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Do Veterans’ Educational Benefits Expire?

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By Quennette McCoy      

The Servicemembers’ Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the GI Bill, was signed into law on June 22, 1944, by President Franklin Roosevelt as a means to assist returning service members with reintegrating into society through academic achievement. Without such an entitlement, many returning from World War II may have been unemployed for extended periods, as they could not gain the knowledge, skills and abilities of their counterparts who worked continuously throughout the conflict. In the years since then, this bill has been updated several times and has now settled into the most recent version of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also known as the Forever GI Bill. While most believe that educational benefits never expire, there are exceptions. Here, we will discuss how universities and colleges can assist their student veterans in making the most of their educational benefits.

Why would a timeline be placed on how long a veteran has to utilize the benefit? Providing an expiration date encourages individuals to promptly embark upon their academic journey, or vocational career opportunities, instead of procrastinating. Gaining new skills, degrees or certifications allows a smoother transition into their post-military lives, as these credentials are attractive to potential employers.

Additionally, this hard suspense supports the program’s fiscal sustainability, which is funded by taxpayers, by allowing budget analysts to forecast potential expenditures in future year budgets.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs advises that those discharged prior to January 1, 2013, have 15 years from the date of discharge to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, and those entitled to the Montgomery GI Bill have 10 years from the date of separation. The suspense given for the Montgomery GI Bill could mean that the benefit has already lapsed for some of your students. So, what can you do to help?

First, the financial aid office should verify the type of educational benefits to which the student is entitled. They should then be referred to the university’s military student affairs office, as those individuals are well suited to advise the students on achieving their academic goals by maximizing their benefits. While separating service members receive a briefing on their VA education benefits prior to departing the military, some do not pay attention to the content.

The quality of the information provided in the briefing varies from presenter to presenter, so one group may be given thorough instruction while another may receive a high-level overview. Additionally, service members receive a slew of mandatory briefings before exiting the service and may suffer from data overload, resulting in little information retention. One misconception surrounding educational benefits is that students must maintain an uninterrupted enrollment. Individuals can access their GI Bill, take time off, and then return to their studies.

There are specific circumstances whereby veterans can request extensions for their educational benefits if the individual: subsequently served 90 or more consecutive days on active duty following the initial filing for benefits, had an injury or illness that prevented them from attending an academic/vocational institution, or was held by a foreign government. The first condition is relatively common among National Guard and Army Reserve students, as some frequently accept active-duty mobilizations. Ensure that the veteran provides all discharge documents for evaluation when evaluating their qualifications for benefits. The education officer can assist the student by helping to compose the content of the submission, leading to an increased chance of acceptance by the VA.

Studies show that approximately 30% of veterans never utilize their educational benefits. So, when individuals make an effort to use their GI Bill, it is imperative that schools assist them to the maximum extent. While the expiration of educational benefits will someday become a moot issue due to the Forever GI Bill, colleges, universities and vocational training institutions must be well-versed in assisting their veteran populations in traversing this funding labyrinth. Many veterans need to become more familiar with the full extent of their entitlements, and institutions of higher learning should be equipped to advise them appropriately.

Small acts such as providing accurate and consistent education benefits counseling can make an institution well-known for being military friendly and improve veteran student satisfaction. In gaining such a reputation, a school can experience increased veteran enrollment and receive the disbursement of those educational benefits on which they advised.

Discover more education articles for the veteran community here.

The post Do Veterans’ Educational Benefits Expire? appeared first on DiversityComm.

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