When the original Post-9/11 GI Bill (let’s call it the beta version) was released, many of us noted some glaring problems, especially in the area of fairness. Last year Congress passed a fix (call it GI Bill 2.0) which was supposed to remove the inequities of the Post-9/11 GI Bill (beta version). But it didn’t take long to see that the fix will cause more harm to some vets than the original. In particular, the new $17,500 a year tuition cap, which could force currently enrolled veteran students to go deeper in debt to cover the higher tuition costs of some privately operated universities.
In an attempt to shield vets from possible financial hardship, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) has introduced a patch – H.R. 1383, the Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011(let’s call it GI Bill 2.1). H.R. 1383 will temporarily authorize the VA to cover the tuition and fees for veterans attending non-public education and training institutions that have tuition and fees which exceed $17,500 a year. This latest patch, which was called the “hold no harm” clause, was originally included in the House version of GI Bill 2.0, but didn’t make it to the final version.
The Trade-Off – Unfortunately, there is a catch, to pay for this fix the housing stipends will not increase with the basic allowance for housing rate (BAH) for two years. This “pay as you go” budget requirement will not take away any benefits; it will simply freeze the housing stipends at their 2011 levels.
Miller’s bill is a step in the right direction; however, what about those students who are currently enrolled as non-residents in publicly-operated schools who will see their tuition payment limited to the in-state “resident” rates? They are exposed to as big a financial hit as vets enrolled in high-cost privately operated schools. Where is their “hold no harm” clause? Maybe in GI Bill 2.2?