Veterans

October 26, 2012

Officials tout post-9/11 GI Bill benefits

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With more than 260,000 students attending about 6,000 colleges and universities this fall under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, officials are continuing an active outreach effort to ensure current military members and veterans don’t miss out on the new program’s education benefits.

Participation is up significantly from last year, when 180,000 students used Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to start the fall 2009 semester, Keith Wilson, director of education service for the Veterans Benefits Administration, told American Forces Press Service.

For the first time since the U.S. government offered the original GI Bill benefits after World War II, about 50,000 of the students covered have been family members of enrollees. This “transferability” feature was a big draw of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Defense Department officials said and remains an important recruiting and retention incentive. So far, the military services have approved 145,000 servicemember requests to transfer benefits to about 331,000 family members, Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez reported.

Last week, Pentagon personnel chief Clifford Stanley and the service recruiting chiefs called the education benefit a huge factor in helping them achieve recruiting and retention successes in fiscal 2010.

The vast majority of the students currently taking advantage of GI Bill benefits attend public universities. However, Wilson said, continued growth within the Yellow Ribbon program has enabled students to attend some of the country’s most prestigious and high-end private schools.

The 3,000 participating colleges and universities agree to waive or offset up to 50 percent of costs above the highest public, in-state, undergraduate rate and the Veterans Affairs Department matches the same amount.

As VA officials laud the Post 9/11 GI Bill’s popularity and growth, officials are continuing to tweak the systems that drive it to make them faster, more responsive and more customer-friendly. Last fall, as VA experienced some ‘hiccups’ rolling out the new benefit, it took an average of 48 days to issue payments after receiving enrollment notification from a college of university, Wilson said.

This fall, he said, it took about 17 days.

“We have experienced a fundamental improvement in our ability to pay people timely,” Wilson said. “But we hope to cut it down even more. What we would like to see is a 10-day turnaround on these things and we are confident we will get there.”

To meet that goal, Wilson is counting on automation to cut the time required to make eligibility decisions and calculate benefits — now largely a manual process. New systems are being phased in, he said and the initial systems are now being used to process all claims. The next step, he said, is to integrate data feeds from other VA systems.

“Once we get the systems in place, our goal will be to reduce the amount of human intervention to none at all,” Wilson said. “We will need to weed through these systems to make sure we get them right.”

These improvements could prove particularly important if Congress votes to broaden eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and extend some of its benefits. Among changes being considered are measures to extend benefits to National Guardsmen activated under Title 32 authority and both Guard and Reserve troops for periods served in full-time support roles. Senate Bill 3447, the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010,” seeks additional new benefits, including a partial housing allowance for students pursuing distance education.

Wilson, who testified during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in July, said VA generally supports most measures in the bill, but is working with Congress to tweak language to ensure it provides the anticipated benefits without creating unforeseen problems. He also emphasized that the program must be funded to cover any additional costs.
“There were several pieces of [the legislation] that we were in support of from a conceptual standpoint,” he told  Armed Forces Press Service. “We did have concern about the technical language and then making sure the costing is acceptable to everybody.”

In the meantime, VA continues actively reaching out to servicemembers and veterans to make sure they know about the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit.

“What we’re working the hardest on right now is getting the word out to veterans about what a great program it is,” Wilson said, citing direct mailings and other ads that target both groups as well as family members.

Expressing pride in how far the program has advanced during the past year, Wilson said the best measure of its success is illustrated by the students taking advantage of its benefits.

“We have significantly more students in school and they are pursuing their dreams,” he said. “At its core — that is what is successful.”

Wilson challenged students to follow through with their educations and make the program count, just as the original GI Bill recipients did after World War II.

“We need the servicemembers and veterans of the country to be the leaders of the next generation of Americans,” he said. “We have given them the opportunity to step up to the plate, but ultimately, they have to graduate and succeed.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Megan Crusher

Rising Six adds splash of color to drill weekends

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Megan Crusher Runners are dowsed with color by volunteers as they round the last station before crossing the finish line during the 5K Fun Color Run Aug. 9, hosted by the 452nd Air Mobility Wing ...
 
 

B-17 duty was tiring yet memorable

(Second in an 11-part series that was first run in the Beacon in 2007) B-17 Flying Fortresses were noisy, cold and reliable, men who flew and repaired them for the 452nd Bombardment Group recall. “It was so loud, I could yell in the pilot’s ear from six inches away and he couldn’t hear me,” said...
 
 

Service members receiving RAND Military Workplace Survey

FORT MEADE, Md. — About 580,000 service members have begun receiving emails or letters inviting them to participate in the first RAND Military Workplace Study, Defense Department officials said. Active and reserve component members in all military branches and the Coast Guard are being invited to participate. “The survey is unprecedented in its scale and...
 

 

452 Aerial Port Support Flight hosts Marine training operation

More than two dozen light armored reconnaissance vehicles, equipment and personnel were transported by the 1st Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion from Camp Pendleton, California, to launch a training operation at March Air Reserve Base, July 21. This exercise allowed the 1st LAR the ability to apply capabilities and core mission essential tasks learned at their...
 
 
Courtesy photo

HomeStrong USA gives opportunity for free home-ownership to local military veteran

Courtesy photo A volunteer, working with HomeStrong USA, makes repairs on the outside of a home that is being renovated for a deserving veteran. The non-profit organization donates renovated single-family homes to eligible vete...
 
 

News Briefs August 28, 2014

BONE MARROW DRIVE HERE SEPT 13 March Top 3 Association is hosting the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program, Salute to Life Drive on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014 in the grassy area outside the base Fitness Center, Bldg. 465 from 12:30 to 3 p.m. It’s quick and painless! Please join us in...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin