Building on the Patrick-Murray Administration's commitment to honor and support Massachusetts veterans, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, Veterans Affairs Secretary Thomas G. Kelley, Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland, and University of Massachusetts Lowell Chancellor Martin T. Meehan yesterday evening urged thousands of Massachusetts veterans to learn about the "use it or lose it" provision within the federal law for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Veterans, whose service to the nation entitles them college tuition benefits, may be unaware of this provision, forfeiting their right to educational assistance.
As part of the Lowell Spinners' Military Appreciation Night, Administration officials joined UMass Lowell to announce a public service campaign that will alert veterans of the benefits they are eligible for at approved colleges and universities statewide. The campaign will feature MBTA subway advertising, a radio public service announcement, movie theatre announcements and a full schedule of summer information sessions at fairs and other seasonal events.
"There is a proud tradition across the country to honor military service with educational opportunity," said Governor Deval L. Patrick. "I want every Massachusetts resident who has served in uniform to know that we stand prepared to assist them as they transition from combat to classroom and focus on obtaining a diploma."
"As Massachusetts continues to be a national leader in offering comprehensive benefits and services to our service men and women, it is critical for our veterans to be aware of these available state and federal resources," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, chair of the Governor's Advisory Council on Veterans' Services. "We urge our veterans to take advantage of the GI Bill, which will help veterans as they return home from service and transition into the state's skilled workforce and economy."
"The new GI Bill can have a life changing impact on our veterans, but it won't if word doesn't reach them about the benefits they're due," said Senator John Kerry. "We need to spread the word and make sure every eligible veteran gets the educational opportunities they've earned."
"Votes in Washington unfortunately prevent me from being in Lowell to help celebrate military appreciation night and the launch of this excellent new veterans outreach initiative," said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. "The GI Bill provides our newest veterans with the same benefits that veterans a generation ago used to build a better life for themselves and to quite literally transform this country. As those who have served our country so skillfully and selflessly in recent years return home it is essential that they know that this benefit is available to them and know how to take advantage of it."
"Our brave men and women who have served overseas have earned the benefits in the G.I. Bill," Congressman Stephen F. Lynch said. "I am pleased to see that this outreach program will help our returning veterans take advantage of the benefits and services available to them."
"It is great to see so many of our returning veterans come home and continue on to college," said Secretary of Veterans' Services Thomas G. Kelley. "The transition from combat to campus may not always be an easy one, but it is always a worthwhile one. Massachusetts is proud of the programs and services we have in place to assist our returning service members, both on and off campus."
Of the 35,000 veterans who have returned to Massachusetts after serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, approximately 6,000, including dependents, are currently using Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits. Depending on a veteran's eligibility tier, the benefit covers all or a portion of tuition and fees, a housing allowance, and books.
"Throughout our history, the GI Bill in its various forms has transformed the lives of millions of servicemen and women," said Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland. "These benefits also enable veterans to contribute to our campus communities. Their presence as students sends a powerful message to other young people about service and civic responsibility."
Joining state leaders to announce the GI Bill outreach campaign were student veterans from the Umass Lowell including Ted Serozynsky, a 6 year Navy veteran who served on the USS Newport News nuclear submarine. He graduated from UMass Lowell this spring with an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and will continue his education at UMass Lowell to earn a graduate degree in his chosen field. He is the past president of the Student Veterans Organization, a member of the Salute Veterans Honor Society and also sits on the standing committee on Veterans Affairs.
Like all of Massachusetts' public higher education institutions, UMass Lowell is approved to certify students for all chapters of the GI Bill. They also offer a Veteran's Tuition Waiver for all legal residents of Massachusetts who are in an undergraduate degree program for on-campus classes. The school also works closely with the VA's Vocational Rehabilitation program, and offers Tuition Assistance programs for active duty military and the National Guard. UMass Lowell has recently been ranked in the top 15% of all colleges nationwide as a military-friendly school by G. I. Jobs Magazine.
Veterans seeking more information on benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill are encouraged to call 617-994-6914 or visit www.mass.edu/veterans.