Thursday, November 17, 2011

Waivers and GI Bill Helps Educate MA Veterans

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Waivers and GI Bill Helps Educate MA Veterans
By Felicia Whatley

The Massachusetts National Guard Tuition and Student Fee Waivers and Post 9/11 GI Bill helps Massachusetts veterans get a free education from Massachusetts state schools.

“The National Guard Waivers helped me get my certification as a Wilderness Guide from Greenfield Community College,” said Army National Guard soldier Specialist Matthew Katz, who deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in 2007 with the Massachusetts and Rhode Island 65th Public Affairs.

“It also helped me create a non-profit for Veterans The Home of the Brave Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting our veterans long after they come home. The transitional period for a returning veteran can be a very difficult one. Many suffer mental and physical wounds that most cannot see. This program is an opportunity to take advantage of positive coping mechanisms and have our country show their appreciation at the same time.” said Specialist Katz.

The Massachusetts National Guard Tuition and Student Fee waivers for enlisted Guard members have helped men and women attend state schools for free. Mitt Romney’s passing of the legislation in 2006 has made a positive impact to educate for our Soldiers and Air Force members. The Post 9/11 GI Bill enacted in 2009 has also helped servicemembers of all branches attend college by giving them money for living expenses while they are in college.

“The National Guard Waivers and GI Bills have helped a lot of veterans. I believe it gives a number of things to the veteran population. It gives them a place to go when they are lost after exiting the military and don't have any idea what to do next. It gives them a place where there are other veterans, so they have people who understand who they are and what they are going through without having the psychological aspect of a medical issues to hinder them from reconnecting to the civilian world,” said retired Operations Specialist 2nd Class Petty Officer of the Navy Caroline Necheles who used to detect, identify, track and report surface, sub-surface, and air contact missiles.

Necheles specialized in Air Intercept Control of fighter pilots during air-to-air combat, and she is now a Senior at UMass Boston.

The eligibility requirements for the waivers include an undergraduate or graduate degree program offered by an eligible institution. He or she must be an active member of the Massachusetts Army or Air National Guard who is in good standing and meets the following criteria is accepted for admission to, or is enrolled, full- or part-time in a Massachusetts public institution of higher education.

Also to be eligible for the waivers guardsman must have been issued a Certificate of Eligibility by the Military Division of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts applicable for any portion of the academic year, has not exceeded the 130 semester credit hours maximum, or the equivalent quarter hours or clock hours, when combined with Certificates of Eligibility issued prior to September 1, 2006 and maintains satisfactory academic progress as defined by the institution, as per Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.

Specialist Katz is now in the 181 Infantry Headquarters unit said, “I got paid Post 9/11 GI Bill. It paid for all my outdoors equipment and gave me the ability to help other veterans.”

Massachusetts Army National Guard Recruiter of Dorchester Staff Sergeant Latoya Wiggins weighed in the benefits for National Guard soldiers who want to attend any of the 28 state schools in Massachusetts.

“Some come to us because they can’t pay for school or they are in debt from starting school and aren’t able to finish it on their own. We pay 100 percent of the tuition and student fees and if they are a full-time student they can get the Montgomery GI Bill to pay them $330 a month, while going to school,” said Staff Sergeant Wiggins.

"The Post 9/11 GI Bill has helped me because I don't have to have a job while I'm going to school. I can put all my concentration into my schoolwork. I can afford to actually go to school, since I didn't take the option of my grandparents paying for collage after high school," said Necheles.

She is a double major Political Science and English with minors of Creative Writing and Communications. She was very involved with the veterans on campus and during her scholastic career she was the UMB Veterans’ Center Coordinator for a year.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. You must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“To get the Post 9/11 GI Bill you have to be a combat veteran and the percentage the soldier gets depends on how much time they have served overseas,” said Staff Sergeant Wiggins.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect August 1, 2009. Approved training under the Post-9/11 GI Bill includes graduate and undergraduate degrees, vocational/technical training, on-the-job training, flight training, correspondence training, licensing and national testing programs, and tutorial assistance. All training programs must be approved for GI Bill benefits.

Veterans who have deployed since September 11, 2001 and have been overseas for more than 36 months will receive 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. There are also new incentives, irregardless of the fact that the Guard is over-strengthed by 1,000 people. They are still recruiting.

“We will also pay up to $50,000 for student loans for a 6 year commitment in the Guard. There is also a health care professional loan that will pay back $120,000,” said Staff Sergeant Wiggins.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay eligible individuals’ full tuition and fees directly to the school for all public school in-state-students, usually maxed at $7,000 for tuition and student fees. A monthly housing allowance is given at the rate of an E-5 with dependents is based on the cost of housing of the location of the school.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill also offers an annual stipend for books and supplies at most $1,000 a year paid proportionately on enrollment.

“I would recommend joining the Guard to pay for school, especially for those who wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise,” said Specialist Katz.
Last edited on: November 11, 2011 5:19 PM
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