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GI Bill: Paying for Your Education

Photo of GI Bill: Paying for Your Education

Whether you recently left the United States military, or you served more than a decade ago, you may qualify for financial aid toward higher education. Veterans should research their options and take advantage of the opportunity to start a new career path or build upon skills they acquired in the military.

How the GI Bill Helps Veterans Pay for College

The GI Bill ensures financial aid for veterans to help cover college tuition, housing, books, and other educational expenses. These benefits can be used at private or public institutions including technical colleges and universities. They can also be applied to vocational programs, on-the-job training, and other educational endeavors.

The History of the GI Bill

After World War I, thousands of military veterans returned home to the United States with little money and few job prospects. At the time, only wealthy individuals could afford to attend college, so it was impossible for most of the soldiers who fought in the war to access higher paying jobs. The GI Bill, originally called The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, was introduced to help veterans obtain education and training for new careers. The program was a huge success; by the end of the 1940s, half of all college students were veterans.

What is currently known as the GI Bill is actually two separate programs: the Montgomery GI Bill of 1984 and the Post-9/11 GI Bill of 2008. Some veterans may choose between the benefits offered by either the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post-9/11 GI Bill, but the decision is irreversible.

Option #1: The Montgomery GI Bill

Anyone who has been honorably discharged from the US Armed Forces after at least two years of active duty service may be entitled to educational benefits through the Montgomery GI Bill if they chose to contribute $100 per month to educational benefits during their first year of active duty. You must have a high school diploma or an equivalency certificate to start using the benefits. Veterans have up to 10 years after their active duty service to claim these benefits, which are paid directly to the student. The "payment rate" adjusts for inflation every year.

The Montgomery GI Bill – Reservists/National Guard

Anyone who is currently drilling as a reservists or National Guard and is in good standing may be entitled to funds from this benefit. They must remain in good standing and must not be out of the reserves or guards to continue to receive the funds while attending school.

Option # 2: The Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides help for active duty members who have served an aggregate of at least 90 days since September 11, 2001, this includes reservists or national guard members who were deployed after this date. Recipients must have been honorably discharged, and those discharged due to a disability related to service are eligible if they served for at least 30 days.

Rather than the student receiving a lump sum as with the Montgomery Bill, the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays money to the institution to cover tuition and fees, and the student receives an allowance for housing and a book stipend. and other expenses. Veterans can claim their benefits up to 15 years after their active duty ended.

If you want to go to school somewhere far away, recipients may be eligible for a one-time relocation allowance. You may also be able to transfer unused benefits to a family member. The monetary amount of benefits is tiered based on the aggregate length of creditable active-duty since Sept. 10, 2001.

How Long Do GI Bill Benefits Last?

Both options provide veterans up to 36 months of financial assistance. The 36 months do not have to be consecutive; if you need to take a break from your studies, you can stop and start using GI bill benefits at any time.

In addition to the GI Bills, there are other programs to fund education for veterans such as the Veterans Educational Assistance Program, or VEAP. For more information about educational benefits, visit the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs website.

Keep Up With Your GI Bill Benefits

Veterans are responsible for keeping track of their GI bill benefits. Contact your school’s financial aid office Bursar’s office at the beginning of each semester or quarter to compare the cost of tuition and fees with the amount awarded to the school, and contact the VA's Debt Management Center if there is any discrepancy.