"Above all, I want to pay tribute to the veterans by now advancing their dreams of pursuing an education, Obama said, speaking at a rally Monday at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., to celebrate the implementation of the bill. "With the post-9/11 GI bill we can help the veterans live their own dream."
The bill signed by President Bush a year ago, just took effect on Aug. 1 and is the first new GI Bill since the terror attacks of 9/11. The Veterans Affairs Department began distributing tuition payments to schools participating in the program over the weekend.
Obama laid out some of the bill's key provisions, including free tuition at public universities for some active duty soldiers, as well as enhanced benefits for their families and for reservists.
While the bill extends benefits to anyone with at least three months' active duty service in the military since Sept. 11, 2001, those who have served at least three years' active duty since then are eligible for four years of tuition costs at their home state's universities, plus a monthly stipend for housing and living expenses which averages about $1,100 nationwide and funds for tutoring and books.
Altogether, the benefit could top more than $25,000 a year in the most expensive states.
Troops who served at least 10 years' active duty will be able to transfer their benefit to a spouse or dependent child. Guardsmen and reservists with at least three years' active duty in the past seven years automatically qualify for the full tuition benefit just like other troops. Those who served less active time, but at least three months, will receive 40-90% of the tuition benefit, based on a sliding scale.