- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

My husband committed suicide while on active duty in the Navy. He was an E-5 and had been in 11 years. We were married for eight years. We share one child, and I have a daughter from a previous relationship. Both kids were on his dependents. How long do we get to keep our military insurance and ID’s?

C.W.,
Via the Internet

Dear C.W.,

You can keep your military ID and health insurance for the rest of your life. However, if you remarry, that entitlement will end.

So long as you don’t marry beforehand, the children keep their ID’s and health care coverage until age 21, or age 23 if they’re attending college full time. There will be provisions in place soon allowing them to keep coverage even longer (until age 26), but they will have to pay premiums for the coverage after age 21, or 23 and attending college full time.

Shaft notes

• Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki is encouraging interested colleges and universities to join the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program for the upcoming 2011-2012 academic year.

“Through shared responsibility, VA and our Nation’s colleges and universities are working together to ensure that our Servicemembers, Veterans and dependents receive the education benefits they have earned,” he said. “I strongly encourage any interested school to formally sign up with us before the May 23 deadline to guarantee their participation.”

Interested schools should visit VA’s website for more information at http://gibill.va.gov/school-certifying-officials/yellow-ribbon-agreement/, where they will find a copy of a letter recently sent to all school presidents and department heads, an agreement form, instructions, and an easy-to-follow checklist.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that allows degree-granting institutions to voluntarily enter into a formal agreement with VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed either the annual $17,500 private institutions cap recently instituted by Congress or the in-state tuition and fees charged out-of-state residents attending public institutions.

The institution can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses, and VA will match this additional funding for eligible students. This may enable qualified students to attend school tuition-free.

This Post-9/11 GI Bill program is available for service members and veterans at the 100 percent benefit level, specifically those who have served at least 36 months on active duty or served at least 30 continuous days and were discharged due to a service-related injury after Sept. 11, 2001. The benefit can be transferred to eligible family members.

Effective Aug. 1, 2011, under a new law passed by Congress, there is a cap on the maximum payment of tuition and fees at $17,500 per academic year for private and foreign schools, a change from the previous Post-9/11 GI Bill. The law also provides for full payment of in-state tuition and fees (undergraduate, graduate or doctoral) at public institutions.

The institutions of higher learning (IHL) requesting participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program must enter into an agreement with VA each year, whether to renew participation from the previous academic year or enter first year agreements.

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