USA TODAY. JAN 1, 2013. On Sunday, the House of Representatives passed a bill (HR 4057) that will provide student veterans using their Post-9/11 GI Bill with much-needed information about the colleges and institutions to which they apply. The bill is ready for President Barack Obama's signature.
The bill would, among other things, create a centralized complaint process to track student issues concerning the GI Bill, as well as require the Veterans Administration to set up a website to better inform prospective students.
Students will have access to education counseling and expanded information aimed at helping them make informed choices about their education. They will be able to learn more about retention and graduation rates, whether their credits will transfer to another institution and whether the college provides students with technical, academic and other support services.
"It sounds like a good idea," said Rory Biel, a 26-year-old specialist in the Army Reserve who is a student at Brevard Community College. "I'm sure it will make it easier to use the GI Bill."
The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of service after Sept. 10, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. Individuals must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the benefit, which covers up to 36 months of education-related expenses, generally payable for 15 years after release from active duty.
Biel, who served in Afghanistan, started his college studies before joining the Army. Since he returned from the war, he has used his GI Bill for one semester. He plans to transfer to the University of Central Florida to study mechanical engineering.
He said he has had issues and questions about his GI Bill and did not know where to turn.
"All the information you're given is very vague," he said. "I had to do all kinds of research."
Also sent to the president for his signature was the Dignified Burial and other Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2012.
The measure makes possible proper burials for veterans with no resources or family.
The measure also provides for a registry to track symptoms and illnesses of those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who were exposed to contaminants.
"We have accomplished a lot the past two years," said Rep. Jeff Miller, (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "These two bills will provide veterans with greater educational opportunities, more accessible transition programs, dignified memorial services, and with an eye of the future, to better care for those who are wounded on the field of battle."