Some National Guard & Reserve members may get big increase in education benefit

Some members of the National Guard and the Reserves who serve on active duty will see a significant increase in their educational benefits, thanks to improvements announced by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

"Reservists and National Guardsmen who serve multiple tours on active
duty may get an increase in their educational benefits, in keeping with
the value of their service to our nation," said Secretary of Veterans
Affairs Dr. James B. Peake.
   
Under new provisions, members
who accumulate three years on active duty, regardless of breaks in
service, may be eligible for the maximum payment under the Reserve
Education Assistance Program (REAP).  Previously, reservists and
guardsmen had to serve two continuous years on active duty to receive
the highest payment.
   
The new eligibility rules are retroactive to October, 1, 2007.  The top payment under REAP is currently $880.80 per month. 
   
The
new law, part of the National Defense Authorization Act, also expands
the period of eligibility for certain Guard and Reserve members who
complete their service obligation before separation from the selected
reserve.
   
Members meeting these criteria may be eligible to
use REAP benefits for a period of ten years following discharge. 
Benefits typically end upon separation for members who do not complete
their full, obligated service.
   
Additionally, some
REAP-eligible National Guard and Reserve members may now make an extra
contribution to the Department of Defense to increase their monthly
benefit rates.
Service members receive an additional $5 per month
for each $20 contributed. With the maximum $600 contribution, this
option can add up to $5,400 to a member’s total 36-month education
benefit package.
   
Beginning on October 1, 2008, participants
in REAP and the Montgomery GI Bill program for the Selected Reserve who
pursue non-degree programs lasting less than two years may also be
eligible to receive accelerated payments.
   
During FY 2007,
more than 60,000 National Guardsmen and reservists were paid under
REAP, more than 41,000 were paid under the Montgomery GI Bill program
for the Selected Reserves, and approximately 344,000 participants were
paid under the Montgomery GI Bill for active-duty members.
   
For
more information on changes to VA’s GI Bill benefits, go to
www.GIBILL.va.gov or contact VA directly at 1-888-GIBILL1
(or1-888-442-4551).  

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