Senator Chuck Grassley said that veterans and those in the service need overdue guidance from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to take advantage of the education benefits established in legislation enacted last year and due to take effect on August 1.
"The Veterans Department needs to act now to issue complete educational benefits guidelines by state and start accepting applications for the new G.I. program," Grassley said. "The lack of information now available makes it almost impossible for veterans and service members to make informed decisions for upcoming semesters."
Grassley urged the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to take action in a letter sent today. "These new educational benefits are a small token of America's appreciation for veterans' and servicemembers' defense of our great nation," Grassley said.
The new G.I. program was part of the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. The text of Grassley's letter is below.
March 17, 2009
The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Secretary Shinseki:
Many veterans and servicemembers are looking forward to taking advantage of the educational benefits provided by the new Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. However, I am concerned about the delay by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in posting official payment guidelines and accepting applications for the new program.
The new G.I. bill offers the most comprehensive educational benefits since the original G.I. bill was signed into law in 1944. Another advantage of the new bill is that, whereas servicemembers must elect to participate in the Montgomery G.I. Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD) program at the time of their enlistment and agree to have their military pay reduced by $100 per month for 12 months, no such requirements apply to the Post-9/11 program.
Under this new program, some veterans and servicemembers can expect full tuition reimbursement. However, the amount of tuition and stipends paid under the Post 9/11 G.I. bill will vary depending on the state of residence, number of units taken, and amount of post September 11, 2001 active-duty service. The new program is scheduled to go into effect on August 1, 2009, but I understand it could take longer for the VA to begin making payments. It is also my understanding that the VA is not currently accepting applications for this new program.
Most veterans seeking higher education this year will begin their semesters in mid-August to early September. Without any specific guidelines to follow and uncertainty as to when the Post 9/11 benefits will actually be paid out, many veterans will be left confused and unclear as to which program will maximize their educational benefit assistance, the MGIB-AD program or the Post 9/11 program. This timeline does not leave them much room to make an informed decision.
Therefore, I ask that you expeditiously issue complete educational benefits guidelines by state and promptly begin accepting applications for the new G.I. program to ensure that our veterans are able to make informed decisions regarding their educational packages. Our veterans and servicemembers certainly deserve our utmost respect and have earned the right to these educational benefits as a small token of our appreciation for their defense of our great nation.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter. I look forward to your response.
Charles E. Grassley
United States Senator