Trump signs Forever GI Bill boosting aid to student vets
President Donald Trump signed an expansion of veterans education benefits Wednesday, boosting aid by $3 billion over the next 10 years and extending assistance to some veterans and dependents who didn’t qualify.
By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 16, 2017
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed an expansion of veterans education benefits Wednesday, boosting aid by $3 billion over the next 10 years and extending assistance to some veterans and dependents who didn’t qualify.
Trump signed the bill – dubbed the “Forever GI Bill” by its supporters – at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., with little fanfare and no press or public remarks, and only Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin at his side. Shulkin took a few questions from reporters following the signing, though they focused mostly on the violence that erupted during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.
Lawmakers and veterans have heralded the GI Bill expansion from its introduction less than one month ago through its passage in the House and Senate – calling it a “shining example” of bipartisanship.
“The signing … marks a new era for all who have honorably served in uniform,” American Legion National Commander Charles Schmidt said in a statement. “This lifetime benefit will allow veterans, and their families, to earn degrees and begin rewarding careers that can lead our economy. We believe that this legislation … will transform America, as the original did following World War II.”
The bill is officially titled the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, named for the past commander of the American Legion who authored the GI Bill of Rights in 1944. It’s a combination of 18 different bills.
It immediately eliminates the 15-year limit veterans currently have to tap into their education benefits. That restriction will no longer apply to veterans discharged on or after Jan. 1, 2013, or to current and future servicemembers.
The bill also includes dozens of provisions that will go into effect in August 2018.
Members of the National Guard and Reserve mobilized under Pentagon authorization codes Title 10, Section 12304, 12304a and 12304b, were prevented from earning GI Bill credit. The bill fixes that, allowing servicemembers and veterans who deployed under those orders since June 30, 2008, to claim their benefits.
All Purple Heart recipients will be able to receive full education benefits. Currently, a veteran must be medically retired from the military or have 36 months of active-duty service to qualify. According to the Military Order of the Purple Heart, there are approximately 1,500 Purple Heart recipients who aren’t eligible for full education benefits.
Surviving spouses and children of servicemembers killed in the line of duty will qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program, which now allows only veterans to attend schools or enroll in programs that cost more than the GI Bill tuition cap.