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By Jeff Paterson and Adam Seibert, Courage to Resist. April 22, 2010

GI Counseling Alert – As of March 2010, some members of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) who are involuntarily activated by the Army are now listed by the Veterans Administration (VA) as on "Active Duty Recall status", or just “active”. This affects some benefits of IRR some recall refusers for the first time. Once the VA is notified by the Army that the individual has been activated, the VA is now required to stop payments for both the housing allowance and the book allowance otherwise covered by the “Post-9/11 GI Bill”. However, the VA will continue to pay tuition and college fees for IRR refusers.

Most IRR refusers, however, are continuing to receive full benefits under the “Post-9/11 GI Bill”. We do not yet know if this is penalty is still in the process of being implemented more broadly, or if it will continue to affect a relatively small number of individuals in an apparently arbitrary fashion.

For those that are affected, the VA will resume their housing and books allowance upon receiving a second DD 214 from the Army—meaning an individual’s second separation from active duty. This may mean that an IRR refuser will not receive the housing and books allowances even after eventually receiving an Honorable, General, or Other Than Honorable discharge from the IRR.

As the housing and book allowances are new as of the “Post-9/11 GI Bill”, the Army did not need to change a program, but simply found a way to modify the implementation of this new program in order to penalize IRR refusers.

This information is based on our work with a half dozen former Soldiers who have been affected by this new policy, and we have verified the information with a regional VA benefits counselor. We are currently in the process of seeking additional information from the VA and affected individuals, in collaboration with military law specialists, with the goal of getting the VA to provide full benefits for all IRR refusers.

We do not yet know if the Army’s new insistence that IRR no-shows are formally on “Active Duty Recall status” will have other adverse implications. Nor do we yet know if Marines will also be affected by this new development.

For former service members who believe that they will likely be affected by this change, some still have the option of choosing between the old GI Bill program, and the new “Post-9/11 GI Bill”. Individuals who plan on attending a two-year trade/technical school, the old GI Bill may be a better option. However, for individuals who will attend a four-year college, the “Post-9/11 GI Bill” is still likely to the better deal—even without the housing and books allowances.