THE FIRING LINE: Veterans benefits

The Firing Line

I appreciate The Daily Texan bringing voice to issues surrounding veteran benefits in the April 4 article, “Veteran benefits unclear, report reveals.”  However, I was surprised to see no mention of the changes made to the GI Bill. Not only are benefits often unclear for veterans, those who made an educated decision to choose the Post-9/11 bill are now subject to changes they did not sign up for.

On Jan. 4, President Obama signed into law the “Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvement Act.” also known as the GI Bill 2.0. The new GI Bill has improvements from the old GI Bill, but not without sacrifices.

First, the good news: GI Bill 2.0 expands the eligibility of National Guard soldiers so they have the same eligibility criteria as active duty service members. It also offers additional benefits for non-college degrees, apprenticeship training and online or distance learning.

The bad news is interval pay (or break pay) is no longer available, so students will no longer receive payment during any semester break. Students will only receive Basic Allowance Housing benefits for time spent in class. The Basic Housing Allowance is intended to cover the cost of housing; in Austin this stipend for a full-time student amounts to $1,197 per month. The loss of this income poses a significant issue for many veterans who depend on this stipend to pay rent and bills while taking a full course load.

The fact that these veterans receive $1,197 every month, “no strings attached,” may seem unfair to many students who are forced to work in order to pay their own tuition or rent.  It is important to bear in mind that these veterans already worked to earn these benefits; they earned this money overseas, away from loved ones and often in austere conditions.  

Our soldiers signed a contract, made sacrifices and served our country. Why can’t the government uphold their end of the deal? I propose asking our government to reinstate interval pay for our soldiers. Longhorns, ask your representatives to take action!

— Clarissa DiSantis Humphreys,
Social work graduate student