The Forever GI Bill, hence its nickname, removes benefit expiration dates also known as the use-it-or-lose-it rule. Previously, veterans had 15 years after they were discharged to the use their GI funds. Unfortunately, it did not apply to all veterans as the cost to do so was too expensive. This has now changed. Veterans whose last discharge or release from active duty is on or after January 1, 2013, will not expire. Those that were discharged or released before January 1, 2013 will still expire. The additional benefits of this bill are as follows.
The GI Bill Comparison Tool will include information as to whether a school administers a priority enrollment system that allows veterans to enroll earlier than other students. This provision applies to students pursuing institutions of higher learning.
Full-time or 3/4-time students in a college degree, vocational, or professional program, can “earn while you learn” with a VA work-study allowance. This benefit was set to expire but the sunset date has now been repealed.
Eligible individuals can use GI Bill benefits to pursue independent study programs at certain educational institutions that are institutions of higher learning such as a technical education school or postsecondary vocational school.
Benefits will be extended by nine months or a lump sum of $30,000 for veterans enrolled in specific STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) five-year degree programs. Veterans will have to apply for a separate STEM scholarship in order to receive this benefit and the aggregate benefit will be capped at $100 million a year.
Previously, veterans using the GI Bill had no recourse should they not get credit for the classes they took. Now, any school that has been shut down or loses accreditation after January 1, 2015 will have their GI Bill benefits restored.
Any service member who receives a Purple Heart, regardless of how long they have served, will be eligible for full GI Bill benefits. Previously, Purple Heart recipients had to serve for at least three years.
The Forever GI bill will provide $30 million dollars to upgrade technology at the Veterans Benefits Administration to complete their rules-based processing system for claim and the department will provide training requirements to school certifying officers that process the paperwork.
Certain licensure and certification tests, such as a national (GMAT, GRE, CLEP) or a test required for state licensing, will be pro-rated to the amount of the actual cost of the test. Previously, a veteran was charged a whole month of entitlement pay for these tests.
In order to offset the cost of the Forever GI Bill benefits, the GI Bill living stipend will be reduced to what is received by an active-duty service member at the E-5 with dependents rate. In 2015, the annual percentage increase to active duty BAH payments began to be reduced by one percent a year for five years, but GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance Rates (aka BAH) were exempt. The decrease would not apply to students now using the GI Bill.
The Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA), aka BAH, will now calculate payments based on where the student attends the majority of his/her classes. Previously, payment was calculated on where the school was located. This is a big change for online students receiving lower BAH payments because the school was located in an area with a lower BAH.
Veterans are allowed to transfer remaining GI Bill entitlements if the designated dependent dies. A dependent may also transfer the remaining benefits to another dependent after the death of a service member or veteran.
The number of months of entitlement will be changed from 45 months to 36 months, which will now be consistent with other GI Bill programs that provide 36 months of eligibility educational assistance.
The monthly payment for educational assistance under the DEA program will be increased by $200 a month.
The VA High Tech Pilot Program provides veterans with the opportunity to enroll high-tech programs such as coding boot camps or IT certifications that do not lead to a degree. This is a five-year pilot program where the VA will contract with the schools or programs and incentivize the institutions with higher tuition and fee payments based on graduating and finding a job in their field of study.
Expands access to a wider group of National Guard and Reserve members who will now be eligible for expanded education benefits. Additionally, Guard and Reserve members placed on medical hold status now will see that time count toward their eligibility, retroactive to September, 11, 2001.
Individuals who serve at least 90 days but less than six months on active duty receive increases from 40 to 50 percent benefit payable. Individuals who serve at least six months but less than 12 months receive increases from 50 to 60 percent benefit payable, resulting in up to $2,300 more a year in tuition.