Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday proposed expanding the state's GI Bill to include older veterans, an effort to jump-start job skill training to reduce high veteran unemployment. The state's military education program now provides a stipend only to veterans who have served post 9/11.
In an announcement, Dayton and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito said the state will open up the program to include Vietnam, Gulf War and peacetime vets. The money will come from existing funding that has gone unused. Only about $1.5 million of a $6 million appropriation is now being used.
Opening the program to older vets is expected to provide funding of an additional $1 million a year, Dayton said.
The state's GI Bill program usually is a last-resort effort after other benefits are exhausted or expired. It provides $1,000 per semester, $3,000 per state fiscal year, and a lifetime cap of $10,000 to qualifying vets.
Shellito said the program is not designed to fund entire college educations but to provide stop-gap training for vets who might need additional schooling to obtain a diploma or to get certification in a trade.
In addition, Dayton announced the state will permanently fund military honor burials. The state previously provided in the 2008-2009 budget a stipend to local veterans groups to offset costs associated with the burials. Last year, a onetime supplemental authorization was appropriated, but that funding ended in June.
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434