More than 65 years later GI Bill still helping vets

24 Jun 2011 | Sgt. Marcy Sanchez

More than 65 years ago The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to ensure service members returning from war would have educational opportunities.

Since 1944, educational benefits for veterans have assisted millions in pursuing a higher education and providing better career opportunities.

The act did three things for veterans: finance education and training, loan guaranty for homes and unemployment pay at a rate of 20 dollars a week for up to 52 weeks.

Today, veterans are offered more than one option to suit their educational goals. Two benefits most service members opt for are the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“Service members can pursue an education or a career through college, universities or vocational schools,” said Eddie Bickham, Education and Career Specialist at the Joint Education Center. “Every service member has different goals. Those goals can determine what benefits to use.”

The Montgomery GI Bill provides up to 36 months of monthly education benefits to those who have completed minimum service obligations and contributed to the bill for the first year of their contract. The benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship, on-the-job training and correspondence courses.

“As long as they paid $1,200 and received an honorable discharge they can use the Montgomery GI Bill,” Bickham said. “Some Marines decide they don’t want to go to college and want a vocational occupation, plumbers, electricians, air condition specialist, dental assistants, phlebotomist - anything of that nature is currently only covered by the Montgomery GI Bill.”

In 2008 another educational benefit for veterans was signed into law. The Post-9/11 GI Bill was passed for veterans who have served at least 90 days of active duty service after September 10, 2001. The bill pays for college tuition and fees for service members and a housing allowance equal to an E-5 with dependents at the location of the school they are attending. Vocational and technical schools are not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“The first thing veterans need to do when deciding on what they want to do with their benefits is decide what their educational goals are,” said Mark Minkler, a veterans advisor from Palomar College veteran services office in San Marcos, Calif.

Although applying and receiving the educational benefits may seem complicated to some, the process is easier than it sounds.

“It’s not hard if you have the right help,” said Travis Czarnecki, a former rifleman with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, who plans to attend Arizona State University. “Veterans offices have great support and have veterans who have used the benefits themselves helping you.”

After veterans decide what their educational goals are, they can apply to a school that is approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs to accept the GI Bill.

Applications for educational benefits can be filled out on the VA website or by paper and mailed to the VA. Most frequently asked questions can be found on the VA’s website.

“There’s a section online that tells you what schools you can go to,” Czarnecki said. “Depending on your location and how many benefits you’ll be getting back will help in determining which bill to use if you have an option.”

The online application is the first step to begin receiving benefits and reaching educational goals.

 “Applying for the GI Bill online does not have anything to do with the school,” said Minkler, a retired Air Force captain who used his GI Bill to attain two Master’s degrees. “The VA will mail you a certificate of eligibility that needs to be presented to the school’s veteran’s office.”

After gathering all required documents from the VA, veterans can pursue a degree or certificate from the eligible school.

“Ask for the veteran’s office at the school of choice,” Minkler said. “The veteran’s office will help with the GI Bill and assist the veteran in getting enrolled into the school.”

Veterans and active-duty service members interested should regularly check the VA’s website for changes made to the GI Bill.

For more information on eligibility and educational benefits offered, visit the Veterans Affairs GI Bill website at