Many public institutions of higher education have received requests from state authorities for verification of compliance with Section 702 of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (the “Choice Act”). Under Section 702 of the Choice Act, effective July 1, 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs will stop approving benefit payments for educational programs at public colleges or universities that do not offer qualifying veterans in-state tuition and fees.
Not all veterans are eligible to receive the in-state tuition benefit. The Choice Act applies to “covered individuals.” A covered individual is defined as:
- a veteran who
- is living in the state where the public institution of higher education is located and
- has enrolled at that institution within three years of discharge from active duty (having served at least 90 days);
- a spouse or child of such a veteran who
- is using transferred benefitslives in the state where the institution is located, and
- has enrolled at that institution within three years of the veteran’s discharge (having served at least 90 days); and
- a spouse or child of a deceased veteran who
- is using Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship benefits,
- lives in the state where the institution is located, and
- has enrolled at the institution within three years of the veteran’s death in the line of duty (having served at least 90 days).
In a memo regarding the new rule, the Department of Veterans Affairs further clarified the definition of a covered individual to include same-sex spouses and children (biological, adopted, pre-adoptive, and stepchildren of same-sex spouses).
Section 702 will assist veterans with more effectively utilizing their hard-earned education benefits. The cost for out of state tuition is often at least double, and sometimes triple, that of in-state tuition. Section 702 allows our nation’s veterans the freedom to return to civilian life as a student, without being penalized for where they choose to reside.