New bill to expand GI education benefits

Posted at 6:24 PM, Aug 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-17 18:56:08-04

CINCINNATI -- Big changes are in the works for veterans who want to get an education after they get out of the military.

It is estimated that 200,000 men and women leave the service every year, but only half go to college. The "Forever GI Bill" could change that.

It used to be that veterans had 15 years to use their education benefits. The new bill eliminates the expiration date.

Warne Robertson served in the Army from 1959 to '62, but never throught about the GI Bill paying for college. Instead, he was a Kenton County police officer when he got out, but left the profession after 7.5 years.

"Finally, my wife who is a school teacher said, 'Why don't you go back to school?'" he said.

The question was: how to pay for classes at Northern Kentucky University and Xavier University? Thanks to a neighbor, he started as a 32-year-old freshman in his final year of eligibility for GI Bill benefits.

It was different for Alex Voland. She served four years in the Army, but always had her eye on a college degree.

"At the end of my service, the goal was to get an education and, honestly, have better employment opportunities in the end," Voland said.

The bill signed by President Donald Trump also extends benefits for Purple Heart recipients and increases them for the National Guard and Reserves.

"I just think it's a really fantastic opportunity for all service members and branches," Voland said.

Robertson also said he believed the new bill is a good thing.

"I don't see how anyone could be opposed to it," he said.

At Xavier University, Chris Klug runs the Student Veterans Center. He sees a wide range of ages of veterans who want to further their education.

"We have veterans that are 18 years old -- they're still in the Reserves and National Guard -- and have veterans that are 65 or older that are pursuing a second opportunity and a career," Klug said.

Still, some need to be schooled on what the GI Bill can give to them.

"We run into several of these cases a year, where a veteran thinks they have to pay $35,000 a year, then they find out they get to go to school for free, and they are just elated," Klug said.