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DOVER, Del. -- A panel of distinguished leaders held a conference Aug. 15 at Wilmington University in Dover, Del., to discuss the changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, Brig. Gen. Carol Timmons, the director of joint staff for the Delaware National Guard, and Robert King, the chief of force development with the 436th Force Support Squadron, addressed representatives from Wilmington University, Delaware University and Delaware Technical University.

"[Service members] are one of our great human resources," said Carper. "We want them to have the opportunity to grow in all sectors of our society."

Education is the third most popular reason service members join the Air Force and the first reason why people stay in, said King.

The latest changes to the 9/11 GI Bill became effective on Aug. 1, 2011. Some of the highlights include:

- Vocational Rehabilitation participants may now elect the higher housing allowance.

- Reimbursement is now available for fees paid to take national examinations used for admission to an institution of higher learning.

- Reimbursement is now available for multiple licensing and certification tests.

- College fund payments will now be paid on a monthly basis instead of a lump-sum at the beginning of the term. Members in training half-time or less are now eligible for college fund payments.

- For students who attend private institutions of higher learning or foreign schools, the tuition and fee reimbursement is now capped at the lesser cost of $17,500 annually.

- Break or interval pay is no longer payable under any Veterans Affairs education program unless under an Executive Order of the President or an emergency. Entitlements, which previously would have been used for break pay, will be available for future enrollment. This means if there is a break between semesters, housing allowance will not be paid during the break.

Carper, who voted on the new changes, said he feels his job is to serve those who have served.

"[Service members] are benefitting by the nation adhering to the golden rule," said Carper. "In this country, that is how we treat people."

Timmons said she uses the benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill to convince her service members to better themselves. She told a story a National Guard NCO who was the sole provider and had deployed several times to Afghanistan. With the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, the NCO was able to go to school and finish a degree.

"With the GI Bill, there is really no excuse to not go to school," said Timmons.

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