Coming Home PA is a project spearheaded by PublicSource, a local nonprofit investigative news group, with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other local media partners.
Todd DePastino, an adjunct professor of history at Waynesburg University, said that the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly referred to as the GI Bill, "set the pattern for how our veterans should be treated after war."
"About half of World War II veterans used [education] benefits. It transformed the face of education," DePastino said.
The GI Bill offered returning servicemen and women funds for education, housing loans and unemployment. Since the bill became law, 7.8 million World War II-era veterans have used the education benefits, according to the VA.
The Post-9/11 Bill, signed in 2008 by President George W. Bush, is considered by many to be the best version of the bill since the original.
DePastino said the 1944 bill created an enrollment boom in universities, and colleges adapted by expanding the size of their campuses, from the dormitories to the libraries. Now, schools are expanding on the administrative end to help veterans handle paperwork associated with the bill.
At the heart of a veteran's education benefits is the amount of time he served. Even those who served just 90 days after Sept. 10, 2001, can receive 40 percent of the maximum benefits.
If a veteran served 30 continuous days and was discharged because of service disabilities, or served more than 36 months, he or she can receive the maximum benefits. Veterans have 15 years to use these benefits, and they can also, prior to retirement, pass them onto their children or spouse. But veterans administrators say there are many exceptions, so finding someone to help with each person's access to benefits is best.
One of the latest changes was setting a national cap at $17,500 per year for a private institution's tuition and fees. The cap for public institutions changes based on the state.
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