GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.
When Travis Beagle began college at Ferris State University in 2008, he was faced with student loans and classes that didn't interest him. With a childhood dream of joining the military, he made the decision to leave school and serve seven years of active duty in the U.S. Army.
Upon leaving the military, Travis had a newfound passion in aviation maintenance and enrolled in an aviation maintenance program. The best part? The Post-9/11 GI Bill meant he didn't need to apply for student loans or even worry about the cost of books.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill covered Travis' tuition in full, provided a stipend for course materials, and paid out a housing allowance — a monthly stipend for housing fixed to a state's cost of living. As part of the military discharge process, Travis had to complete classes on the GI Bill, which covered the differences between the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB).
This guide is meant to be a brief overview of GI Bill information, including common questions and resources available on federal websites. It is not meant in any way to be an exhaustive or complete guide to the GI Bill. For more information on the GI Bill, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website.
For an in-depth guide on military benefits, including the GI Bill, you can also check out BestColleges' Financial Aid Guide for Military Veterans.
Post-9/11 GI Bill vs. Montgomery GI Bill
There are fundamental differences between the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). While most college-bound students opt for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, prospective students who enlisted in the U.S. armed forces after September 11, 2001, qualify for both the MGIB and the Post-9/11 GI Bill and can decide which option to use for school.
Both versions of the GI Bill can be applied to a variety of academic programs — not just four-year degrees. According to the VA, the following are qualifying education expenses for the GI Bill.
- Certificate Programs
- College Degrees
- Correspondence Courses
- Entrance Examinations
- Entrepreneurship Training
- Flight Training
- High-Tech Training
- Licensing and Certification Tests
- On-the-Job Training
- Technical or Vocational Courses
The Montgomery GI Bill
There are two MGIB enrollment options. The first is the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD); the VA states this option is "for active duty members who enroll and pay $100 per month for 12 months and are then entitled to receive a monthly education benefit once they have completed a minimum service obligation."
The second option is the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR). This option is for reservists who maintain a Selected Reserve six-year obligation and are actively drilling. Those eligible for this bill may receive up to 36 months of benefits. The MGIB-SR can be used for all of the same programs as the MGIB-AD along with co-op training and certain refresher and remedial courses.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill
Individuals who served at least 90 days active duty, were honorably discharged, or joined the military on or after September 11, 2001, qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33). Dependent children who have transferred benefits from a qualified veteran or service member also qualify for this GI Bill.
If military service ended before January 1, 2013, GI Bill benefits are eligible for 15 years. If service ended on or after January 1, 2013, the GI Bill benefits never expire. Benefits cover tuition and fees, including 100% tuition for in-state public universities, money for housing, and money for books and course materials. If moving from a rural area to attend school, certain students may qualify for an additional one-time payment through the GI Bill.
GI Bill Questions
While the military and reserves teach service members to use the GI Bill before they are discharged, there are several online resources that can help guide future students. Researching VA benefits and GI Bill eligibility is an important first step. The VA outlines several guidelines that can help determine what the GI Bill covers depending upon each individual pathway.
For instance, if you are going into a field that requires expensive tests, you may be eligible for the GI Bill to fund the cost of testing or additional education. Applicants may also be eligible for a range of additional benefits, including flight training, foreign exchange programs, apprenticeships, and distance learning.
Once you have decided on a program, it is important to research how much tuition assistance you can receive for a particular school. The GI Bill School Comparison tool allows you to search by state or specific school. Knowing in advance the amount of tuition that will be covered and the housing allowance for a particular region could affect your decision.
Remember, you still need to fill out a college admission application like all students so be sure you get your college application in on time, typically at least eight months before the school year begins.
You can apply for GI Bill benefits on the VA website. Be sure you have the required materials, including your Social Security card and bank information, and check that your eligibility status is correct before applying.
Once you apply, the VA takes an average of 30 days to approve or deny an education claim. When your application is approved, you will receive an award letter or a Certificate of Eligibility. This document certifies that you are approved to receive GI Bill benefits.
The next step is contacting your prospective school's VA department. Almost every school or school system has a VA department that will help you with your GI Bill benefits.
The VA offers career counseling to veterans who qualify for educational assistance and service members who were not dishonorably discharged and who left the military less than a year from their final day of service.
Career counseling services help individuals determine a career path either within or outside the military. Services also include assistance with finding a training program or job and adjustment training to help with the transition from the military to the workforce. To apply for these benefits, you will need to fill out paperwork via the eBenefits portal on the VA website.
Regardless of whether you know your career pathway, it's important to know when your GI Bill will expire. If you qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill but your service ended before January 1, 2013, you have 15 years from your separation date to receive the benefit.
If your service ended on or after January 1, 2013 and you qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill your benefits never expire. The Forever GI Bill - Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act allows veterans to continue to use their allotted benefits without fear that the benefits will expire.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers 100% of tuition and fees for in-state students attending public schools. For private or foriegn schools, the GI Bill covers a predetermined maximum dollar amount per each academic year. Review the GI Bill resident rate requirements to see if you qualify for in-state tuition.
Important VA Resources
Students who wish to transfer to a different school or change vocational program will need to fill out a form to transfer benefits. Those who have left school and are reentering a program or veterans who were receiving VA benefits and are returning to active duty will also need to transfer benefits. Veterans and service members must complete VA Form 22-1995 online, and dependents must complete VA Form 22-5495 online.
If you do not use or intend to use your GI Bill, you may be able to transfer your benefits to your spouse or children. The transfer must be approved by the U.S. Department of Defense. It is highly advised to read about the transfer process before beginning a transfer, since spouses receive different and more immediate benefits than children.
If you are currently using your GI Bill or have any remaining benefits it's important to keep track of what is still available to you. Post-9/11 GI Bill users or those who have received an application decision can access their information through a DS Logon, My HealtheVet, or ID.me account. Note that this tool is only available during certain days and times of the week.
While researching GI Bill benefits, you may come across the Yellow Ribbon Program. This program is a provision of the law. The VA states that, "the program allows approved institutions of higher learning and the VA to partially or fully fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the established thresholds under the Post-9/11 GI Bill." This program is only valid at degree-granting institutions.
Use this online tool to enter your personalized information, including your military status, your current benefits, and even a specific school or state. The tool can generate a list of schools in a state or a specific school if you searched by school name. Once a list is generated the comparison tool allows candidates to see how much tuition reimbursement is available for their specific benefits, including a breakdown of housing and book reimbursements.
An excellent resource for veterans, CareerScope is an aptitude test that is an additional resource to the VA career counseling services. If you qualify to take the assessment test, the results can help determine a direction in a current career or provide results for potential careers. In addition to CareerScope, veterans can access personalized support and benefits coaching through the VA.