Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014

Hey Troops,

Veterans throughout the United States are returning to school for the Fall 2014 semester and need to know the developments that have taken place in veteran’s education benefits. The summer has been relatively busy for the staff at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America on Capitol Hill with the passing of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability (VACA) Act of 2014 and across the U.S. with the expansion of VetTogethers in each region. Today, I am going to focus on how exactly the new bill will affect veteran students in the near future and how to properly prepare for it.

What does VACA change?
This bill is ultimately good news for veteran students everywhere who would like to attend any state school of their choosing. Because of the VACA, veterans everywhere can attend any land-grant/public institution and pay in-state rates. This reduces out-of-pocket expenses and dependence on the Yellow Ribbon Program for GI Bill students who are considered out-of-state. VACA requires the public colleges to charge in-state rates to all GI Bill veterans and dependents in order to remain eligible to receive any payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs Education. Colleges can opt-in or opt-out to accept the new provisions, but not playing ball would be a bad idea.

The other change that VACA brings is the expansion of the Gunnery Sgt. Fry Scholarship Program. The Scholarship has historically been only for dependents of active duty members of the armed forces who died in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001, but VACA expands the benefits to spouses as well. The Scholarship allows 36 months of education benefits at 100 percent, monthly living allowance, and book/supply stipends to attend college. For more information on the Gunnery Sgt. Fry Scholarship or to apply, visit benefits.va.gov.

How can I prepare for it?
The VACA will not be fully implemented until at least July 1, 2015, so all students should plan as if they are paying out-of-state rates until the end of the Spring 2015 semester. Students should ensure their school is going to opt-in, otherwise they will no longer receive Living Allowance, Book Stipends, or Tuition Payments from the VA and will have to pay out-of-pocket. The same effective date relates to the changes in the Gunnery Sgt. Fry Scholarship to spouses. You can check my blog or twitter @cpltommy for updates on the implementation status of the in-state rates and ask me if your school has opted-in or out of the regulation.

Semper Fi,
Ryan Tomlinson
USMC-OIF Vet