The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill — society’s answer to a generation of Americans who fought two wars at once — is nearing a million veterans who have enrolled.
Five months ago, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said more than $25 billion in educational benefits under the new G.I. Bill had been paid out so far to was then nearly 900,000 veterans.
At that pace, 1 million Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans will have signed up for benefits by the fall, said Michael Dakduk, the executive director of Student Veterans of America.
“I think it could likely happen either this upcoming semester or at the end of the year,” says Dakduk, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It shows that veterans are not only thriving, but they have a desire to succeed and lead in this country in uniform and out of uniform,” says Dakduk, who used the benefits to earn a degree from University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Success of the current G.I. Bill is a distant echo of the seismic social and economic changes that flowed from passage in 1944 of the original G.I. Bill through which ultimately 7.8 million World War II veterans received education and training benefits.
Nearly half of college admissions in the peak year of 1947 were veterans.
The new Post-9/11 G.I. Bill passed in 2008 pays full tuition for public colleges and universities and a national maximum rate for private schools. It also covers vocational training, and contains a housing allowance and book stipend. In cases of extended military service, unused benefits can be transferred to a spouse or children.
Student Veterans of America, which was formed in 2008 by veterans pushing for the new G.I. Bill, today has chapters in 850 higher-learning institutions across the country and overseas, Dakduk says.
One million veterans using the new G.I. Bill would be well over 60% of the 1.6 million post-9/11 service members who have left the military and are eligible for VA benefits, according to a department report issued in March.