Just over a week ago, President Trump signed new bipartisan legislation that gives our country’s veterans something to cheer about. The Forever GI Bill is the newest veteran benefit that has been signed into law. This Bill’s official title is the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017. This new addition to the GI Bill can positively affect our country’s heroes and their families, in some big ways.

The GI Bill was originally introduced as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and authored by Harry Colmery, past commander of the American Legion (hence the Forever Gi Bill’s official title) .The Veterans Administration was responsible for carrying out the law’s key clauses, which included education and training, unemployment pay, and loan guaranty for homes, businesses or farms. Since the GI’s establishment, it has undergone various changes and additions. In 1984 Mississippi Congressman Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery worked to upgrade the bill and its benefits and make sure they continue to work for the newer generations of combat veterans. In 2008, there was yet another provision. This newest legislation gave veterans with active duty service on or after September 11, 2001, additional benefits. These additional benefits would offer coverage on more educational expenses (including textbooks), ability to transfer unused benefits to spouses of children, and providing a living allowance.

How can such a small piece of legislation make such a big difference? Well for starters, this new “Forever” GI Bill ends the fifteen-year time limit that was originally set for veterans’ to utilize money for education. Additionally, prior to this new legislation, Purple Heart recipients were required to complete three years of service before receiving full benefits, regardless of their commitment and the sacrifice they had made for this country. This new “Forever” GI Bill is definitely making strides in a positive direction.

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This new legislation shows our commitment to our veterans. In fact, in addition to those two important changes discussed above, the legislation makes other improvements to the GI Bill that will help our veterans transition back to a civilian life. Here are some of the major takeaways from this new “Forever” GI Bill.

  1. There will no longer be an expiration date on these benefits not only for veterans, but also their family members. It applies to spouses receiving education benefits and family members of service members who were killed in the line of duty (post September 10, 2001).
  2. Purple Heart Recipients will receive, rightfully so, more benefits., Over 600 well- deserving Purple Heart Recipients each year, for the next ten years, will benefit from this change.
  3. Since certain degrees take longer than the average four-year college education, this “Forever” GI Bill is allowing up to an additional year of school to be funded (on a first come first basis).
  4. There will be an expansion in eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program to surviving spouses or children of service members.
  5. Those who are members of the National Guard and the Reserve will also be eligible to count any time they may have spent recovering from medical care or injuries sustained during active duty towards GI Bill eligibility.
  6. Surviving family members will benefit from a $200 increase in their monthly education stipend.
  7. The “Forever” GI Bill will restore benefits to veterans who have been enrolled in schools that collapsed, closed, or were not accredited. For example, events like the ITT Technical Institute closure in 2015 will no longer result in veterans losing their credits, and the money that it cost them to get there.

Those are a few key changes that will be brought to action from this new piece of legislation. Though this does not solve all of the problems our veterans face on a daily basis, it will certainly improve our veterans’ opportunities for education to help transition them to new careers.

As our government works towards building more opportunities and financial resources for our veterans, the Purple Heart Foundation also has developed various programs that offer assistance to our veterans as well as their families. There is the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) Scholarship Program for veteran’s family members who are looking to gain higher education and further advance their careers. Additionally the Purple Heart Foundation works to help service members transition back to civilian life and employment outside of the military, similar to the ideas behind the GI Bill.

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The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to helping every single man and woman who has served our country. It is our mission to help assist in the transition back home and back to a normal life from the battlefield. You too can show your support for our heroes by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they both need and deserve.