Earlier this month President Barack Obama signed the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 into law. For the first time since Vietnam, it will cover flight training under non-degree educational programs.
Depending on the veteran’s eligibility, the new law authorizes up to $10,000 a year for flight training. But just because such payments are authorized doesn’t mean the allocated funds exist. Congress has to pass an appropriate bill for that, and it’s still working on the 2011 budget, which was due last October.
If Congress appropriates the money, it will be interesting to see how many vets pursue flight training. After World War II, learning to fly under the GI Bill led to the GA boom, which saw the number of airplanes delivered every year climb into the tens of thousands. But that boom peaked in the 1970s, when the Greatest Generation turned 50 and started looking at retirement.
Far fewer served during Vietnam, and given the unpopularity of that conflict, our GI Bill benefits were nowhere near those who served during World War II, or today. Still, regardless of the era, vets have to make a choice between recreation and a career.
Yes, I know some vets used their GI Bill flight training in pursuit of a career, but the majority didn’t. Not after World War II, and not after Vietnam. A private pilot when I got out of the Navy in 1978, I seriously considered an aviation career, but my research suggested that that college was a better long-term bet, so I spent my total monthly $311 GI Bill benefit at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
American aviation changed greatly between World War II and Vietnam, and it endured another significant change between Vietnam and the wars now ongoing. What remains the same are the questions posed by the vet’s priorities. If career prospects are good, as they were for my father’s generation, having some fun isn’t a feast or famine decision.
But in today’s economy? With a GI Bill that pays the full resident tuition and mandatory fees at any state or private college or university, and many also get a housing allowance?
Today’s GI Bill is vastly different than its predecessors. Rather than fixed college fee, like my flat $311 a month, there is a top rate for each state, determined by the resident tuition at the most expensive private or public institution. And that’s per term, either semester, quarter, or trimester.
In Missouri, where I went to school, today the GI Bill pays up to $11,898 (and $373 per credit hour) per term is $11,898. In Wisconsin, where I now live, its $30,963 (and $673 per credit hour) per term. To calculate the full school-year benefit, multiply these figures by the terms, as in semesters, trimesters, or quarters.
Honestly, if you were a 20-something vet with six or seven tours in Iraq and Afghanistan behind you, what would you do? –Scott