In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) introduced this bill to give military enlistees more time to decide whether they want to pay to keep their 1984 Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits:
"Military basic training is a grueling ordeal meant to mold our nation’s finest. But it doesn’t make sense for these fatigued recruits to immediately be asked to make a consequential, expensive decision about using their future education benefits. By delaying this decision 6 months, my new legislation will give enlistees the ability to make an informed choice and plan for the future."
In the press release for this bill, Rep. Bergman’s office contends that the $1,200 fee that veterans need to pay to maintain MGIB eligibility is a “costly burden” for enlistees, especially since they often earn less than $20,000 annually. In light of this, his office argues that this bill’s six month buffer would give enlistees time to develop a clearer understanding of MGIB benefits versus Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, and to make an informed decision about whether to pay the $1,200.
Original cosponsor Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) adds:
“Every year, thousands of new military recruits enroll in the Montgomery GI Bill program, yet many will never use this service, instead opting into the more effective Post-9/11 GI Bill. Nevertheless, these new recruits often keep the MGIB plan and are saddled with the $1,200, simply because they didn’t have enough time to evaluate both programs. We should be doing everything we can to support the brave men and women who volunteer to wear our nation’s uniform. Our bill will ensure that they have the time and ability to pick the right education plan for their future, without unnecessarily spending their hard-earned dollars.”
Student Veterans of America supports this bill. Its Chief of Staff, Will Hubbard, says:
“The Montgomery GI Bill is a true tax on troops for the vast majority of students using the GI Bill. Nearly all student veterans opt to use the more generous Post-9/11 GI Bill, yet they still pay towards the Montgomery GI Bill in boot camp—what’s worse is that hardly anyone ever receives a refund of these payments. This bill is an important step forward in reducing the number of service members paying hundreds of millions of dollars unnecessarily while allowing those still using the benefit to finish their education."
This legislation passed the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee by voice vote with the support of 15 bipartisan House cosponsors, including eight Republicans and seven Democrats. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) plans to introduce a Senate companion bill along with Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY).
This legislation is supported by Student Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, and Veterans Education Success.
Of Note: About 97% of student veterans choose to use the newer, more effective Post 9/11 GI Bill. However, about 70% of military recruits still decide to keep their 1984 Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits, which they’re required to pay $1,200 to keep. If a new enlistee doesn’t opt out of the MGIB benefit, their first 12 paychecks are garnished (at $100 per paycheck) to take the $1,200 automatically and maintain their MGIB eligibility.
In 2015, the congressionally-authorized Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission determined that the Post 9/11 Bill amounts to a monetary benefit that exceeds that of the MGIB by nearly 50%.
While most veterans use either the MGIB or Post 9/11 GI Bill, they can use both under specific conditions. When they choose to use both bills, they can get up to 48 total months of benefits.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / videodet)