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Student-Vet Lauded as Landmark GI Bill Recipient

In The Cordell Hull Conference Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, Middlesex County College student-veteran Steven Ferraro was celebrated Friday, Nov. 8, as the national 1 millionth recipient of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. He urged his fellow veterans to take advantage of their educational benefit.

Sitting next to him was Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, a military mother, and a faculty member at a community college in Virginia, as well as Allison Hickey, the Veterans Administration's undersecretary of benefits.

In a conference call with reporters from all over the nation, Mr. Ferraro explained why he attended MCC and he recommended fellow veterans to use the benefit.

"I chose Middlesex County College because my brother used his GI Bill benefit there and graduated and my sister currently attends," he said. "I figured with my family going here, it would be an easy transition from going from a full-time soldier to a full-time student. I want to thank Middlesex County College and my veterans affairs rep, David Brimmer, for the support I have gotten.

"Middlesex County College is a veteran-friendly environment and the assistance I have received was a great help. Going back to school after serving in the military is a very big challenge, especially trying to balance school life with a family. I would recommend to all veterans and service members to use their VA benefits to help you make the most out of your next career."

Dr. Biden said she has seen how community colleges have changed the lives of so many students for the better.

"As a community college teacher myself, I am very happy that our 1 millionth beneficiary has chosen this path," she said. "Providing quality education and helping our veterans find meaningful employment is part of our obligation to those who serve. I have seen it in my own classroom: veterans bring the same determination and focus to their studies that they use serving our county. And it's great for our county because highly skilled, trained veterans will make our nation's workforce stronger.

"We have so many returning after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and they're going to be looking for jobs. This is the perfect way for them to transition into new careers. I'm a community college teacher so I'm hoping they come to the community college and then transfer to a four-year college. You've seen how it's worked for Steven."

The Post 9/11 GI Bill, which began in August of 2009, has distributed over $30 billion in the form of tuition and other education-related payments to veterans, service members and their families; and to the universities, colleges, and trade schools they attend.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a comprehensive education benefit created by Congress in 2008. In general, veterans and service members who have served on active duty for 90 or more days since Sept. 10, 2001 are eligible,

Service members have the opportunity to transfer the benefit to immediate family members. Legally, GI Bill benefits are tiered, based on the number of days served on active duty, giving activated National Guard and Reserve members the same benefits as all other active duty members. These benefits include:

  • Up to the full amount of tuition and fees for a state-operated college or university. The Yellow Ribbon Program may provide additional assistance for students attending private institutions or who are charged out-of-state tuition and fees;
  • Monthly housing allowance, which is based upon the location of the school; and
  • An annual books and supplies stipend of up to $1,000.

Ms. Hickey, VA's undersecretary of benefits, congratulated Mr. Ferraro on his achievement and also looked to the future.

"We're here to congratulate a very special veteran – the 1 millionth beneficiary of this landmark program, both as an individual and as a representative of the post 9/11 veteran generation, which has sacrificed so much for our country. We're also getting ready to help the next million use this benefit to get a quality education and find meaningful employment."

Mr. Ferraro was interviewed by other media later in the day, and had a tour of the West Wing of the White House, including the press room and a peek inside the Oval Office.

 

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David Brimmer (left), the director of the MCC Center for Veterans Services, speaks with Robert Worley, director of education service, and Allison Hickey, undersecretary of benefits for the Department of Veterans Affairs.