IAVA is in California this week, checking in with veteran members in San Francisco, LA, San Diego and then off to Texas, all huge veteran hubs, but we wanted to give a quick update on where things stand with the new G.I. Bill.
As you know, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is an incredible educational benefit, a keystone in building the next greatest generation, but there have been many problems implementing this benefit.
Since August, when the bill took affect, we’ve heard from countless veterans about the difficulties they’ve had in accessing the bill. Jason Hansman, an Iraq veteran and IAVA staffer who runs our online community, has been hearing these complaints daily, “the whole process is frustrating. With all the stresses of the classroom, veterans shouldn’t have to worry about whether the VA will fulfill its duty and get veterans their hard-earned benefits.” We agree, and IAVA has been relentless in amplifying the voices of these veterans facing problems. We’ve testified dozens of times, and held countless meetings in Congress and with the VA. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen two big changes that are victories for veterans nationwide.
First, after attention was brought to the fact that 90% of calls did not connect to the GI Bill help hotline, the hotline will now be open five days a week. This is an increase from three days, and crucial for vets looking for answers during the complicated application process.
Second, the VA has announced that they will soon launch a national ad campaign to ensure vets know about their educational benefits. Up until a few months ago, the VA did limited outreach. Many vets didn’t know what they were entitled to. There was a huge information gap and organizations like ours and many others stepped up to fill that void. This new outreach campaign will help close that gap and ensure that all vets know their options. As Don Gomez, an Iraq veteran and Post-9/11 GI Bill recipient attending the City College of New York, says, “It’s about time the VA became more visible about this. The GI Bill has opened so many doors for veterans like me, but many veterans still aren’t aware of what they have earned.”
These are two big wins. But there’s still work to be done. Some of the improvements and upgrades we are calling for this year are: expanding benefits to those who served in the National Guard, in distance learning programs or attending vocational schools.
Updates on the GI Bill are coming fast, and we’re tracking on them daily. As always, you can get the most up-to-date information at IAVA’s one-stop-shop for the new GI Bill – NewGIBill.org which now includes an updated F.A.Q. for the new semester. And if you’re on Twitter, you can now follow along for live updates at www.Twitter.com/NewGIBill.
In 2008 we got the new GI Bill passed, in 2009 hundreds of thousands of veterans enrolled in school and in 2010 we are focused on making the needed upgrades to get the benefit right.