VA Outlines October Changes in Post-9/11 GI Bill

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Programs not leading to college degrees, including programs offered at schools that don't grant degrees, will now be eligible for GI Bill funding, Wilson said. Flight programs, correspondence training, on-the-job and apprenticeship training also are covered by the GI Bill, he added.

"That's a significant expansion," Wilson said.

Beginning in October, the GI Bill will offer a housing allowance to students not on active duty who are enrolled solely in distance learning, and will allow students on active duty to receive a stipend for books and supplies.

Wilson said another change in the housing allowance means students enrolled more than half time but less than full time will receive a pro-rated housing allowance, rather than the full allowance they used to get.

"Now the housing allowance is tied to the training time," he said. "So if an individual wants a full housing allowance, they need to be a full-time student."

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, which President Barack Obama signed into law Jan. 4 of this year, set forth three sets of GI Bill changes. Some of the act's provisions already took effect in March and August.

The act establishes a cap of $17,500 in annual tuition for public and foreign schools, and allows payment of all in-state public school tuition and fees, Wilson said.

The act also did away with break pay or interval pay as of Aug. 1, he noted. This was a provision formerly allowing GI Bill benefits to continue for students on breaks of less than 30 days between periods of enrollment. Now, benefits can be paid only during periods of enrollment, though the 36 months of total eligibility remain unchanged.

The weeks during which students received benefits when not enrolled in school meant they were "burning entitlement," which now will be preserved, Wilson noted, but he added students will have to plan carefully for periods between classes, such as traditional winter breaks.

To date, more than 537,000 students have received more than $11.5 billion in GI Bill benefits. Wilson said VA staffers already have received more than 130,000 applications for fall 2011 enrollment and have processed more than 110,000 of them.

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