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How Can We Provide Veterans a One-time, Lifelong Benefit to Further Their Education?

The MGIB does not currently fulfill the purposes for which it was originally created, at least not for every veteran. Transition from military life to civilian life can be difficult, especially after exposure to war, coupled with the need to build civilian skill-sets.

Time Constraints Imposed by the Montgomery G.I. Bill Educational Programs for Veterans

My name is Kim Barrett. I am currently working as a senior litigation paralegal at a major international law firm. I have been working as a paralegal for 12 years. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Montclair State University in Justice Studies with a concentration in Justice Systems. My graduate education was completed at The George Washington University in 2011 with a Master of Professional Studies degree in Paralegal Studies. Currently, I reside in northern New Jersey with my two sons.

Veterans wishing to use educational benefits to further their education in order to position themselves to gain meaningful employment after their service has ended must do so within a prescribed time period or those benefits will be forfeited. There are some exceptions to that rule including certain disabilities and the ability to prove that using those benefits within that prescribed time period was not feasible for the veteran. The imposed time period leaves a certain class of veterans with no opportunity to use the educational benefits they have earned by virtue of their service to their country. Those veterans who choose to work immediately upon discharge instead of pursuing and education are not given the opportunity to take advantage of the educational benefits if they are not in some way disabled. Healthy veterans are excluded from the population of veterans who are afforded the benefit of financial assistance for school. Unless a healthy, non-disabled veteran uses his/her benefits within a prescribed period of time, he/she essentially loses them.



The time period in which veterans are allowed to use the educational benefits of the Montgomery GI Bill (“MGIB”) and other educational programs is not enough for every veteran to take full advantage of the benefits. Currently, the law allows for any eligible veteran to receive compensation through the various educational programs offered by the government as long as the chosen educational program is approved by the Veterans Administration (“VA”).However, the veteran must attend the program within ten years of their date of discharge to be able to maximize the benefits; otherwise, the benefits will be lost. Essentially, it’s either use the benefits or lose them. Providing veterans a one-time, lifelong benefit to further their education is an invaluable asset which should not be limited by time.

This issue has been a hot topic for quite some time especially among those who believe they were unjustly denied access to these benefits. Access to educational benefits provides incentives that enrich the post-military years of those who have served. Many veterans were denied the chance to use the very benefits that will provide them the opportunity to improve their own lives and the lives of their families.

Lifetime availability of educational benefits will provide life-changing opportunities to veterans who are most in need. The racial distribution of veterans has changed over the years. In 2006, approximately 85 percent of veterans who had served this country and subsequently became eligible to receive benefits were white Americans. The remaining 15 percent of veterans were African American, Asian American or Latino descent. Based on enrollment trends in the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that white Americans will soon make up only 68 percent of veterans while the number of minorities will grow.

Statistically, minorities are generally less educated and earn less money over a lifetime generally because they do not have access to higher education. The military provides an opportunity for them to gain access to higher education to make a better living for themselves and their families. If the time in which to use educational benefits is cut short, they may never see their dreams realized.

This essay will provide information on the origination of educational benefits and how they have changed since the inception of the first GI Bill of Rights in 1944. Section II will provide a brief history of the creation of the educational benefits currently available to eligible veterans. An explanation of what a veteran is and the criteria necessary to become eligible to receive benefits will be discussed in Section II. In Section III, statistical information regarding the use of benefits by men and women as well as disabled and non-disabled veterans will be addressed. How the use of benefits is distributed among veterans in comparison to other benefits available to veterans such as healthcare, home loans and burial services will be laid out for review in this section as well. Section IV of this essay will provide examples of veterans who have honorably served their country but were not able to use the benefits for which they have worked so hard because of the ten-year time limit. Finally, Section V will provide recommendations for changes in the law governing the educational benefits and commentary from others regarding this issue.

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