By Curt Yeomans
A dozen Clayton State University students, many of whom are U.S. military veterans, gathered in the school's Student Activities Center on Wednesday to get answers to their questions about an older version of the Montgomery G.I. Bill, and a newer version that targets post-9/11, active-duty servicemen and women.
Clayton State's Student Veterans Association hosted the discussion, which featured LaTonya Bonner, veterans affairs coordinator for CSU's Financial Aid and Veterans Affairs Office, and Mike Rogers, an education compliance survey specialist for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"There's a new G.I. Bill out there, and depending on which G.I. Bill you use, you could be loosing benefits," said Student Veterans Association Vice President and Events Coordinator Diana Peters. "We can also educate the community on the different types of G.I. Bills out there."
The G.I. Bills are available for veterans to help them pay their way through college, whether it is a bachelors degree or a master's degree. The older G.I. Bill, known as Chapter 30, was put into effect in 1985, Bonner said. A newer bill, known as Chapter 33, or the "Post-9/11 G.I. Bill," went into effect in August of this year.
Service men and women can apply for either bill, depending on when they entered, and completed, their period of active duty. The new bill, however, is aimed at those military members who served on active duty after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Under the new bill, the percentage of benefits payable to service men and women depends on how much time they have spent on active duty. There is an escalating percentage of eligibility, ranging from 40 percent for people who served 90 days to six months of active duty, to 100 percent for people who have served more than 36 months of active duty. The amount of money a student receives from the G.I. Bill will pay for 36 months of a veteran's college education, Bonner said.
Also under the older G.I. Bill, service men and women had to pay $100 per month into the system while they were in the military. People who choose to go with the newer G.I. Bill are not required to make any payments into the system.
"The biggest difference is, under the older bill, students are responsible for all of their expenses in advance, and that includes tuition, fees and books," Bonner said. "Under the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs will pay the tuition, and fees based on the percentage of eligibility. There is also a yearly book stipend, and a monthly housing stipend included in the new G.I. Bill."
Rogers said veterans are given the flexibility to decide how to spread out their book stipend, which is $1,000, per year, over the school year. "If they take 15 hours one semester, the G.I. bill will pay for that, but it means they will have less left over for the spring semester," he said. "If they want to maximize their book stipend, they should take 12 hours during the fall semester, and 12 more hours during the spring semester."
Retired U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Candi O. Belle, of Hapeville, said he is studying integrative studies at Clayton State, and found the presentation "very informative."
The 32-year military veteran, who served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and retired earlier this year, said he is a year away from graduating, and is planning to pursue a master's degree in business administration at Clayton State.
"I wanted to get information about education benefits on the graduate level, specifically," Belle said. "My only regret is more people were not able to attend the presentation, but the good news is some people were able to attend and get some information about the G.I. Bills."