On August 16, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the “Forever GI Bill” into law.
In a previous post, we discussed the new expansion of the Post 9-11 GI Bill, including new education benefits. Last month, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 became law. Named after the original framer of the GI Bill of Rights in 1944, the new law expands on the current Post 9-11 GI Bill benefit and provides additional protection to veterans.
Here are five things veterans should know about the new law:
1. Your Benefits are for Life (If You Meet Certain Criteria)
In order to get the benefits for a lifetime, a veteran must have been separated on or after January 1, 2013. If a veteran meets this criterion, the 15-year use or lose time frame has been eliminated and veterans can now use their available benefits throughout their lives. This change provides veterans with the opportunity to retain and use their benefits later in their careers to gain additional training and education required for advancement and wage increases.
2. STEM Programs are Emphasized
Many veterans and veteran groups had voiced concerns they had to choose degree programs other than STEM programs because many take longer than four years to complete. Due to this, educational benefits were running out before the veteran could complete their program of study. The new law places emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) programs by providing additional financial incentives. Under the expansion, veterans seeking to pursuing a STEM-related education will be eligible to receive either nine additional months of educational benefits or up to $30,000 (maximum amount) in a lump sum payment. Though many of the provisions of the bill go into effect next year, this provision will not be available until August of 2019.
3. Your Benefits are Protected Despite School Status
In the past, if something negative happened to the school or institution you were attending, it impacted your benefits. For example, if the school lost their accreditation, you lost too! In the past, any benefits veterans used at institutions that were closed had no recourse and the benefits they used up to that point were gone forever. Now, your benefits can be reinstated. If you are a veteran that attended any postsecondary institution, for-profit or not-for-profit, that closed after January 2015, your benefits can be restored. The Congressional Budget Office has earmarked $50 million to restoring veterans’ benefits next year.
4. Purple Heart Medal Recipients are Now Eligible for Benefits
All Purple Heart Medal recipients since September 11, 2001, regardless of status (Reservist, National Guard, or Active Duty), are entitled to full educational benefits even if they did not serve for three years. According to many veteran advocacy groups, this part of the expansion will immediately affect 1,500 Purple Heart recipients.
5. Enhancements have been made to Transfer Policies
Under the new expansion, veterans will be able to transfer the remainder of their entitlement to another spouse or dependent in cases when the original recipient has passed away. It also allows dependents to transfer remaining benefits to another dependent after the death of the veteran.
According to Charles E. Schmidt, the National Leader of the American Legion, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 marks a new era for today’s veterans and will transform America like the original GI Bill did following WWII.
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This article originally appeared on MilitaryOnlineColleges.org