If you’re a student using the Post−9/11 GI Bill, the stipend you receive for rent each month could look a little different this fall.
That’s because the Veterans Affairs Department will begin calculating housing allowances based on where students take the most classes — a change from current policy, which uses the ZIP code of a school’s main campus.
The change comes as part of a robust set of reforms to veteran education benefits that became law under the Forever GI Bill last August. Among the bill’s most popular provisions are the elimination of a requirement that vets must use their GI Bill benefits within 15 years of separating.
The law has also made active-duty service members on the GI Bill eligible for a housing stipend the day after they get out of the military, instead of the next month, VA spokeswoman Ann Richardson said at a recent military education conference.
Additionally, housing stipends have decreased slightly — a cost-saving measure that, over five years, will help pay for the Forever GI Bill’s expansions, lawmakers have said. This change, which went into effect in January, brings veterans’ housing stipends on par with what active-duty service members with dependents receive at the E−5 rate. This change only applies to service members who have enrolled in GI Bill benefits since Jan. 1; anyone receiving the benefit before then will not see a change.
Richardson called the housing allowance changes “kind of a big deal.”
“There’s a lot more work for (school certifying officials), I’m not going to lie,” she said. “Of course, we’re working on the IT that has to be changed as well. Hopefully, we’ll get through it together.”
The VA has had technical difficulties implementing the housing stipend changes by the Aug. 1 deadline, but officials say the new system should be ready to go by mid-August. In the meantime, veterans who attend the majority of their classes at a location other than the school’s main campus could get under or overpaid on their first check.
Also starting this fall, post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients will be eligible to receive 100 percent of GI Bill benefits regardless of how long they served. This includes coverage of tuition at a public school’s in-state rate for 36 months, as well as book and housing stipends. This group, as well as surviving dependents using the Fry Scholarship, will also be eligible for Yellow Ribbon, a voluntary program in which schools and the VA split tuition costs not covered by the GI Bill. Active-duty service members will be able to use Yellow Ribbon starting in 2022.
Reservists will continue to receive their monthly housing allowance under the GI Bill on a prorated rate for any month during which they are activated, preventing them from losing a whole month’s worth of funds.
Surviving family members receiving benefits through the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program will get more money but less time to use the benefits under the Forever GI Bill changes. Their monthly education stipends will increase by $200 in October, but starting in August, new enrollees will be eligible for 36 months of education benefits, rather than 45. If a dependent who received transferred benefits dies before using all of the benefits, the Forever GI Bill gives the service member or veteran the ability to transfer remaining benefits to another dependent. This provision, which also goes into effect this year, will apply to all deaths since 2009.
Military Times contributor and former reporter Natalie Gross hosts the Spouse Angle podcast. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.