GI Bill: What You Need To Know

The GI bill funds education benefits that are distributed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This can include benefits earned by members of the Active Duty, Selected Reserve and National Guard Armed Forces and their families. Eligible service members and veterans can have the cost of their education or work training subsidized by the federal government by using these benefits. Veterans may use their GI Bill Benefits for a variety of education and training options, such as:

  • Associate, Bachelor or graduate degree programs
  • Apprenticeships and on-the-job training
  • Technical or vocational schools and other non-degree programs
  • Work-study programs
  • Reimbursement for the cost of earning licensing and certification
  • Correspondence training (coursework completed by mail)

These benefits from the GI Bill can be used to pay the cost of tuition, housing and books and supplies. Usually, the full tuition amount given to beneficiaries is equal to the maximum national average. Similarly, the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is based on the cost of living where the veteran opts to go to school. Funding for books and school supplies usually comes out to about $1,000 per school year.

Note: In many cases, spouses and dependents of veterans may be eligible to receive GI Bill education benefits.

GI Bill Benefits: Learn The Basics

This bill distributes these education benefits through several programs such as the Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI Bill. Benefits from both of these programs can be utilized for the same education and training opportunities. While both options offer education benefits to retired service members, most find that the Post 9/11 GI Bill better serves their education needs. One of the main reasons why many veterans choose the Post 9/11 GI Bill is due to the differences in eligibility requirements between the two programs. Veterans can only enroll in one of these GI Bill programs, therefore retired service members should review the requirements below and choose the program that is best for them.

Montgomery GI Bill: What are the requirements?

Service members and reservists who enroll in the Montgomery GI Bill can pay $100 each month for the first year that they are in active duty. Veterans who elected to make contributions from their military pay and are a part of the VEAP program may also be eligible for Montgomery GI Bill benefits. Before applying, service members must have completed high school or received an equivalency certificate such as a GED. After they complete the minimum service obligation and receive an honorable discharge from active duty, these retired military members will be eligible to receive their monthly education benefits.

Post 9/11 GI Bill: What are the requirements?

In contrast, Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility requirements do not require active duty personnel or veterans to make any payments while serving in the military. Instead, the guidelines to qualify for this program are mostly based on the amount of time served in active duty. A veteran must have served a combined total of 90 days on active duty after September 10, 2001 to meet the requirements. Alternatively, a veteran who received a discharge due to a service-linked disability may be eligible for Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits after 30 days of continuous service after September 10, 2001. In both cases, to qualify veterans must have received an honorable discharge at the end of their service.

GI Bill: How To Apply

Prior to applying for GI Bill benefits, there are a few steps you can take to prepare. First, you should find out if you are eligible for the program you are applying for. Once you believe that you have met the eligibility requirements, you can begin to gather the necessary documents for the application. The main documents and information that is required includes:

  • Social Security Number
  • Direct deposit bank account information you wish to use for GI Bill benefits
  • Full education and military history
  • Specific information about the school or training institution you wish to attend or are currently attending

Once you have gathered the required information and documents, there are a few methods you can use to submit your application. If you are an eligible veteran or service member, you can apply for the GI Bill by mail, in person or with the help of a certified professional. Each method has advantages and disadvantages based on your situation, so you should use the method that is most convenient for you.

Guide to Apply by Mail

If you need to request a GI Bill application, you can call the VA regional claims processing office during their office hours and they will send one to you by mail. Fill out your application as completely as you can and mail it to the VA regional claims office that is closest to your school of choice. Typically, it will take an average of 30 days for the VA to process your application and make a decision.

Guide to Apply in Person

If you think that you may need assistance in filling out your application for GI Bill benefits, you can choose to go to a VA regional benefit office and get help from a VA employee. These employees can help you gather necessary information, find a school or training program for you to enroll in and answer any questions you may have about the program. You can also usually find a certified official at your school’s Registrar or Financial Aid office who will be able to help you with your application.

Guide to Apply with the Help of a Certified Professional

Particular areas of the country do not have a VA regional claims office nearby, so you may want to find a trained professional to help you with your GI Bill application if you live in one of these areas. These professionals can be an accredited attorney, claims agent or Veterans Service Officer (VSO). As certified professionals, these individuals had to pass an exam, a background check and they must continue to take education courses to be accredited by the VA. Consequently, you can rest assured that they will be able to assist you with any of your GI Bill needs.

How much money can you collect in GI Bill benefits?

You may receive a varying amount of GI Bill benefits depending on the specific program. If you are a beneficiary of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you can receive anywhere between 40 percent and 100 percent of the maximum national average tuition. You will be eligible for a higher percentage the more time you served in Active Duty. For every six months you serve, your benefits will increase by 15 percent until you reach the maximum tuition amount after two years. Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits will also cover your BAH and even offer a one-time relocation fee if you have to move to attend school. In many cases, you will receive 36 months of benefits that can be used at any point within a 15-year period after you retire from Active Duty.

Note: Since the passing of the Forever GI Bill there is no GI Bill expiration date on benefits if your service ended on or after January 1, 2013.

For the Montgomery GI Bill, your benefits will vary depending on your enrollment status (whether you are a full-time, half-time or a part-time student). If you are on Active Duty, you will only be able to receive reimbursement for the actual cost of tuition and expenses. Once you retire, you will receive the full payment rate no matter how much your tuition costs.