California vets, Guard members may get more from new GI Bill
August 5, 2009
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 5, 2009) -- Veterans attending private schools in California will now be able to receive more benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill due to an administrative fix announced Tuesday. President Obama also said Tuesday he favors extending benefits to National Guard members who served only on state active duty.
National Guardsmen mobilized after Sept. 11, 2001, under their state governor's control -- Title 32 authority -- are currently ineligible for benefits under the new GI Bill, while their Guard comrades who served in a federal Title 10 capacity can receive them.
Extending GI Bill benefits to those who served state active duty will require a legislative change, but Obama said his staff is working with Congress and the appropriations committees to help veterans who have "fallen through the cracks" and don't qualify for the new benefits.
"My general philosophy is that somebody who served in uniform on behalf of our safety and security, they should be eligible," he said. "We want to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We want to encourage more people to use the program rather than less."
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced Tuesday that a solution had been reached with the state of California regarding a "tuition fee glitch" that would have significantly cut benefits for veterans attending schools there under the GI Bill's Yellow Ribbon program.
"This solution will allow all veterans who want to attend a California school the same benefits as any other veteran across the nation," Shinseki said.
In California, public schools have traditionally charged no tuition, but relatively high fees. The new GI Bill authorizes VA to pay the actual tuition charged by a private university up to the maximum in-state tuition charged by the most expensive public university in the state.
Since California public schools officially had no tuition, a student attending private school in California would have received much less of a basic tuition benefit under the Post-9/11 GI Bill than students at private schools in other states.
Recently, California's public universities introduced a new billing line item, "Educational Fee/Tuition." VA determined that, under its existing regulations, the department can consider this new billing line item as "tuition" for the purposes of calculating the state's maximum payments.
"As a result of this interpretation, the maximum basic benefit VA can pay in California will increase, dramatically reducing the "gap" to be made up by California schools under the Yellow Ribbon agreement," said Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Benefits Patrick W. Dunne.
In California alone, about 80 schools have entered into more than 235 agreements for the 2009-2010 school year. The new maximum, in-state tuition amount for California public institutions is now $287 per credit hour.
More than 1,100 colleges, universities and schools across the country have entered into more than 3,400 "Yellow Ribbon" program agreements with VA to improve financial aid for Veterans participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
The Yellow Ribbon program, a provision of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, funds tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate. Institutions can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses, and VA will match this additional funding for eligible students.
The Yellow Ribbon program is reserved for veterans eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill at the 100- percent benefit level. This includes those who served at least 36 months on active duty or served at least 30 continuous days and were discharged due to a service-related injury.
Veterans could begin drawing benefits under the new Post-9/11 GI Bill as of Aug. 1 and President Obama celebrated launching the new bill Monday with a ceremony at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
The president said the new bill has the most generous educational benefits package for veterans since the original GI Bill of 1944.
Like the World War II veterans who benefited from the original GI Bill, he said today's veterans will become the highly educated workforce that helps "drive economic growth for many years to come," and added that the bill will provide "a tangible reward for the people who have made such extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country."
Additional information about the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program, as well as VA's other educational benefits, can be obtained by visiting VA's Web site <a href="http://www.gibill.va.gov"target=_blank>www.gibill.va.gov</a> or by calling 1-888-GIBILL-1 (or 1-888-442-4551).
(Donna Miles of the American Forces Press Service contributed to this report, along with news releases from the White House and Department of Veterans Affairs.)