When soldiers returned home from World War II, many worried about what such a rapid influx of veterans would do to the country. Some feared that all of the unemployed men would create another Great Depression.

To meet the demands of returning veterans, Congress passed what is commonly called the GI Bill or Rights, which included the right to an education and the guarantee of loans to own homes, two things that were out of reach for most Americans at the time. In 2008, the bill was amended to increase the benefits to those who served post 9/11. Officially called the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the bill contains many benefits for veterans and their families.

For veterans who have steady jobs to return to or who have trouble readjusting to civilian life, the benefit has been extended from 10 years to 15 years, allowing those who experience life changes during that time to still access their educational benefits.

The benefits cover 36 months of higher education, and the specific dollar amount changes depending on the location of the veteran and the institution. Rates are based on in-state tuition for the most expensive public in-state school. In addition to these provisions, many states have passed laws that allow veterans to attend higher education institutions and pay in-state tuition, regardless where they live.

The law also applies to more prestigious, private institutions, if those institutions are willing to split the costs with the federal government, opening up new programs and opportunities for veterans.

Previously, veterans had to cover the costs of books, supplies and college fees, which became a hardship with the rising costs of textbooks and fees. In the new bill, those costs are covered up to $1,000 per year. A housing stipend is also provided in the new bill. This stipend changes depending on the cost of living, but the housing rate is based on the idea that the veteran will have dependents to take care of.

When most people think of college, they think of the four-year bachelor’s degree. While many still pursue that degree, the GI Bill can also be used to pay for certificate programs in welding or one of the many developing medical fields.

The law also covers the cost of a licensing or certification test, which can often be quite expensive. Community colleges have seen a significant rise in the enrollment of veterans because of these benefits.

Because of the foresight of lawmakers, veterans are now accessing higher education at an unprecedented rate. Much of the law is based on where a veteran lives, so applicants will need to work with their local Veteran’s Administration office to determine what specific benefits are available to them.

The 9/11 GI Bill provides significant support for veterans to achieve their academic goal, up to 15 years after they have completed service.

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