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Published on April 17, 2024
SCOTUS Orders Full GI Bill Benefits for Eligible Ex-Servicemen in Landmark RulingSource: Google Street View

The U.S. Supreme Court has delivered a resounding victory to veterans, ruling 7-2 on Tuesday that those eligible for multiple GI Bill benefits should receive them in full. Veteran James Rudisill's protracted legal duel with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) culminated in a decision that could open the floodgates of better educational opportunities for over a million former service members.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Rudisill's journey began after his army career, which included three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later as an FBI agent. His goal of attending Yale University's divinity school, to re-enter the army as a chaplain, was stonewalled due to, what the VA's "absurd" calculation of his benefits, a term Rudisill used to describe the VA's handling of his situation. The justices sided with Rudisill, saying the VA's method of calculating the benefits under both the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill did not make sense given they were separately accrued.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, writing for the majority, called the VA's interpretation "nonsensical" and stated that veterans qualifying for both plans are entitled to maximize their combined benefits for up to 48 months, reported WGN-TV. The two dissenters of the court, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, had a different view, with Thomas arguing that the decision circumvented Congressional intent.

On the frontline of Rudisill's defense was Misha Tseytlin, a lawyer from the Troutman Pepper law firm in Chicago, who worked the case pro bono. Reflecting on the pressure of handling a case with such far-reaching implications for veterans, Tseytlin said, "You feel more of a weight on your shoulders than even in a normal case because it impacts so many folks, and the folks that gave so much time to the nation – but those who served the nation longest, because those are the ones who are impacted by our case," as told to WGN-TV.

The victory, which could affect about 1.7 million veterans, dictates a hefty and potentially costly task for the VA to reconcile. The Department, which already doles out $8 billion annually in educational benefits may see figures surge post-decision. Yet, despite the legal process outlasting Rudisill's chaplaincy aspirations, this former army captain sees the larger victory. “I did earn these benefits, but yes, this case has taken on a seriousness much deeper than me on my own,” Rudisill voiced, capturing what is indeed a collective stride for veterans across America.