An Easy Understanding Your GI Bill® and How to Use It
The U.S. government has a rich history of providing veterans with education benefits. This practice dates back to World War II with the original GI Bill. Today, the primary programs assisting veterans with their post-service education are the Montgomery GI Bill® and the Post—9/11 GI Bill®. These two programs, while differing in some respects, share a common goal: to provide veterans and their dependents with opportunities to further their education.
The Montgomery GI Bill® (MGIB) has two types based on your service: The Montgomery GI Bill® Active Duty (MGIB—AD) and Montgomery GI Bill® Selected Reserve (MGIB—SR). The MGIBAD 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 MGIBSR is for Reservists with a six—year obligation in the Selected Reserve who are actively drilling.
The Montgomery GI Bill® benefits can be used for degree and certificate programs, technical or vocational courses, flight training, apprenticeships or on—the—job training, high-tech training, licensing and certification tests, entrepreneurship training, and certain entrance examinations. It provides up to 36 months of education benefits.
Established in 2008, the Post—9/11 GI Bill® provides more substantial benefits than the Montgomery GI Bill®. It covers tuition and fees, provides a monthly housing allowance, and an annual stipend for books and supplies. In addition, it offers the unique benefit of transferability, allowing service members to transfer unused benefits to their spouses or dependent children. This comes in handy if you already have a career that you are pursuing but have children or a spouse that could benefit from the extra money while they go to school.
The Post—9/11 GI Bill® is available for any soldier with at least 90 days of active—duty service on or after September 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. The percentage of total coverage you’re eligible for depends on your length of active—duty service.
To receive full benefits, one needs to have at least 36 months of active—duty service or have been discharged for a service—related disability after 30 days of continuous service. For shorter service durations, benefits are prorated in a bracket fashion. See below for what you might be eligible for.
- (36 months or more): %100 of the full benefit
- (30 to 35 months):90% of the full benefit
- (24 to 29 months): 80% of the full benefit
- (18 to 23 months): 70% of the full benefit
- (6 to 17 months): 60% of the full benefit
- (90 days to 5 months): 50% of the full benefit
Using the Benefits:
Veterans interested in utilizing their GI Bill® benefits should first ensure they are eligible using the criteria described above. Then, they should decide which benefit is the most advantageous for their specific circumstances.
Once you have made your decision, you need to apply through the VA online or in person at a VA office. Make sure to bring your DD214 as well as proof of your enrolment in a qualifying education program. If your application is accepted, you’ll receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), which you’ll need to provide to your school’s veterans’ affairs office.
Your school’s certifying official will then confirm your enrollment with the VA after which your benefits will begin to be processed. It’s important to communicate with your school’s veterans’ affairs office as they will serve as your primary contact for any enrollment changes and can provide updates on the status of your benefits.
Comparing the Bills:
Comparing the Montgomery GI Bill® and the Post—9/11 GI Bill® depends largely on your personal situation, the cost of tuition, and where you live (since housing stipends are based on cost of living).
If you’re attending a public school in-state or a private school that participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program (which can cover any remaining tuition and fee costs not already covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill®), the Post-9/11 GI Bill® may be more beneficial.
For those pursuing distance learning or an apprenticeship, considering the Montgomery GI Bill® might be a good idea as the Post-9/11 GI Bill® does not pay a housing allowance in these circumstances.
Keep in mind that the MGIB will give you a comparatively large amount of funding as soon you qualify for it, where the Post—9/11 GI Bill® will pay out significantly more if you max out its time in service requirements. Keep in mind though that you can only use one, and once you make that choice you cannot change your mind.
Both the Montgomery GI Bill® and the Post-9/11 GI Bill® provide significant educational benefits to veterans, active-duty service members, and their families. Understanding these programs and learning how to use them effectively can lead to reduced education costs and a brighter future. Reach out to the Department of Veterans Affairs or an informed counselor for personalized advice and embark on your educational journey today.