Nineteen years ago today, the terrorists’ attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City and on the Pentagon changed America forever. The first attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor killed 2,977 people and injured 6,000 others.
The attacks set off a range of emotions, from the initial shock of the devastation and the loss of our perceived invincibility, to sadness and mourning for those killed, to anger, to a renewed respect for first responders, and to the vow to ensure we are never so vulnerable again.
Beyond the obvious attack comparisons, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 had two other things in common. Each attack generated waves of new recruits who joined the military to defend the country. Each attack also ultimately led to the creation or enhancements of benefits for veterans as they returned to civilian life: The GI Bill during World War II and the Post-9/11 GI Bill upgrade in 2008.
Granted, far more rushed to enlist following Pearl Harbor than after 9/11. However, those who did join the military after 9/11 ushered in a new trend, according to the New York Times.
“Studies show that starting in 2002, Army recruits scored higher on qualification tests, had high school diplomas more often, and came from higher-income areas than in previous years — indications that military service was attracting a broader cross-section of Americans, experts say,” the newspaper reported. Many went off to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Another wave of enlistments followed as the stock market and housing markets collapsed in 2008, and that generation of future veterans compelled President George W. Bush and Congress to improve the GI Bill that year with the Post-9/11 GI Bill. President Trump revised it again, in 2017, with the Forever GI Bill.
The benefits are available to those still serving and to honorably discharged veterans, with the amount covered depending upon active duty time served, and some benefits now are available to those serving in the Reserve.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill improved access to educational and job training opportunities for veterans who served after September 11, 2001. It also allows them to transfer unused benefits to their spouses or children. It covers tuition and fees, a stipend for books and supplies, and with a monthly housing allowance for up to 36 months.
Benefits for Post-9/11 veterans also include improved medical care, a wide range of mental health treatments, traumatic brain injury care, vision and dental care, women’s health care, and Telehealth programs.
The GI Bill continues to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of our veterans – which are reflected in the revisions of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Forever GI Bill.