012002-01-23 08:00:00.0383VA Raises Education Reimbursement Levels for Veterans<FONT face="Times New Roman">WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is providing veterans a major boost in the monthly educational payments offered under the Montgomery GI Bill.</FONT> <P><FONT face="Times New Roman">Concerned about the underuse of Montgomery GI Bill benefits by eligible veterans, VA supported an increase in reimbursement rates well above the normal cost-of-living increases because these annual adjustments have not kept pace with rising college education costs.</FONT></P><P><FONT face="Times New Roman">"Under legislation signed by President Bush, we now are on track to gain the tuition spending power veterans expect," VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi said.&nbsp;&nbsp;"We are coupling a series of robust payment increases over the next two years with innovative programs that will help prepare today's servicemember with the education needed for tomorrow's job market."</FONT></P><P><FONT face="Times New Roman">At the top tier for full-time studies, the tuition reimbursement rate rises from $672 to $800 per month, almost 20 percent.&nbsp;&nbsp;That will jump to $900 next fall and $985 in October 2003.&nbsp;&nbsp;Rates are adjusted for veterans enrolled part-time or for those with limited military service.</FONT></P><P><FONT face="Times New Roman">In addition to covering traditional two-year and four-year college studies, a new VA program taking effect next fall is aimed at high technology courses.&nbsp;&nbsp;It will allow veterans to use a lump sum from their benefit for certain expensive courses such as those leading to certification of computer network professionals.</FONT></P><P><FONT face="Times New Roman">Coverage of up to 60 percent of the cost of such high-tech courses will begin Oct. 1, 2002.</FONT></P><P>&nbsp;</P><P><FONT face="Times New Roman">VA currently is developing regulations needed to launch this new program.&nbsp;&nbsp;The new law specifies a formula limiting it to expensive courses.</FONT></P><P><FONT face="Times New Roman">The increase in tuition reimbursement as well as the VA's support for high-tech courses reflect department efforts to boost use of the current education program, which began in 1985.&nbsp;&nbsp;Veterans generally have 10 years after release from active duty to use the funds, but only about 60 percent have used some of their benefit.</FONT></P><P><FONT face="Times New Roman">In addition, about 90 percent of all eligible veterans have not exhausted their account.&nbsp;&nbsp;VA hopes new strategies such as accelerated payment for high-tech courses will enable more veterans to take advantage of their remaining benefits.</FONT></P><P><FONT face="Times New Roman">Few servicemembers opt out of coverage.&nbsp;&nbsp;Participants' pay is reduced by $100 per month for their first 12 months on active duty to cover a total veteran contribution of $1,200.&nbsp;&nbsp;The full-time rate of $800 a month is paid for up to 36 months of study, which covers the academic months of a traditional 4-year college education for a return value of $28,800 at today's top rate.</FONT></P><P><FONT face="Times New Roman">The new law, the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-103), also improves educational assistance for eligible spouses and children of certain veterans, including veterans who died or are permanently and totally disabled as a result of a service-connected disability.</FONT></P><P><FONT face="Times New Roman">For more information about veterans educational programs, call VA at 888-442-4551.</FONT></P><P align=center><FONT face="Times New Roman"># # #</FONT></P>PRESS_ID = 383