New GI Bill for Post 9/11 Veterans

By Sarah Seeley
NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - Post 9/11 war veterans are now eligible for new GI bill benefits.

It started as one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever produced by the federal government.

Starting August 1st, the newest GI bill is updated to help out a new generation of veterans get all of their higher education paid for.

The Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 expands the number of people who qualify for education support from the VA through the 1984 Montgomery GI bill.

The old GI bill gave servicemen a lump sum depending on their years of service.

The post 9/11 GI bill will pay for all school fees and more.

"It completely pays the tuition and fees; they get a housing allowance based of the zip code of the school, and they get up to a $1,000 stipend for books and supplies," said Sharon Childers, West Texas A&M veterans benefits coordinator.

Sergeant Jorge Flores enlisted in 2003 and has since been to Iraq twice.

He's been trying to go to school in-between tours of duty.

Many say the hardest part of the Montgomery GI bill is finding a way to pay for housing, books and supplies.

"A lot of veterans, when they return, the big problem is having the money up front and paying for your tuition and fees," said Childers.

"I have to pay for my books and I have to take out another loan," said Flores.  "I have to start paying that monthly when my VA comes in."

"Since this will already pay for it [all], it will kind of save us from having to get those loans," said Flores.  "Maybe [it will] encourage others to go back because [if] you don't have to get a loan, you [will] know you don't have to get in debt to get out of it."

Flores says learning of the financial benefits has many servicemen and women wanting to go back to school.

"You're going to make the same thing [with the GI bill] going to school and [having] a part time job and you're going to make the same thing you're making now [working without it," said Flores.

Childers says even though it looks like a lot of money, if you don't qualify completely you wont benefit at all.

"They still need to look at all the options, it's not always good for everyone," said Childers.  "If you're just going to do online, you don't want to go the new GI bill because you wont get paid your housing and you wont get paid your books and supplies."

For the first time in history, service members enrolled in the Post 9/11 GI bill will also be able to transfer unused educational benefits to their spouses and children.

Childers tells us WT sees hundreds of veterans every semester, but says many don't understand they can receive more benefits if they sit down and examine every option.

Veterans who do not apply for the new GI bill may still be eligible for one of several other benefit programs.

The Montgomery GI bill gives a $1,321 monthly payment for active duty veterans who served three or more years and $1,073 for veterans who served less than three years.

Unlike the Post 9/11 GI bill, that can be used by students who are part-time or taking only online classes and can be for any school expense.

Texas veterans who do not qualify or have used all of their GI bill benefits may be eligible under the Texas Hazelwood Act.