Obama: New GI Bill renews commitment to troops

by Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama saluted the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill Aug. 4 during a ceremony at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

Signed into law June 20, 2008, the new GI Bill is a Department of Veteran Affairs-sponsored program that provides the most comprehensive educational benefit package for veterans since the original GI Bill, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, was authorized toward the end of World War II.

Today’s new GI Bill was implemented “to renew our commitment to ensure that the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America get the opportunities that they have earned,” President Obama said.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is just as important as the original, President Obama said, as it also recognizes servicemembers for their wartime service and represents “an investment in our own country.”

The president said the new program will provide today’s veterans “the skills and training they need to fill the jobs of tomorrow.”

“Education is the currency that can purchase success in the 21st century,” the president said, “and this is the opportunity that our troops have earned.”

With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, qualified active-duty and selected Reserve servicemembers who have served after Sept. 10, 2001, are eligible for 36 months of state-school educational benefits, the equivalent of four nine-month academic years. Benefits include tuition and fees that are paid directly to the school, a monthly living allowance paid to the participant and a books and supplies stipend paid to the individual.

Qualified career servicemembers also have the option to transfer benefits to their spouses or children. Most servicemembers who have at least six years of military service and are in the armed forces on or after Aug. 1 and agree to serve an additional four years qualify to transfer their benefits.

Eric K. Shinseki, the Veterans Affairs secretary, who also spoke at the ceremony, exhorted Post-9/11 GI Bill participants to “make it count. Make it count for all of us. Make it count for our country.”

Mr. Shinseki said more than 1,100 private educational institutions have elected to participate in the supplemental Yellow Ribbon Program that permits eligible servicemembers and veterans to attend private colleges and universities whose costs exceed the highest in-state rates at public undergraduate institutions. Under the Yellow Ribbon Program, VA officials “will match whatever is contributed by those private colleges and universities, up to 50 percent of those total costs,” Mr. Shinseki said. “We are grateful that so many schools have joined this effort and we thank them for their support of our veterans.”

Former Marine Staff Sgt. James Miller, an Iraqi war veteran who introduced President Obama at the ceremony, is taking Mr. Shinseki’s advice. Mr. Miller has enrolled as a full-time student at George Mason University under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business communications.