July 18, 2013
By Charles Zuckerman
The GI Bill is one of the most useful benefits available to veterans. Not only can it help smooth the transition back to civilian life, but by covering much of the cost of tuition, it can strengthen their financial situation upon separating from service. So it should come as no surprise that nearly 500,000 people took advantage of the GI Bill benefits in 2012. However, despite the bill's advantages, differences in legislation between states have often left some veterans paying more than they expected to, McClatchy's Washington Bureau reports.
Lack of consistency
Among the most significant aspects of the GI Bill is that it covers the tuition of public, in-state colleges and universities. Things become less clear when it comes to out-of-state students who often have to cover the difference between rates out of their own pocket. While this may not seem like much of an inconvenience, it is often an issue because troops are required to travel so much as part of their service. Such was the case with Navy veteran Ted Spencer, a North Carolina native who found himself being charged out-of-state rates despite having grown up in North Carolina and paying income tax during his time in the Navy.
Another issue is that policies differ considerably from state to state. Some, like Maine, Ohio and Louisiana, offer veterans in-state tuition if they are stationed in the U.S. outside of their home state. Several, such as Texas and Rhode Island, have legislation pending. Others, including Florida, Tennessee and Nebraska have no such plans.
Push in Washington
With so many differences from state-to-state, there has been a considerable effort on Capitol Hill to craft legislation that would apply equally to all veterans. This initiative has been led by Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, who crafted the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013. The proposed law would require public institutions to allow all veterans using the GI Bill to attend school under in-state rates.
"The men and women who served this nation did not just defend the citizens of their home states, but the citizens of all 50 states," Miller said. "As such, the educational benefits they receive from the taxpayers should reflect that."