Bill would help troops with 'outdated' Montgomery GI Bill, end enrollment by 2029

A new bill in Congress would give troops and veterans more time to opt in or out of the Montgomery GI Bill.

Abbie Bennett
August 16, 2019 - 3:15 pm
GIBill

Photo by Master Sgt. William Wiseman/185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard

The 1984 Montgomery GI Bill is "outdated" and should eventually be phased out, two members of Congress say, but in the meantime, veterans should get more time to decide if they want it or not. 

Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., and Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y. introduced a bill recently they say will save service members "hundreds of dollars and streamline veterans' education benefits for the future."

The number of troops using the Montgomery GI Bill is dwindling, Rice and Bergman say, with about 97 percent of service members choosing the "newer, more effective Post 9/11 GI Bill" whose benefits. amount to as much as 58% more money.  

But about 70 percent of troops still decide to keep their Montgomery GI Bill eligibility -- which comes with a $1,200 mandatory fee for a benefit "they will likely never use," Rice and Bergman say in a news release about their new bill, which aims to help.  

That bill is the GI Bill Planning Act, which would give military enlistees six months -- instead of the current two weeks -- to decide if they want to pay the fee. 

The bill also would effectively end enrollment in the Montgomery GI Bill by October 2029. 

"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," Rice said in a statement. "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.”

"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," Bergman said. "By delaying this decision six months, (the bill) will give enlistees the ability to make an informed choice and plan for the future."

The bill has support from Student Veterans of America (SVA), Veterans Education Success (VES), the American Legion and the VFW.

“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," said SVA Chief of Staff Will Hubbard. "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."

"The first few days of recruit training is a chaotic period, and it is not the time to discuss the specific differences between the Post 9/11, and the Montgomery GI Bill,” said VFW Deputy Director Pat Murray. “Many VFW members have stated if they knew more about the Montgomery GI Bill they may not have opted to pay $1,200 for a program they would never use."

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Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett

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