The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has joined Illinois elected officials, veteran and student groups, and state agencies in support of a rule change that will maximize educational benefits for Illinois veterans.
The rule change will provide veterans with greater flexibility in meeting the costs of post-secondary education.
“We are grateful to Sen. Durbin for his leadership and advocacy on this important issue for our Illinois student-veterans,” Gov. Pat Quinn said. “This effort has brought the voices of others to the conversation, and we are grateful that we have a positive outcome and way ahead for our veterans using state and federal education benefits they earned through service.”
“Veteran students shouldn’t be forced to choose between the benefits offered by the state of Illinois and those offered by the federal government, yet that’s exactly what many Illinois veterans have been forced to do in recent years,” Durbin said. “These veterans risked their lives to serve our country. Now it’s our turn to deliver on the promises we made to them.
“Unfortunately, Illinois veterans have been faced with a unfair choice – forgoing the state education benefits to which they are entitled so they could claim the federal benefits that help pay for books and housing. In August, I reached out to the VA to get the federal support needed for this common sense rule change. I look forward to continuing to work with the state of Illinois and the VA to assure that Illinois veterans are getting the most out of their service-related education benefits, and I thank Governor Quinn and the Illinois VA for their perseverance on this issue.”
The change involves a proposed waiver to Illinois administrative rules regarding the simultaneous use of federal post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and state student veteran benefits. Currently, when veterans use both their federal and state benefits during the same academic term, they often do not receive the full value of their federal benefits. The proposed waiver will allow higher education institutions to first apply post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a student’s tuition and fees, and make up the difference using applicable Illinois Veteran Grant or Illinois National Guard Grant funds administered by the state.
The proposed rule change will help veterans maximize their benefits by allowing them to first access their federal benefits before they expire. These benefits cover tuition, fees, housing and books. It will also allow veterans to retain more of their state benefits for future use, and will reduce the cost to each school of providing educational services to veterans.
The new rules could be in place by the summer of 2015, in time for veterans to take advantage of this new flexibility in the 2015-16 school year.