Bergman, Rice Introduce GI Bill Planning Act

Representative Jack Bergman introduced the bipartisan H.R. 4162, GI Bill Planning Act of 2019 with Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY) to save military enlistees hundreds of dollars and streamline Veterans' education benefits for the future.

Today, a small and further declining number of student Veterans use the 1984 Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) to earn a degree.  A 97% majority instead choose the newer, more effective Post 9/11 GI Bill.  However, about 70% of military recruits still make the decision to keep their MGIB eligibility and pay a mandatory $1,200 for this benefit which they will likely never use. 

The GI Bill Planning Act would give enlistees six months - instead of just two weeks - to decide whether to pay the $1200 or opt out of their MGIB benefit. Additionally, the bill responsibly ends new enlistee enrollments in the outdated MGIB by October 2029.

"Military basic training is a grueling ordeal meant to mold our nation’s finest.  But it doesn’t make sense for these fatigued recruits to immediately be asked to make a consequential, expensive decision about using their future education benefits.  By delaying this decision 6 months, my new legislation will give enlistees the ability to make an informed choice and plan for the future." said Representative Bergman.

“Every year, thousands of new military recruits enroll in the Montgomery GI Bill program, yet many will never use this service, instead opting into the more effective Post-9/11 GI Bill,” said Representative Rice. “Nevertheless, these new recruits often keep the MGIB plan and are saddled with the $1,200, simply because they didn’t have enough time to evaluate both programs. We should be doing everything we can to support the brave men and women who volunteer to wear our nation’s uniform. Our bill will ensure that they have the time and ability to pick the right education plan for their future, without unnecessarily spending their hard-earned dollars.”

Student Veterans of America Chief of Staff Will Hubbard said, “The Montgomery GI Bill is a true tax on troops for the vast majority of students using the GI Bill. Nearly all student veterans opt to use the more generous Post-9/11 GI Bill, yet they still pay towards the Montgomery GI Bill in boot camp—what’s worse is that hardly anyone ever receives a refund of these payments. This bill is an important step forward in reducing the number of service members paying hundreds of millions of dollars unnecessarily while allowing those still using the benefit to finish their education."

“Currently tens thousands of new military recruits enroll every year in the Montgomery GI Bill program, and the overwhelming amount of service members will never use this benefit. The first few days of recruit training is a chaotic period, and it is not the time to discuss the specific differences between the Post 9/11, and the Montgomery GI Bill,” said VFW’s Deputy Director Pat Murray. “Many VFW members have stated if they knew more about the Montgomery GI Bill they may not have opted to pay $1,200 for a program they would never use. This proposal would allow service members additional time to understand the nuances between the two chapters of the GI Bill, if both are still needed, and how to best utilize their education benefits.”

"We are grateful to Representatives Bergman and Rice for their bi-partisan legislation to end the "tax on troops" in the Montgomery GI Bill. This legislation will result in more equitable and streamlined federal education benefits for service members and veterans in higher education. Since 2015, VES has worked with Congress to enact a key recommendation of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to sunset the MGIB due to the troops' overwhelming preference for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. We thank the Committee for working with us to restore hard-earned pay for our new recruits," said Colonel Bob Norton, USA-ret. Senior Advisor, Veterans Education Success

Additional Background

While the MGIB has played an important role for our Veterans and their families in past years, today the $1,200 payment is a costly burden for enlistees, especially considering that they often earn less than $20,000 annually. The six month buffer proposed in this legislation would give them enough time have a clearer understanding of this choice since most will have completed basic training by this time.

In 2015, the congressionally-authorized Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission determined that the Post 9/11 GI Bill amounted to a monetary benefit that was nearly 58% higher than that of the MGIB.   

This legislation has received support from Student Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, and Veterans Education Success.

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