By: Steve Brooks

Congress passes GI Bill “grandfather clause,” exempting veterans currently attending school from $17,500 tuition cap.

The House of Representatives passed a bill July 26 that will exempt current undergraduate student veterans from a private-school tuition cap that was signed into federal law last January.

The bill, H.R. 1383, ensures that full benefits promised under the original Post-9/11 GI Bill will be delivered to those currently enrolled in private academic institutions. Instead of having their yearly tuition benefits capped at $17,500 under the Post-9/11 GI Bill Improvements Act, student veterans enrolled at private institutions will remain eligible for greater benefits afforded by the original provisions.

“This means that any undergraduate veteran now attending a non-public college or university still qualifies for the highest in-state tuition rate available,” said Bob Madden, assistant director of The American Legion’s Economic Division. “For example, if a veteran is enrolled at Columbia University, and it costs about $42,000 per academic year, then he or she will get benefits that match the state of New York’s highest in-state costs for tuition and fees, about $27,000. And since Columbia University participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, it will pick up half the difference between school cost and the veteran’s benefits, about another $7,500.”

Madden said the congressional “grandfather clause” applies to any veteran who was accepted by a private school for enrollment before January 4, 2011.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, will stave off many severe reductions in education benefits for about 30,000 student veterans in seven states: Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

“The American Legion has worked closely with Congressman Miller to get this corrective legislation passed,” said Joe Sharpe, the Legion’s Economic director. “We also worked with Sen. Patty Murray and other members of Congress to make sure that our student veterans get the benefits they were promised. It isn’t right to promise a certain amount of money to veterans, then tell them they won’t be getting nearly that much after they’ve already been accepted by a private institution.”

The Senate passed H.R. 1383 unanimously on July 21. Once signed by President Obama, the law will go into effect Aug. 1.