BAGHDAD - Pfc. Christopher Lee, of Headquarters Support Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, has a plan. He wants to attend college after he gets out of the Army to pursue a bachelor's degree in nursing. This will in turn get the Alexander, La. native on the right path to becoming an anesthetist, which is the career he has his hopes set on.

But the cost of obtaining a college degree is an obstacle he will have trouble overcoming on his own.

Higher education is a valuable but costly resource. The Army supports Soldiers wanting to further their education through the Montgomery GI Bill, which provides some compensation for the ever-rising cost of college. In many cases however, it doesn't cover the full amount, leaving Soldiers dependent upon financial aid, scholarships and their own money to cover the difference.

The Post 9-11 GI Bill is a new, comprehensive program designed to improve the old GI Bill, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Payment processing for the new benefits began Aug. 1.

The new bill is especially beneficial to Soldiers wishing to go to school full time, providing three separate payments covering tuition, books and living expenses.

Tuition payments are based on the highest tuition rate for a public institution in the Soldier's chosen state. These payments are made directly to the school.

Soldiers will also receive a monthly housing allowance. The monthly payments are equal to basic housing allowance for an E-5 with dependents.

Soldiers will also receive a yearly stipend of up to $1,000.00 for book fees.

To qualify for the minimum amount of benefits at 40 percent, Soldiers need to have completed at least 90 days of active duty after Sept. 10, 2001. Soldiers who have served 36 months or more since that time will receive 100 percent.

Soldiers who qualify for the old GI Bill can transfer their benefits to the new bill but the choice is final.

Another aspect of the Post 9-11 GI Bill is the ability to transfer benefits to a dependent. This includes a Soldier's spouse or children.

The Soldier and their dependents remain eligible to use benefits under the Post 9-11 GI Bill for up to 15 years after the Soldier leaves active duty. Children are eligible to receive the benefits until they are 26 years old.

For more information about the Post 9-11 GI Bill, visit the VA website at www.gibill.va.gov/.

Page last updated Wed September 9th, 2009 at 16:02