I called my dad the other day when I heard the good news. “Dad, guess what? I just read how the government fixed the GI Bill by cutting benefits to all veterans using educational benefits. Surprise!” But, all veterans on almost every educational and rehabilitation program will see their total yearly stipend payouts dip because “Interval Pay” (pay between terms like Fall and Spring) has been almost completely cut. For full-time students attending year round, the yearly cut will be approximately 20 percent. So, a GI Bill veteran receiving $1,300 per month will really receive $1,050 per month when you average in 12 months of stipend after subtracting 10 weeks of previously received interval pay. A Pre-9/11 veteran with no dependents using Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment will see $554 drop to $450, over 12 months. No wonder the Act was able to get passed last December. They scalped $2 billion off the price tag. Yet another way America thanks you and your family for your sacrifices. Just don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
What does this mean? On average, a veteran attending college year round will have 10 weeks per year between classes. The Act cuts all interval payments between classes except for national emergencies and Executive Order, removing the old standard that paid a stipend over shorter breaks between fall, spring and summer semesters, for full-time students. When aggregated, the GI Bill veteran loses $3,000 per year, decreasing the $1,300 stipend to $1,050 per month. The Pre-9/11 Voc Rehab veteran loses $1,300 per year, decreasing the $554 stipend to $450 per month. And sadly, the Pre-9/11 veterans don’t even get to take advantage of any of the Act’s benefits. Not one.
The math. GI Bill stipend avg: 12 months x $1,300 = $15,600. $15,600 / 52 weeks per year = $300 per week. Weeks of transition: 4 between Fall/Spring; 3 between Spring/Summer; 3 between Summer/Fall = 10 weeks. 10 weeks x $300 = $3,000 per year reduction.
In S.3447Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, there are many new, fandangled improvements. The biggest that caught my attention was Section 205 of the bill addressing Post-9/11 disabled veterans using Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment. For these veterans, they can choose to receive the equivalent to E-5 with dependents BAH pay.
The majority of the cuts to pay for the “improvements” came from a severe limitation of the Interval Payment totaling over $2 billion. This is the payment veterans receive in between semesters so that they don’t have to go into debt while in school to pay things like rent and child support. The new rule changes the payment so that it “would be paid out very rarely.” Congress decided veterans don’t need the money. And the cut does not just apply to Post-9/11 veterans eligible for the new GI Bill. It applies to practically all veterans, even the ones receiving the paltry $554 per month who are not eligible for the BAH increase.
The background was that the different between the GI Bill stipend amount and the Voc Rehab stipend amount was pushing a lot of disabled veterans to use the GI Bill and miss out on the specialized help some veterans get from Voc Rehab. You’re talking $1300 per month (national average GI Bill) versus $554 (Voc Rehab veteran with no dependents). While the veteran is eligible for both programs, they can opt for the BAH amount. Once they are no longer eligible for the GI Bill (after 36 months), then what happens? Assumedly, they go back down the Voc Rehab rate, which is $554 per month. Not too great, especially when most students are unable to finish college within the allotted 36-month window, much less students who need extra schooling to accommodate for their disabilities.
Luckily, Uncle Sam had a solution. Senator Akaka and the Committee were:
“concerned that, since the months of educational assistance available to eligible veterans and others is, in most cases, equal to the number of months needed to attain an educational objective, using entitlement for months during which a student is not actively pursuing an educational goal unnecessarily uses months of entitlement that could be otherwise utilized and results in the student’s inability to complete an educational objective with available assistance.”
Done and done. Yet another example of our great government looking out for the little guy, right?
But all of us know that when you hear the words, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,” run away. Yes, in S.3447 there are numerous “readjustments” to the original Post-9/11 GI Bill that needed to be made to make it “more equitable.” In fact, to make it fairer, Congress cut $2.3 billion from the benefit. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “seems like ‘Improvements’ was added to the title of the Act to merely be ironic.” If the Act is intended to help veterans better use their 36 months of GI Bill, then how does the Congressional Budget Office know they will “save” $2 billion with the adjustment? The short answer: they anticipate veterans will not use the full 36 months; otherwise, there would be no savings.