Although the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Aug. 16, 2017, there are still major changes to come.

The act, also known as the Forever GI Bill, is a step in the right direction by allowing those veterans who served honorably to continue pursuing their educational goals.

Many provisions of the Forever GI Bill went into effect Aug. 1. These include:

  • Purple Heart recipients who were Honorably Discharged, regardless if they were Active Duty, Reserves, or in the National Guard, at the time of receiving the Purple Heart, will now be entitled to 100% benefit of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, as long as they were awarded the Purple Heart on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
  • Additional eligibility for Reservists. More specifically, when Reservists were ordered onto Active Duty to be medically evaluated for a potential disability, receive medical care, or complete an eligible DoD healthcare study on or after Sept. 11, 2001, this active duty time now counts towards Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility.
  • Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) for the Post-9/11 GI Bill is now to be calculated by the zip code of where the student attends the majority of their classes.
  • Monthly Housing Allowance will not be the zip code of where the institution of higher learning is located. This specifically affects those students attending a satellite campus for the majority of that semester’s coursework.

One of the most interesting changes to education benefits from the new Forever GI Bill will not be implemented until Aug. 1, 2019. This provision is geared at giving veterans an additional nine months of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit, as long as it is in a STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine) field of study. This additional time will be given to eligible veterans who:

  • have or will soon exhaust entitlement of Post-9/11 GI Bill program.
  • apply for assistance, and
  • are enrolled in a program of education leading to a post-secondary degree that, in accordance with the guidelines of the applicable regional or national accrediting agency, requires more than the standard 128 semester (or 192 quarter) credit hours for completion in a standard, undergraduate college degree in biological or biomedical science; physical science; science technologies or technicians; computer and information science and support services; mathematics or statistics; engineering; engineering technologies or an engineering-related field; a health profession or related program; a medical residency program; an agriculture science program or natural resources science program; or other subjects and fields identified by VA as meeting national needs.
  • has completed at least 60 standard semester (or 90 quarter) credit hours in a field listed above, or has earned a post-secondary degree in one of these fields and is enrolled in a program of education leading to a teaching certification.”

This provision is surely an effort by the VA to get veterans educated and trained in some of the fields that will see the biggest increase in demand in the next ten years.

With fall courses beginning soon across the country, it is very important for Veterans currently utilizing their Post-9/11 GI Bill to understand:

  • how many months of eligibility they have left
  • that the zip code of the campus where they physically take classes can change their expected Monthly Housing Allowance
  • and for those in the STEMM fields, to ensure they have met the requirements listed above, to take full advantage of this extra nine months of benefits

For Veterans that still have questions regarding the Forever GI Bill, be sure to speak with a representative at your local school’s veterans services office, or call 888-GI BILL-1 (888-442-4551) to be connected with a Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits coordinator.

Featured image: Army Health Professions Scholarship Program recipients can concentrate efforts on their studies, not long-term medical school bills. | U.S. Army