The “yellow ribbon” has been symbolic among Americans for many years. We displayed those ribbons everywhere in support of Americans being held hostage in Iran and the Persian Gulf War inspired countless numbers of our loved ones (my own parents included) to decorate clothing, trees, and even county courthouse columns with yellow ribbons to demonstrate support of those deployed.
More recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs has chosen to leverage that highly positive symbolism when naming a key benefit for military Veterans and their families. Established by the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the Yellow Ribbon Program allows colleges, universities, and other degree-granting schools in the United States to enter into an agreement with the VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the amounts payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. In short, the Yellow Ribbon Program helps make up the difference when the GI Bill just isn’t enough … degree-granting institutions of higher learning that participate in the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program agree to make additional funds available for your education without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement.
Here are some key highlights of the program, straight from the VA. Of course, in the realm of benefits things are always subject to change; in order to nail down the most current information, visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/yellow_ribbon.asp…
The Yellow Ribbon Program. The Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay all resident tuition & fees for a public school or the lower of the actual tuition & fees or the national maximum per academic year for a private school. Your actual tuition & fees costs may exceed these amounts if you’re attending a private school or are attending a public school as a nonresident student. In order to make additional funds available for your education program without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement, these institutions voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA and choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. The VA matches that amount and issues payments directly to the institution.
Available Benefits and Eligibility. To receive benefits under the Yellow Ribbon Program, you must be eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This includes:
…Those who served 36 months (may be aggregate) on active duty
…Purple Heart recipients with an Honorable discharge and any amount of service
…Those discharged after 60 days with a service-connected disability and served 30 continuous days after Sept. 10, 2001
…Children using transferred benefits if their Service Member transferor is at the 100 percent level (36 months served)
…Effective August 1, 2022, Service Members at the 100 percent level and transferee spouses whose transferor is at the 100 percent level
…Active duty Service Members or their spouses are not eligible
Additionally, your school must agree to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program; your school must have not offered Yellow Ribbon to more than the maximum number of individuals, as stated in their participation agreement; and your school must certify your enrollment to the VA and provide them Yellow Ribbon Program information.
Of course, not every institution of higher learning is part of the Yellow Ribbon Program. For a listing of schools that are participating in the 2019-20 school year, visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/yellow_ribbon/yrp_list_2019.asp. In addition, participating schools have the flexibility to designate the number of students they will assist and the amount of contributions based on student status (as in undergrad, grad, or doctoral) and college or professional school. It might be good to touch base with your school’s certifying official, as well, for details on how they fit into the program.
Finally, the Yellow Ribbon Program received some enhancements as part of the Forever GI Bill (aka The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017). Just to reiterate what I mentioned above, effective August 1, 2018 Fry Scholarship and Purple Heart recipients became eligible for the Yellow Ribbon benefits and on August 1, 2022 certain members of the Armed Forces serving on active duty will eligible.
The application process isn’t too complicated…if you submit an application for the Post-9/11 GI Bill to the VA and are eligible at the 100% benefit level, the VA will issue you a Certificate of Eligibility advising that you are potentially eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program. They say that you should provide your Certificate of Eligibility to the school which, in turn, will determine if there are slots available for the Yellow Ribbon Program (based on its agreement with the VA).
Once the Department of Veterans Affairs started redesigning the current-era array of educational benefits (beginning with the Post-9/11 package), many among us have decided to give ‘higher ed’ the ol’ college try. And the way the Yellow Ribbon Program has helped bridge the gap for many Veterans, especially with the recent enhancements I just mentioned, has made a tremendous impact for many of our Brothers and Sisters.
Until next time…