Additional Benefits for Vets?

Millions of veterans could be eligible for an additional year of education benefits starting next semester, thanks to another federal court ruling rejecting the Department of Veterans Affairs prohibition on collecting both Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and Montgomery GI Bill payouts.

A decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit late last week will give millions of veterans a chance for an additional year of education benefits.

Military Times’s recent article entitled “Millions of vets may be eligible for extra GI Bill benefits thanks to court ruling” explains that it was one vet’s GI Bill fight that now gives benefits to potentially millions of other students.

The case, Rudsill vs. McDonough, has been pending in federal courts for nearly six years. At its center is department officials’ belief that vets can use either the Post 9/11 GI Bill program or the Montgomery GI Bill program, but not both. However, the case could give an additional year of benefits to those who’ve used up their post-9/11 GI Bill but still have some eligibility left under the Montgomery GI Bill program.

Jim Rudsill, an Army veteran wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq in 2005, challenged that policy, saying it was based on a misreading of the law by department officials. He’s attending seminary school using his additional education benefits, after a lower court order let him start collecting the money, even as the case was appealed.

This was the latest in a series of courts to support his case, agreeing that Rudsill shouldn’t have been forced to give up eligibility in either program and should be entitled to 48 months of education benefits (the existing cap on total government higher education payouts under federal statute.) The ruling affirms lower court decisions that say eligible vets can begin using the benefits as early as next semester.

Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits program, eligible veterans receive 36 months of tuition payouts, housing stipends and other financial help. The Montgomery GI Bill benefits program offers far less money, but still has several thousands of dollars annually to offer vets for tuition costs, if they paid into the program at the start of their military service. That program is expected to be completely phased out in the several years.

If they have a choice between the two programs, most veterans go with the more financially generous Post 9/11 GI Bill program. However, court decisions have allowed for the possibility of another year of lesser education stipend payouts for veterans who can’t complete their degrees in 36 months.

Federal officials have two months to appeal the ruling or start paying out potentially billions in new education benefits.

Reference: Military Times (July 12, 2021) “Millions of vets may be eligible for extra GI Bill benefits thanks to court ruling”

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