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VA accepting applications for new GI Bill

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Department of Veterans Affairs is now accepting applications for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which is scheduled to go into effect on or after Aug. 1.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers different benefits from that of the Montgomery GI Bill. Benefits included in the new bill pay a monthly housing allowance, tuition, fees, books, supplies and a one-time rural benefit for those who are eligible.

"Individuals who have already taken advantage of their military educational benefits will need to make a choice as to whether the Post-9/11 GI Bill is right for them," said Lydia Beatty, a counselor at Vandenberg's Education Center. "Individuals should educate themselves and understand the specifics of the different programs so they can make the best personal choices."

There are some stipulations to the benefits of the new GI Bill. For example, tuition and fees are paid directly to the school; however, the amount paid will not exceed the maximum in-state tuition and fees at a public institution of higher learning.

In another example, the monthly housing allowance is based on the location of the school the individual plans to attend. The amount paid to the beneficiaries will replicate the amount paid to servicemembers who receive Basic Allowance for Housing at the pay grade of E-5 with dependants.

"One of the big differences between the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the options the benefits can be used toward," Ms. Beatty said. "It's true that there are more monetary benefits tied to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, but the Montgomery GI Bill allows people to use it in a variety of different ways."

Ms. Beatty, along with her team of education specialists at the Education Center, plans to host seminars and briefings covering the Post-9/11 GI Bill as soon as the Education Center receives guidance from Air Force Space Command.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is not available to everyone. To be eligible for the benefits, individuals must have served at least 90 days of aggregate military service after Sept. 11, 2001. Individuals are also eligible if they were discharged with a service-connected disability after only 30 days. Servicemembers must have received an honorable discharge in order to apply for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"I advise veterans and servicemembers to go out to the VA Web site to familiarize themselves with it and really make sure they understand the use of the benefits," Ms. Beatty said. "If the Web site does not answer a specific question, we ask people to contact the personnel at VA for further support. At this point, if there are any additional questions, people should contact one of our education specialists at the Education Center."

For more information and to find the application for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, visit the VA Web site at www.gibill.va.gov.