During the past two decades the federal government has made great strides to provide greater financial aid opportunities for veterans desiring to earn degrees or receive extra vocational training. Since the passing of the post 9/11 GI Bill more than 79% of veterans who enroll in institutions for higher education have been beneficiaries of these bills. More service members are returning to school and capitalizing on these available resources.
For anyone who has served in the military many of these governmental or institutional awards are available for them, their spouses and even their dependents while they attend an institution for higher learning. There are more educational assistance programs available for service member’s than ever before. Below outlines most of the educational financial assistance programs available to service men and women.
Post 9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill
The term GI Bill refers to any Department of Veterans Affairs education benefit, including tuition, fees and housing. Members of Active Duty, Selected Reserve and National Guard Armed Forces and their families can be recipients of these benefits. The benefit is designed to help service member’s and eligible veterans cover the costs associated with getting an education or training. The system can be complicated and a bit confusing when trying to understand what benefits you may qualify for and what is required of you prior to claiming those benefits. Currently there are two types of GI Bills, the Post 9/11 and the Montgomery.
Montgomery GI Bill
In 1944 Congress drafted the original GI Bill or Servicemen’s Readjustment Act with aims of helping returning veterans of WWII. The program and its offerings were reconstructed in 1984 and has become known as the Montgomery GI Bill. The GI Bill is now separated into two areas; active duty service members (MGIB-AD), and selected reservists (MGIB-SR).
MGIB-AD is offered to active duty service members as well as honorably discharged veterans that served a minimum of two years. Discharged veterans needed to enter service after June 30, 1985 and pay the $1,200 enrollment fee to qualify for these benefits. Some service members that still have remaining entitlement under the original GI Bill may still be eligible for benefits. MGIB-SR is the part of the GI Bill that is available to assist those in the Selected Reserves. Reservists that have a 6-year obligation after June 30, 1985 are eligible for benefits from the MGIB-SR. Each of these programs under the Montgomery GI Bill provide recipients a set amount of funds each month to be used to cover tuition, housing, fees, books and other educational expenses.
Eligible veterans have ten years from the last day of their service in active duty to claim up to 36 months of benefits for assistance with educational expenses. Members of the Selected Reserves that are eligible have up to 14 years from the date of their first 6 year obligation to claim benefits under the Montgomery Bill. Under the Montgomery Bill recipients receive a single monthly payment written out directly to them to use for educational expenses. The amount of the monthly payment is determined by the type of education or training the recipient is receiving as well as how long they served.
Post 9/11 GI Bill
The Post 9/11 GI Bill expands the educational benefits to other active duty service members and honorably discharged veterans. Those who served at least 90 days either consecutive or aggregate after Sep. 10, 2001 could qualify for these benefits. Service members discharged due to a service related disability that served at least 30 days could also qualify for educational benefits. They have up to 15 years to claim benefits from the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Beneficiaries receive up to 36 months of benefits.
Educational benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill cover up to 100% of tuition and fees depending on the institution and if it is a public or private institution for higher learning. Service members that served for a minimum of 3 years are able to receive the full amount. Those that served at least 90 days can still claim up to 40% of tuition costs. Service members also have the opportunity to qualify for a $1,000 stipend for books and housing assistance depending on location of institution for higher learning.
GI Bill: What it covers
Both the Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI Bills Cover the following
- Associate, Bachelor’s Masters Degrees
- Online, Distance learning, and Vocational courses
- Technical, Vocational, Business courses
- On-the-job training and apprenticeships
- Correspondence courses
- Licensing Costs
- Certificate Programs
- Work-study programs
Depending on what GI Bill program you qualify for and the length of your service will determine what benefits you receive as they do have some select limitations and exceptions. Veterans enrolled in an online program or online training will only receive half of the standard housing allowance under the post 9/11 GI Bill. Another important thing to note about the Post 9/11 GI Bill is that there is an annual cap on benefits received for tuition and fees for students attending a private or foreign college and university. Additionally, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will only cover resident tuition costs for public colleges and universities. However, the Yellow Ribbon Program is another added benefit to the Post 9/11 GI Bill in which participating colleges and universities can help offset tuition and fees that may to be covered fully under the GI Bill. These colleges and universities have partnered to make more funds available to cover tuition and fees for eligible veterans. The Yellow Ribbon Program also makes funds available for transferee dependents of active duty service members.
Montgomery Bill: What it covers
A key difference in the Montgomery Bill is that the VA doesn’t pay your benefits to your school but directly to you. You would receive a monthly check for tuition, fees, housing etc. that you would use for educational expenses. The amount received depends on the school you are attending and the length of time you served.
To see a full list of stipends and requirements and limitations visit the VA’s site. To give you an idea a veteran that served 3 years on active duty who is enrolled as a full-time student at a college would receive $1,857 per month. Whereas a veteran who served the same time but chooses on-the-job training would receive $1,393 per month for 6 months and then a smaller stipend the following months. The same is also true of students who served in active duty for only 2 years but are enrolled at the same college, their monthly stipend would be less than a veteran of 3 years.
Remember active-duty service members need to enroll and pay the $1,200 contribution for this program. With that there is also a $600 Buy Up Program. If a service member chooses to pay an additional $600 while they are on active duty they can receive up to an additional $5,400 in benefits.
Post 9/11 GI Bill: What is covers
Under this GI Bill the monthly payment is divided with one part going directly to the educational institution of choice and the remainder going to you to cover housing, books and other fees.
- Up to $1,000 per year for cost of books and other supplies
- Housing Allowance (The amount will vary depending on cost of living near your educational institution and is based off the Basic Housing Allowance or BAH for a E-5 with dependents. You can determine your housing allowance using the BAH calculator)
- Students enrolled in fully online programs will qualify for up to half the BAH allowance.
- Veterans from rural areas that relocated to attend an educational institution can receive a one-time payment of $500 to help cover these costs.
The VA covers 100% of in state tuition for veteran enrolled full time at a public university if they meet the following credentials. They served on active duty after 9/11 and served a minimum of 36 months or you served a minimum of 30 days and were honorably released due to a service based disability. Veterans that served less than 36 months can still claim benefits they just won’t receive the full amount. They will receive a portion based on the length of time they served.
How To Maximize GI Benefits
- Calculate tuition and housing costs and benefits under each plan
- If possible attend your program full time. Under the Montgomery Bill will vary with how many credits your are taking. Under the Post 9/11 Bill you will only receive housing benefits if you complete your program by taking more than half time credits each semester.
- If you are taking online courses try to take at least one on campus course as this will allow you to receive the full housing allowance
- Don’t forget to check state veteran’s education programs, you can receive benefits from both the GI Bill and state benefits.
How To Apply For GI Benefits
- Choose the best benefit for you
- Gather all the paperwork and information you will need prior to applying
- Choose your school and program you will be attending
- Submit an online application or mail one within the eligibility period. The VA’s online application system, VONAPP, is user-friendly. If you choose to apply by mail, print out and complete Form 22-1990 and mail it to your regional VA Processing Office.