22 Oct Simplifying Everything You Need to Know About Your GI Bill Benefits
The GI Bill provides financial assistance to eligible service members and their families for the purpose of covering the cost of training and education. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, now known as the GI Bill, was signed by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide educational benefits for WWII veterans.
Today, the GI Bill covers training and college programs such as associate, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees. Additionally, the program assists with flight training, IT training, on-the-job training, and apprenticeships.
GI Bill History
The GI Bill of Rights was initially established as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 to provide benefits to veterans of World War II. In addition to providing educational benefits, this bill also provided low-cost mortgages, low-interest business loans and healthcare benefits to service members. The bill was later amended to include the Korean War and Vietnam War veterans. Currently, the bill provides benefits to all service members.
Additionally, the legislation has expanded to include the Montgomery GI Bill programs and the Post 9/11 GI Bill. In 2017, former President Donald Trump signed the Forever GI Bill Act, significantly altering the Post 9/11 program.
Vietnam Era GI Bill
The following conditions must be met to qualify for the Vietnam Era GI Bill:
- You entered active duty before January 1, 1977, but after January 31, 1955.
- You served for more than 180 consecutive days.
Under this program, you would receive 45 days of educational assistance for every month served. Moreover, you must use your benefits ten years after retirement or December 31, 1989.
As of December 31, 1989, this program was terminated, and all members were converted to the MGIB program, if the criteria were met.
GI Bill Programs
Generally, the GI Bill benefits are provided under three programs:
Post 9/11 GI Bill
Service members who joined active duty after September 10, 2001, can benefit from this program. The program offers 36 months of benefits, including tuition, living assistance, school supply funds, and relocation assistance.
Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB- AD)
This program is only available to veterans who meet certain criteria established by the VA. Benefits would vary depending upon your service length, the type of college or education program you choose, and whether or not you qualify for a college fund.
Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)
The program provides 36 months of educational benefits to members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard Reserve.
How Does the GI Bill Work?
To qualify for post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, you must have served at least 90 consecutive days since September 10, 2001, on active duty. Based on the length of service, the department will allow you a rating to determine the percentage of benefits you qualify for.
Currently, the VA provides 50% of benefits to veterans who have served at least 90 days but less than six months. Additionally, members who served at least six months but less than 18 months are eligible for 60% benefits.
You must have served at least 36 months OR 30 consecutive days and been discharged due to a service-connected disability to qualify for 100% benefits. Veterans Administration GI Bill benefits are also available to spouses and children of military members who died in the line of duty.
You can manage your educational benefits through the VA’s online portal. You can view your enrollment status, education appeal status, payment history, direct deposit information, or you can even transfer your GI Bill benefits to your children or spouse.
GI Bill Eligibility
The following are the eligibility criteria for different GI Bill programs:
Eligibility Criteria for Post 9/11 GI Bill
In order to qualify for the Post 9/11 program, you must meet at least ONE of the following requirements:
- You have served at least 90 days on active duty on/after September 10, 2001, OR
- You have received a purple heart on/after September 10, 2001, and received an honorable discharge, OR
- You have served at least 30 days on active duty on/after September 10, 2001, and were discharged honorably due to service-related disability, OR
- You are a dependant child of a service member who has transferred their GI Bill benefits to you.
Eligibility Criteria for Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB- AD)
In order to qualify for benefits under MGIB-AD, you must meet the requirements of ONE of the following categories:
You can meet the following conditions:
- You entered active duty after June 30, 1985
- You either have a high school diploma, GED or 12 hours of college credit
- Your military pay was reduced by $100 for the first 12 months of service
Besides this, any ONE of the following is true. You have served for at least:
- Three consecutive years
- Two consecutive years if it was enlisted in your agreement during enlistment
- Four consecutive years if you entered the reserves after leaving active duty
The following conditions are true:
- You entered active duty before January 1, 1977
- You have GED, high school diploma or 12-hours of college credit left
- You have served at least one day from October 19, 1984, to June 30, 1985, and served in active duty till June 30, 1988
- You had at least one day of enlistment under chapter 34
The following conditions are satisfied:
- You didn’t qualify under either of the categories listed above
- You have a high school diploma, GED or 12-hours of college credit left
- You had your military pay reduced by $1,200 after retiring
Besides this, any ONE of the following conditions must also be met:
- On September 30, 1990, you were on active duty and retired involuntarily after February 2, 1991
- You retired involuntarily on/after November 30, 1993
- You retired voluntarily under the VSI program or SSB program
The following conditions must be true:
- You have a GED, high school diploma or 12-hour college credit left
- You had your military pay reduced by $100 for 12 months or made a total contribution of $1,200
Apart from this, any ONE of the following must also be true:
- On October 9, 1996, you served on active duty and chose MGIB before October 9, 1997
- You entered full-time national guard duty between July 1, 1985, and November 28, 1989, and chose MGIB between October 9, 1996, and July 9, 1997
Eligibility Criteria for Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)
In order to qualify for benefits under MGIB-SR, any ONE of the following must be true:
- You served six years in selected reserves
- You are an officer in selected reserves and agreed to serve six more years, in addition to the initial service obligation
In addition, all of the following must also be true:
- You have completed your initial active duty for training
- You have received a high school diploma or equivalent degree before finishing initial active duty for training
- You are in good health
Post 9/11 GI Bill Program (Chapter 33)
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is available to those who have served at least 90 days on/after September 10, 2001. In order to qualify for this program, you must meet the criteria outlined above.
Chapter 33 will help you receive the 36 months of benefits, which will include the following:
- Tuition fees
- Living Assistance
- Money for school supplies
- Money to help you relocate from a rural area
If you have served 90 days on active duty, you will receive 50% of the benefits. However, if you have served three years, you will get 100% of the benefits.
Expiration of Benefits
If you served in the military before January 1, 2013, your Chapter 33 benefits would expire 15 years after you retire from the service.
However, if you have served on/after January 1, 2013, your benefits won’t expire after 15 years due to the Forever GI Bill.
You can apply for the following benefits in different circumstances:
- If you need more money to cover a private school or out-of-station school tuition fees, you can apply for the Yellow Ribbon Program.
- As a service member, you can also transfer your educational benefits to your spouse/dependant children, given the DoD approves of the transfer.
- If you are a surviving spouse or child of a Veteran who died in the line of duty after September 1, 2001, you can also apply for the Fry Scholarship.
Using Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits
You can use the benefits for the following:
- Tuition assistance
- Tuition assistance top-up
- Undergraduate and graduate degrees
- Vocational training and non-college programs
- Veterans technology education courses
- On-the-job training
- Entrepreneurship training
- Flight training
- Test fees
- Co-op training
- Correspondence or distance training/learning
Montgomery GI Bill Programs
Montgomery GI Bill benefits are available under two different programs:
Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty
The Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty benefits are available to those who have served at least two years on active duty and can satisfy the requirements of any ONE category listed above.
Similar to the Post 9/11 program, you will be provided with 36 months of benefits. However, your benefits will depend upon the following:
- Your length of service
- The category you qualified under
- Type of education program you are opting for
- Whether or not you are eligible for GI Bill Kicker
You usually have 10 years after leaving the service to use your MGIB-AD benefits.
Before enrolling in any school, you must contact the school to determine if you are approved for the VA educational benefits. If you haven’t received the approval, you would have to request the school to get permission from the VA.
To apply for the benefits, you must fill and submit VA Form 22-1990 online. You can also mail the form and present it in person by visiting a regional office.
Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR)
Reservists in the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard could be eligible for 36 months of educational benefits under MGIB-SR, if they meet the eligibility criteria outlined above.
To apply for these benefits, you must get a Notice of Basic Eligibility (DD Form 2384-1) from your unit. Before you enroll in any school, make sure you are approved for the benefits. If you are not approved, you can ask the school to request approval from the VA.
If you haven’t started the training, you can submit VA Form 22-1990 online. However, if you have started the training, you must take the application, Form 22-1990, and Notice of Basic Entitlement to your school/employer to have them fill out the form for you.Then, submit all three documents to the VA.
GI Bill General Application Procedure
While the application procedure can differ from school to school, here are four basic steps you can take to apply for GI Bill education benefits:
Find a School
You must start with the process by finding and applying to an approved school for VA benefits. You can compare different schools, fees and employers through the VA school comparison tool.
Apply With the VA
You can apply online with the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
To apply as active military, you must get approval from the chain-of-command or Education Service Officer (ESO) before applying for the benefits. Applying for GI Bill while on active duty is often recommended as your ESO can help you navigate your benefits more efficiently.
To apply as a Veteran, you’ll need a copy of your discharge paperwork (DD214).
Certificate of Eligibility
The VA will send you the Certificate of Eligibility either through mail or online. You must submit the document to the selected school and send the enrollment information to the VA.
After the school validates your documents, you will be enrolled in the program and will be able to enjoy the benefits.
GI Bill Certificate of Eligibility
The GI Bill Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is the official document provided by the VA, which states your GI Bill benefits and acts as proof that you are eligible for them. COE is a document that is required when applying for VA home loans. The department refers to this document as the Statement of Benefits. However, the VA does not refer to the document as COE.
For the GI Bill to be applied, this form must be submitted to the selected college. Your educational benefits will not be available without this statement, which lets your school know the VA is going to cover your tuition and room and board expenses.
Although the VA will mail you the actual copy of the Statement of Benefits, you can also get it online through the VA online portal.
It is necessary to apply for the GI Bill and meet the eligibility criteria before you can get a Statement of Benefits. The document will provide you with the following pieces of information:
- Eligibility status for VA GI Bill benefits
- Which GI Bill program you are registered for
- How many benefits are left
- How much time you have left to use these benefits
GI Bill Housing Allowance
The monthly stipend for housing allowance depends upon your rating for your benefits from the VA. Currently, the VA uses BAH rates to determine your monthly housing allowance. The stipend is calculated by adding the cost of living where the campus is located to an E5 dependent on that area.
However, under the Forever GI Bill, the allowance will be calculated by the location where the student attends the most classes. So, if your location of most courses is away from the campus headquarters, your stipend will be based on where you live rather than the campus.
The national BAH average will only be half for online courses. Meaning you would receive half of the monthly stipend while attending online courses. Therefore, it is often recommended to at least take one class offline so that you can receive the cash benefits of attending the school.
GI Bill Kicker
GI Bill Kicker is an add-on to the GI Bill program, also known as Army, Navy or Marine Corps College Funds. The DoD provides this additional amount of money and can increase your GI bill payment by $950 a month.
The VA must receive a copy of your College Fund contract to issue the added amount every month. The kicker depends upon several factors like length of service, service type etc.
The kicker will be included in your monthly housing allowance if you are enrolled under the Post 9/11 GI Bill program. Therefore, if you do not receive the funding, you will not be eligible for this add-on. If you are enrolled under the Montgomery GI Bill program, this add-on will be added to regular monthly payments.
GI Bill WAVE
Under the Montgomery GI Bill program, applicants must use the WAVE, also known as Web Automated Verification of Enrollment. This system requires the applicant to verify their attendance at the end of every month. The verification can be done online or by telephone. You must note that you will not be eligible for any benefit if you have not completed your verification with the WAVE. Post 9/11 Bill does not require applicants to get monthly verification.
Once you have logged into WAVE, you can check your enrollment status, remaining benefits, last verification information, update personal information, and direct deposit information. You can also use this system to check or verify monthly enrollment status and pending documents.
GI Bill Benefits Calculator
The GI Bill calculator allows users to estimate their monthly payments. The calculator requires the following information:
- Select the term (fall, spring, autumn or winter)
- Select full-time or part-time
- Select student level (Graduate, undergraduate or doctorate)
- Enter online courses, if any
- Select location
Transferring Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits
If you have served on active duty or are a member of the reserves and can meet the following conditions, you might be able to transfer your unused GI Bill benefit to your spouse or dependant children.
- The person you are transferring the benefits to is enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)
- You have served at least six years
- Your service has been extended by four more years
If the DoD approves the transfer of benefits, the spouse or dependant child will be provided 36 months of educational benefits to cover tuition fees, cost of living, and school supplies.
Transferring GI Bill Benefits to Spouse
After the Transfer of Entitlement (TOE), the spouse may use their benefits immediately. The spouse can utilize their benefits under the following conditions:
- They can use the benefit while you are currently serving or retiring
- They will not qualify for living assistance if you are on active duty
- They can use the benefit for up to 15 years after you have retired from the service
Transferring GI Bill Benefits to Dependent Children
Here are some of the conditions where your children can use these transferred benefits:
- The children can use their benefits after you have completed at least ten years of service
- They can use the benefits while you are on active duty or after you have separated from service
- They can only use their benefit after they have received their high school diploma or are above 18
- They can qualify for housing allowance even while you are on active duty
- They can’t use the benefits if they are more than 26 years old
The sponsor can revoke or change the Transfer of Entitlement (TOE) at any time by submitting a transfer request through milConnect. The DoD must approve your request before spouse/children can apply to use the benefits online or through the mail.
If applying through the mail, they must fill out the Family Member to Use Transferred Benefits (VA Form 22-1990E) application and send it to their regional VA office.
After leaving active duty, you will be required to submit a written request to the VA through milConnect to get approval.
Forever GI Bill
In 2017, former President Donald Trump signed the Forever GI Bill, which made amendments to the educational benefits provided to service members, Veterans and families. Prior to this law, service members were required to use their GI Bill benefits within 15 years of leaving the military.
Therefore, if you entered active duty after January 1, 2013, you are not subject to the 15-year limit. In addition to eliminating the limit, the bill also increased the benefits available to service members and their families. The Forever GI Bill also consolidated the benefits levels for varying months of service to the following:
- 90 days to 6 months – 50% of benefits
- 6 to 18 months – 60% of benefits
- 18 to 24 months – 70%
- 24 to 30 months – 80%
- 30 to 36 months – 90%
- 36 months or more – 100% of benefits
Additionally, service members who have served at least 30 continuous days and was discharged due to a service-related disability or received a purple heart are eligible for 100% benefits.
The Forever GI Bill has made the following changes to the Post 9/11 program:
- You won’t be subjected to the 15-year limit
- Service members are open to additional benefits
- The 40% benefit level has been eliminated
- Transferring your GI Bill benefits has been made easier
- New technology courses have been introduced
- You can get additional assistance for work-study activities
- Housing allowance is now based on where you take most of the classes rather than the main campus
- You can also attend post-secondary work school with the GI Bill program
- In case your school shuts down, you will get your benefits back
Other VA Education Benefits
Vocational Rehabilitation Program
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program assists service members who have a service-related disability to get and maintain a suitable job.
Veterans are eligible for this benefit after they are rated at least 20% disabled or 10% disabled with severe employment handicap by the VA. Moreover, Veterans need to be discharged honorably from their service.
To qualify as an active military member, you have received a minimum rating of 20% from the VA, obtained physical evaluation board referral through IDES, OR received a minimum of 20% from the Disability Evaluation System (DES).
Veterans Educational Assistance Program
Veterans Education Assistance Program (VEAP) is an educational program that requires service members to get a specific amount deducted from their active military pay.
You can use the benefit to obtain a degree, certificate, or correspondence/vocational training courses. The program provides 36 months of benefits, and you have ten years after leaving the service to use these benefits.
To qualify, you must meet the following conditions:
- You entered active duty between January 1, 1977, and June 30, 1985
- You started paying for the contribution before April 1, 1987
- You have completed the first period of service
- You were honorably discharged or released due to a service-related condition
- You contributed from $25 to $2,700
Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)
Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) is an educational program that provides educational assistance to reservists during a war or national emergency.
The monetary benefit depends upon the number of days you were activated. Some members can even receive an additional $600 under this program. It should be noted, however, that these benefits cannot be used with other education programs, such as the GI Bill.
Yellow Ribbon Program
The Yellow Ribbon Program is an educational assistance program that can pay the tuition fees of foreign schools, private schools or higher cost out-of-state schools. It also offers some additional benefits that the Post 9/11 bill does not cover.
To qualify for this program, one of the following conditions must be met:
- You have served at least 36 months and were honorably discharged
- You were discharged for any amount of service and received a purple heart on/after September 11, 2001
- You served at least 30 days on/after September 11, 2001, and were discharged due to a service-related disability
- You are enrolled in the Fry Scholarship
- You are a dependant child of a Veteran who transferred their benefits to you
In addition to this, the school must also meet the following requirements:
- It is an institute of higher learning
- It offers a Yellow Ribbon Program
- The school has not provided the program to a maximum number of children
GI Bill Problems
Currently, the GI Bill programs face the following challenges:
- Most colleges offer programs only for Veterans
- The members are subjected to racial discrimination
- The program needs to address the needs of women and the LGBTQ community
Frequently Asked Questions on GI Bill
The following are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about GI Bill benefits:
How Can I Know My Eligibility Status for GI Bill?
To check your eligibility status, you can request your Certificate of Eligibility or Statement of Benefits from the Education Call Center. You can also call 888-442-4551.
Generally, you would be eligible for the Post 9/11 program if you have served at least 90 days in the military after September 10, 2001. Moreover, Veterans who have served at least two years in the active military or six years in the selected reserves are eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty or Selected Reserve.
Does the Length of Service Affect Your Benefits?
Yes, while the minimum service length required to qualify for Post 9/11 is 90 days, you can get more benefits as your service length increases.
Is It Possible to Qualify for More Than One Benefit?
Yes, you might be able to qualify for more than one benefit but will be able to receive payment for only one payment at the same time.
For How Long Can I Reap the GI Bill Benefits?
Regardless of the number of benefits you choose, you will be eligible for 36 months of GI Bill benefits.
Can I Use GI Bill Benefits for Online Courses?
Yes, you can use GI Bill benefits to pay for online classes. You can also use this benefit for distance learning courses. No matter what you choose, you will still receive living assistance, even for an online course.
Can I Apply for the GI Bill Program While on Active Duty?
Yes, active-duty members can qualify for GI Bill benefits if they can meet the minimum requirements. It is often recommended to use your GI benefits while on active duty.
How Can Spouses Get These Educational Benefits?
Service members can transfer their educational benefits to spouses or children through the Transfer of Entitlement program.