New ruling may give veterans an extra year of GI Bill benefits

An extra year of tuition assistance may be added to veterans’ education benefits as outlined by a recent federal court decision. This ruling would come into effect if a veteran qualifies for both the Post-9/11 GI Bill program and the older Montgomery GI Bill payouts. Currently, it has not been decided whether Veterans Affairs officials will appeal the ruling, which would essentially affect thousands of veterans resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses.

According to an article published by MilitaryTimes.com, “The decision, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims earlier this month, found the Department of Veterans Affairs practice of making veterans relinquish their Montgomery GI Bill eligibility in order to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill payouts is improper. Department officials in the past have argued that move is necessary to ensure veterans aren’t duplicating benefits. But in a 2-1 decision, the judicial panel ruled that federal language prohibiting such “double-dipping” more appropriately means that “someone may not receive assistance from more than one program during a single month, semester, or other applicable pay period, but may switch freely between programs.” As a result, if veterans are eligible for both programs, they should receive payouts from both, just not simultaneously, the decision said.”

Currently, the Post 9/11 GI Bill provides housing allowances and 36 months of tuition assistance for veterans and their families who served at least three years on active-duty after Sept. 10, 2001. The Montgomery GI Bill provides a more modest stipend for the 36 months to veterans who served on active duty for at least three years and paid into the program upon enlistment.

The Montgomery GI Bill benefit has stirred up controversy in recent years due to many servicemembers continuing to make monetary contributions to the program even though they’re unlikely to receive any benefits from it. As a result, the majority of veterans relinquish their Montgomery program benefits to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits instead.

VA officials will have to make a decision on the recent federal court ruling in the next few weeks. If the decision is passed, it would require the department to implement a variety of changes for current and former beneficiaries, a process that may complicate the delivery of education benefits in the years ahead.

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