telling an entire generation they could receive a free college education at any school that would accept them — Texas
A&M, Harvard University, the Sorbonne — anywhere. Throw in a monthly stipend for living expenses, plus more money
for books. And when you graduate, there's a government-backed home loan waiting, no money down and no credit checks —
buy a house cheaper than renting an apartment. Throw in subsidized farm loans, business loans, free job training, free medical
care, free job placement, and up to a year’s worth of weekly paychecks until you find work…And so it was: the
post-World War II G.I. Bill. It revolutionized higher education, created suburbia, brought us the scientists, engineers, doctors,
artists and teachers who built most of what is good in America today.”
the publisher of “Over Here: How the GI Bill transformed the American Dream,” by Edward Humes.
I became aware of a grim reality when I picked up a U.S. Army recruitment brochure. It featured a generous, but carefully
worded offer to potential enlistees: the military will give you (based on qualifications) up to $50,000 plus a sign up bonus
of up to $20,000.
words here are “up to.” I can promise you, for example, that I will pay you up to $5000 to paint my house. If
you accept the job and I pay you $800 after you finish, I have kept my promise and you have no legal claim against me. In
the real world, “up to $5000” usually means below $5000. It can even mean zero, and when it comes to the military’s
promise of money for school- it often does. Very few recruits receive the maximum college benefit of $70,000. In fact, most
recruits get no benefits at all.
the $70,000 the military advertises, you must first qualify for the Army/Navy College Fund. To do this you have to place in
the top half of the military entry exams, which means of course that %50 of all applicants are eliminated right off the bat.
If you do score in the top 50%, then in order to get to the $70,000, you must be willing to enter a designated job specialty
that almost nobody else wants, usually because it is extremely dangerous or because it offers zero transferable job skills.
If you don’t make the cut for the Army/Navy College
Fund, there is still the Montgomery GI Bill that you may qualify for. The maximum benefit you get under the Montgomery GI
Bill is around $36,000, but the military attaches strings here too.
in order to qualify for the full amount, you are required to pay a $1200 deposit to the military. You have only one chance
to apply during basic training. If you leave the military early- as 40% do for a number of reasons, or get anything less than
honorable discharge, or decide later not to go to college, the military gets to keep your deposit. Incredibly, the $36,000
they promise you includes your own deposit money, so the actual amount is around $36,000, less your deposit.
if after all this you finally manage to qualify for them- are paid in 36 monthly installments spread out over 4 years; You
can not receive larger payments over a shorter period of time. And you must continue college for four consecutive years without
interruption, which some people are unable to do.
Bill doesn’t even come close to covering college costs, even at a state school. At UMass Amherst,for instance, students
pay $7400 in fees and $6200 for room and board. Figure at least $2500 for books and miscellaneous expenses and you are looking
at a yearly bill of over $16,000- of which the Montgomery GI Bill covers about $9000, a bit more if you are married.
go to a two year college, you will receive only half of the money you are qualified for. Remember too that military benefits
are usually given instead of, not in addition to, other forms of financial aid that you might otherwise have qualified for.
With so many curves in
the road and hoops to jump through, it is no wonder only about 16% of veterans ever get a four-year college diploma. The military’s
educational benefits are an embarrassment. Once upon a time in this country, we treated veterans with gratitude. We need a
new GI Bill like the one enacted for returning World War II veterans
This helpful advice comes from a reader:
I just read your article “Are military recruiters telling the Truth” Dated 5/07/07. I would
like to pass on an event that I recently ran into. A veteran brought in an enlistment contract that stated he was to receive
a $40,000 education bonus because he had selected a career path which qualified him for the bonus. Now that he is in school,
he has discovered that the $40,000 “bonus” includes his standard GI Bill benefits. When I read the contract, there
was nothing stating that the bonus included his standard GI Bill benefits.
After several attempts to contact someone who was involved in this marketing scheme (all phone calls that
I placed rang indefinitely –no message, and emails were never returned), I found someone within the DOD maze who reviews
these contracts when the VA receives them from angry vets. These bonuses are the creation of the DOD and the VA has nothing
to do with them. She verified that the Vet had probably been “misled”.
She then offered advice on how to request his additional money:
“I encourage you to present your case to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records (ABCMR),
by submitting DD Form 149 to this Board. You can apply online through their web site at http://arba.army.pentagon.mil. Even though you apply online (which is faster, of course), you will be instructed to print out the DD Form 149,
sign in ink & date it, and mail to the Board. When you do this, please attach a copy of the front and reverse sides of
your DA Form 3286-66 which you fax'd to me.
When you go into this Board website, in the middle of the screen, you will see 3 BOARDS
listed; you click on the first one for the ABCMR. The home page for the ABCMR will come up; scroll down the screen until
you see where to apply online.
Once at the DD Form 149, there will be a box (in box 5 or 6, I don't remember which) for you to type
in the problem or the error. Please state your facts up front! When you state your facts, you might want to state
something like this: "I entered active duty on 4 Mar 2003 for the ACF incentive at $40,000 (please see the attached
copy of my ACF contract, DA Form 3286-66). Nowhere on my DA Form 3286-66 does it say that the $40,000 included the basic
rate of the MGIB, $32,400. I learned today that the remainder, $7,600 is my ACF. Please pay me equitable relief
of the amount I feel cheated out of, $32,400." These 3 sentences give the Board the facts. If you still have space
left, then you can type in information to the Board as to what negative impact this has had on you, your budget, your family,
. . . “
If any veteran reading this has further questions about the above mentioned procedure, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can put him or her in touch with a real person who can guide them through the process of getting
what is owed to them.