. And the bill corrects a Pentagon deployment authorization preventing thousands of reservists and guardsmen from earning GI Bill benefits, affecting approximately 4,700 reservists and guardsmen and women.
Advocates of the legislation say it could directly affect more than half a million veterans over the next 15 years. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that the bill will be cost neutral over 10 years, thanks largely to the slight reduction in monthly living stipends for college tuition recipients, according to the New York Times.
Some of the provisions would take effect Jan. 1, 2018, while others would start in August 2018. A few others, such as granting active-duty service members eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program, would not apply for a few more years.
The legislation has the support of various veterans’ service organizations, including Student Veterans of America and The American Legion, the group that architected the original GI Bill of Rights in 1944.