As of Aug. 1, members of the military who served on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001 will be eligible for the biggest government education spending supplement since the Montgomery GI Bill after World War II.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill will allow members of the military who served more than 90 days active duty after the fall of the twin towers to go to an institute of higher education on the government's tab – estimated to be $78 billion over the next 10 years. Service members will be able to attend 4 years of an instate, accredited institution, with housing and books stipend included. The legislation was penned by Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia.
Military members can even transfer the benefits to a spouse or children if they agree to serve an additional four years.
After the bill was signed, President Obama extended thanks to lawmakers and saluted the men and women who made sacrifices for their country. He used the opportunity to take jabs at wartime profiteers.
"We have lived through an age when many people and institutions have acted irresponsibly -- when service often took a backseat to short-term profits; when hard choices were put aside for somebody else, for some other time. It's a time when easy distractions became the norm, and the trivial has been taken too seriously," Obama said at a George Mason University ceremony. "While so many were reaching out for a quick buck, they were heading out on patrol."
The bill is not retroactive – service members will only be able to take advantage of the benefits after Aug. 1. Any college or job training expenses incurred in the past are not eligible for compensation.
The original GI Bill, signed in 1944 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is widely credited as having created the largest middle class economic boom in history, with nearly half of the 16 million World War II veterans taking advantage of the benefits. This new GI Bill will likely not have the same effect as the original – not nearly as many men and women have served in the military when compared to the massive force deployed to fight the Axis forces. There are currently about 1,445,000 active duty personnel, not including those who have been on active duty in the past 8 years.
Veterans Affairs Secretary estimates that 250,000 will attend colleges and universities by 2011.
Private schools who enter into agreements with the Veterans Administration will also be able to provide scholarships with a 50 percent match from the government, allowing veteran students a wider range of choices than just state schools. A moving allowance of $500 is also included in the bill.
For more information visit www.gibill.va.gov.