VFW Magazine March 2011 : Page 13

ments.Veterans receiving paper checks will need to switch to direct deposit byMarch 1, 2013. Those applying for benefits on or after May 1, 2011,will receive their payments electron-ically. Benefit recipients also can choose to have their payments deposited into a Direct Express debit MasterCard account. More than 1.5 million beneficiaries have signed up for the Direct Express program since 2008. According to the Treasury Department, the change to a paperless system will save taxpayers $120 million annually and will save Social Security $1 billion over the next 10 years. Treasury says veterans receiving paper checks can switch to direct deposit by calling its processing center at 1-800-333-1795, talk directly with their bank or credit union or access www.GoDirect.org. ------------------LEGISLATION -------------------GI Bill Changes Coming in August President Obama in January signed into law a bill that offers more benefits for some veterans, cuts benefits for others and reduces projected costs to the federal government.P.L. 111-377, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act, is designed to fix problems that arose during the first year of the bill’s implementation. But those changes “create even more inequities,” according to a former ranking member of the House VACommittee. “If you went out and surveyed the average student-veteran, I believe they would oppose improving their own benefits at the expense of some of their comrades,” said former Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.). Most of the changes take effect Aug. 1, 2011. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this latest ver-sion of the Post-9/11 GI Bill will save the government $734 million over 10 years. Here are the main upgrades in benefits: • National Guard and Reserve troops can apply their active-duty time since Aug. 1, 2009, as part of the Active Guard and Reserve and mobilizations, toward earning benefits. • Active-duty troops and their spouses using transferred benefits will be eligible for the $1,000 book allowance. • Distance-learning students will be eligible for one-half of the national average living stipend. • Fees for licensure and certification tests, as well as living stipends, for veterans pursuing vocational training will be covered. The law also cuts or modifies some existing benefits: • Living stipends for students attending less than full time will be prorated. • Payment for active-duty troops attending private schools will be capped at $17,500 annually, but they can still apply for Yellow Ribbon Programbenefits to cover fees exceeding the cap at schools that participate. • Troops released from active-duty because of medical or hardship conditions that are not service-connected will now be required to have an honorable discharge. • Family members can only use transferred benefits from one service member at a time. • Benefits will no longer be paid between school terms, except in emergencies, such as when schools are closed by presidential order. Law Forces Accounting at Arlington A law enacted in December seeks to ensure better manage-ment of Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Public Law 111-339 requires the Army secretary to provide Congress a full accounting of all 320,000 graves and an evalu-ation of management practices at the Army-run cemetery. According to the House VA Committee, the law requires a report by Dec. 22, 2011, that includes notification of any gravesite discrepancies, an accounting of all contracts and a status update on implementation of recent Army directives. ----------------------SECURITY-----------------------One in Five Flunk Army Entry Test One in five high school graduates who took the Army’s entrance exam between 2004 and 2009 failed to qualify, according to a report from a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit educational organization.Results showed a marked dis-parity in failure rates among white, black and Hispanic applicants. The Education Trust, which seeks to improve America’s K-12 education systems, issued the report Shut Out of the Military in December. It is billed as the first-ever public anal-ysis of data from the Army’s Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB )—which determines if applicants qualify to enlist in the military. It studied results from nearly 350,000 high-school gradu-ates aged 17-20 and focused on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), comprised of four academic sub-sets of the ASVAB.Here are some of the findings: • The failure rate for whites was 16%, 29% for Hispanics and 39% for blacks. •More than 43% of white recruits scored in the top two cate-gories on the AFQT,while less than 25% ofHispanic recruits and less than 18% of black recruits scored in this range. • The states in which more than 30% of applicants scored too low to enlist were Hawaii, Louisiana,Mississippi and Washington,D.C. • States with less than 15% failure rates were Idaho, Indiana,Nebraska,New Hampshire and Wyoming. For more information—including The Education Trust’s full report—access www.edtrust.org. For more information about specific legislation or VA benefits, contact VFW’s Washington Office at vfw@vfw.org. A member of VFW’s National Veterans Service staff will respond as soon as possible. March 2011 • WWW.VFW.ORG • 13

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