As a lifelong learner, I was pleasantly surprised this year when I learned the 19 months of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits I’d relinquished to participate in the VA’s VR&E program were being returned. It was the final nudge I needed to enroll in the Bluegrass Writers Studio’s MFA program here at Eastern Kentucky University.
However, I soon found out that I only had about three months to use the entitlements because of a “delimiting date” that applies to veterans who served prior to the 2013 “Forever GI Bill.” This hardly seemed in the spirit of the new policy, so I wrote to Congressman Andy Barr’s office here in Kentucky’s Sixth District.
Barr is known for his bi-partisan efforts to support veterans. His team listened to what I had to say, seriously considered the solutions I proposed, and a few weeks later informed me they’d started work on a bill to solve the problem. Barr and Congressman Mike Levin (D-CA) announced the More Opportunities for Veterans Education (MOVE) Act today. If passed, veterans in my situation will be informed of their returned benefits through official channels and have an extended amount of time to use them.
Serendipitously, every student who takes Veterans Studies at EKU researches an issue impacting veterans and writes an informed letter to a representative or change-agent. And though I am sure the issue was on their radar before I contacted the Congressman’s office, I will have this story in my back pocket to show students that civic engagement and grass roots advocacy can make a difference.
“Recently, a policy change refunded Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to veterans who relinquished them to participate in VA’s Veterans Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program. However, many veterans who served prior to “Forever GI Bill” have already passed the delimiting date that allows them to use these entitlements. The MOVE act is a commonsense solution to this problem. It requires the VA to inform veterans of this change and provides them with an extended amount of time to use the benefits they’ve earned. In today’s job market, continuing education is vital for career advancement. It also a great tool for personal and intellectual growth. Congressman Barr has once again shown why veterans of all political persuasions appreciate his leadership. His bipartisan efforts with Congressman Mike Levin ensures that veterans who served during the early days of the Global War on Terror will have access to the benefits they have earned,” Dr. Travis Martin, Director, Kentucky Center for Veterans Studies and who is a U.S. Army Veteran.
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Travis L. Martin, PhD, is founding director of the Kentucky Center for Veterans Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. He has established several nationally recognized programs to support returning veterans in higher education and the non-profit sector. A scholar of American literature, psychoanalytic trauma theory, and social theory, Dr. Martin presents frequently at conferences and universities. He has published dozens of research articles and creative short works on veterans’ issues. A former sergeant in the U.S. Army, he served during two deployments in the Iraq War (2003-04 & 2005). His book War and Homecoming: Veteran Identity and the Post-9/11 Generation is slated for publication with the University Press of Kentucky in 2022. He resides in Richmond, KY.