Military Tuition Assistance Safe from Budget Cuts?

October 23, 2013 | Terry Howell

Defense Department Comptroller, Robert Hale, recently told the press that the DoD is not planning to cut military tuition assistance back “substantially.” Although this statement may have been made in an effort to ease fears of TA cuts, the use of the word substantially doesn’t provide much in the way of reassurance for those hoping to use the DoD funded education benefit in the coming years.

According to Hale, the DoD will continue to look at TA in the context of overall budget cuts. “There may be some trims, but we know it’s an important program and we won’t stop it and we will continue to fund it,” Hale said.

Earlier this year the Marines Corps announced they would stop tuition assistance payments due to sequestration. The Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard quickly followed suit. The Navy was the only service branch to avoid suspension of TA, in part due to the fact they had already taken steps to reduce the cost of their TA program. If it hadn’t been for Congress passing legislation to reinstate TA, servicemembers would likely not have the benefit today.

After being ordered to reinstate the program, the services restarted TA, but with new restrictions that would help reduce the cost. For example the Coast Guard now limits eligibility to E-6 and below. Additionally, the Air Force’s 2014 TA program requires Airmen’s tuition assistance requests be reviewed by their supervisors before being approved. All the services are now more closely monitoring TA applications to restrict access for a wide range of disqualifiers, including servicemembers with discipline issues, fitness test failures, or overall substandard performers, first termers, those enrolled in initial technical training programs(MOS, AFSC, and Rate training) , and those who have not completed unit level qualification requirements, to name just a few.

Hale’s statement does not preclude the DoD or any of the individual service branches from reducing the percentage of TA pay to the  75% levels last seen in 2001, which would force servicemembers to pay up to a quarter of their education costs out of pocket.

Stay tuned for more information as the 2014 defense budget slowly makes its way through Congress.

Comments

  1. Good article. Maybe a followup can be writen on the reduced benefits to the reserve components. I know for a fact that normally Coast Guard drilling reserves are denied tuition assistance, only reserves on active duty orders for more than 180 days are approved. I am not sure how the other branches are treating the reserve force curently, but its very fustrating having a reason that you joined taken away. I unerstand budget cuts but when this benefit is re-instated for the civilian force before reserve…..that's not right!

    • For Air Force Reserves and Guard on Title 10 and Title 32 orders, they can take classes as long as their class ends prior to the end of their orders. There is no longer the “180 rule” and hasn’t been for at least three years now.

      • Bob, you say the Coast Guard has cut TA for reservists forever. I have not seen anything that says its permanent. We know the reality of it is, they will probably try to never give it back, but I've not seen or read anything that says they've made it a permanent policy.

  2. I’m currently on the TA program and I pay a quarter out of pocket already. TA does not cover all costs or all tuition for that matter. The amount is already too small.

  3. Has anyone heard anything more about the reinstatement of unused education benefits, or is it still in the works?

  4. I do hope nothing happens to the education benefits or any benefit for that matter. All I can say is that Chapter 34 benefits were cut for many Vietnam Era Vets. As the VA rep at my college it was really difficult to have to tell these Vets that their benefits were cut. I hated watching wives cry and Vets shake their heads and say they had been screwed again. Some of these Vietnam Vets went back to their old jobs; coal mining. The mining industry took a dive and many Vets found themselves without a job. Their only recourse was to go to school so they could get employment. They never had a chance when their benefits were cut. I am 60 years old and still can't get the picture out of my mind.

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