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A Virginia veteran challenges limitations to the GI Bill

Army veteran Jim Rudisill is shown in the cockpit of a U.S. Army tank during his military service.
Courtesy of Jim Rudisill
Army veteran Jim Rudisill argues that Veterans Affairs is improperly denying him full benefits under the G.I. Bill.

Army veteran Jim Rudisill argues that Veterans Affairs is improperly denying him full benefits under the G.I. Bill. Through his lawyers, he argued to the U.S. Supreme Court he’s entitled to more robust benefits passed by Congress after 9-11.

TRANSCRIPT OF VIDEO

BILLY SHIELDS: Since the GI Bill was implemented in 1944, it has been lauded as a program that has changed the lives of millions of veterans.

TIM McHUGH (PRO BONO ATTORNEY FOR JIM RUDISILL, TROUTMAN PEPPER): The GI Bill is truly a transformative, life-changing benefit for veterans who've served in any era, but particularly so in the post-9/11 era.

BILLY SHIELDS: Through his lawyers, Virginia Army veteran, Jim Rudisill is arguing that Veterans Affairs wrongly calculated his GI benefits, costing him an Ivy League education.

TIM McHUGH: And it's frustrating in that the VA has imposed this very punitive and unprecedented regime that actually ends up shortchanging the longest serving veterans.

BILLY SHIELDS: What complicates the issue are changing waves of benefits that Congress authorized over the years. In Rudisill's case, the VA ruled he couldn't access robust post-9/11 benefits without exhausting smaller benefits from a previous period called the Montgomery Era.

DAVID DePIPPO (PRO BONO ATTORNEY FOR JIM RUDISILL, DOMINION ENERGY): If you have any Montgomery Benefits, regardless of how long you've served, you have to either forfeit them or exhaust them first and then move to post-9/11. And again, we think there's no basis in the statute for that whatsoever.

BILLY SHIELDS: Rudisill served almost eight years over three stints starting in 2000 and was accepted into Yale's Divinity School with an eye toward becoming an Army chaplain. He says when the VA denied him tens of thousands of dollars in education benefits he could not afford to attend Yale.

DAVID DePIPPO: We think this is actually an accident. Someone in 2008 created a form. The form is the way that you tell the VA you want benefits that you've earned.

BILLY SHIELDS: That form, they argue, is being used incorrectly.

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Billy Shields is a multimedia journalist with VPM News Focal Point.