The recent Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) report once again highlights the fact that the current, amazingly generous Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits aren’t guaranteed to remain so glorious. Historically, educational benefits have shrunk during times of military downsizing, and we are in the middle of a serious downsize. Plus, I’ve said since day one that the current Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits are more than our country can afford to sustain. If you have earned the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and you think you have a plan to maximize the benefit to your family, then you might want to consider having a plan B. You might also need a plan C and a plan D.
The MCRMC makes several recommendations regarding educational benefits. The specific recommendation that most interests me is about the housing allowance that currently comes with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Under the current rules, everyone except active duty spouses receives a monthly housing stipend when using Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, including the dependent children using benefits transferred from a parent. The commission recommends that this housing payment be removed for those using transferred benefits, effective 1 July 2017.
It will take some time until we know whether this recommendation becomes law, but the point may be more important than the details. Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits aren’t guaranteed, and they are likely to change. It may be the result of this commission’s report, or it may happen at some other time. However, in this time of financial austerity, our country can not continue to make such amazingly generous payments on the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
This issue is tremendously personal to me, as I have kids who are 17, 15, 13 and 12. And, I may want to go back to school when my husband retires. I’ve always said that you should use your benefits as soon as possible, and I still believe that is true. I think it is especially true if you have an adult who wants to go to school, and if your children are still small.
Now, you can write to your Congressman or local newspaper or start a phone tree and try to influence whether this recommendation becomes law, but I also want you to think about what your family will do if the Post 9/11 GI Bill does not exist in its current form when your family wants to use it. It doesn’t have to be a specific, dollar for dollar plan, but at least get the brain train moving. Are you counting on the Post 9/11 GI Bill to fund a significant chunk of your family’s higher education costs? Well, it might not be available to pay for as much as you planned. What are you going to do?