Education benefits that are distributed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are funded by the GI Bill. This can include benefits earned by members of the Active Duty, Selected Reserve and National Guard Armed Forces and their families. Using these benefits, eligible service members and veterans can have the cost of their education or work training subsidized by the federal government. Veterans can use their GI Bill Benefits for a variety of training and education options, such as:
- Associate, Bachelor or graduate degree programs.
- Technical or vocational schools and other non-degree programs.
- Apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
- Reimbursement for the cost of earning licensing and certification.
- Work-study programs.
- Correspondence training (coursework completed by mail).
Benefits from the GI Bill can be used to pay the cost of tuition, housing and books and supplies. Typically, the full tuition amount given to beneficiaries is equal to the maximum national average. Similarly, the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is based on the cost of living where the veteran opts to go to school. Funding for books and school supplies usually comes out to about $1,000 per school year.
Note: In certain cases, dependents and spouses of veterans may be eligible to get GI Bill education benefits, as well
Learn About Requirements for GI Bill Benefits
This bill distributes these education benefits through a few different programs such as the Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI Bills. Benefits from both of these programs can be utilized for the same education and training opportunities. While both options offer education benefits to retired service members, most find that the Post 9/11 GI Bill better serves their education needs. One of the main reasons why many veterans choose the Post 9/11 GI Bill is due to the differences in eligibility requirements between the two programs. Because veterans can only enroll in one of these GI Bill programs, retired service members should review all of the requirements and choose the program that is best for them. Subject to specific requirements for each service member under the relevant GI Bill.
Understanding Montgomery GI Bill Requirements in General
Reservists and service members who enroll in the Montgomery GI Bill can pay $100 each month for the first year that they are in active duty. Veterans who elected to make contributions from their military pay and are a part of the VEAP program may also be eligible for Montgomery GI Bill benefits. Before applying, service members must have completed high school or gotten an equivalency certificate such as a GED. After they complete the minimum service obligation and get an honorable discharge from active duty, these retired military members will be eligible to get their monthly education benefits.
Understanding Post 9/11 GI Bill Requirements in General
On the other hand, Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility requirements do not require active duty personnel or veterans to make any payments while serving in the military. Instead, the guidelines to qualify for this program are mostly based on the amount of time served in active duty. To meet the requirements, a veteran must have served a combined total of 90 days on active duty after September 10, 2001. Alternatively, a veteran who got a discharge due to a service-linked disability may be eligible for Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits after 30 days of continuous service after September 10, 2001. In both cases, veterans must have gotten an honorable discharge at the end of their service in order to qualify.
GI Bill Application Requirements
Before you apply for GI Bill benefits, there are a few steps you can take to prepare. First, you should find out if you are eligible for the program you are applying for. You can check if you meet the eligibility requirements on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Once you believe that you have met the eligibility requirements, you can begin to gather the necessary documents for the application. Some of the documents and information that are required include:
- Your Social Security Number.
- The direct deposit information for the bank account you wish to use for GI Bill benefits.
- Your full education and military history.
- General information about the school or training institution you wish to attend or are currently attending, such as name, address, and program.
Once you have all of the required information and documents, there are a few methods you can use to submit your application. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, so you should use the method that is most convenient for you. If you are an eligible veteran or service member, you can apply for the GI Bill online, by mail, in person or with the help of a certified professional.
You can apply through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website by creating an account with Login.gov of ID.me. Or, you can sign in by using your existing login credentials. The online system can prefill part of the application with information from your account if you already have one. With the online method, you can save your progress and return to finish it within 60 days of when you start the application. Typically, it will take an average of 30 days for the VA to process your application and make a decision.
Applying By Mail
If you need to request a GI Bill application, you can call the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill hotline to send one to you by mail. The hotline’s number is posted on the agency’s website, and the line is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday.
Once you have gotten the application, fill it out as completely as you can and mail it to the VA regional claims office that is closest to your school of choice. You can find a list of regional processing offices on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. Once an application has been completed and submitted, it typically takes an average of 30 days for the VA to process your application and make a decision.
Applying In Person
If you think that you may need help in filling out your application for GI Bill benefits, you can choose to go to a VA regional benefit office and get help from a VA employee. These employees can help you gather necessary information, find a school or training program for you to enroll in and answer any questions you may have about the program.
You can find your local VA regional benefit office on the agency’s website, and you should call first to confirm if services are available. Some offices provide help by phone or video. A VA representative can inform you of what documents, if any, you should bring. You can also usually find a certified official at your school’s Registrar or Financial Aid office who will be able to help you with your application.
How to Apply with the Help of a Certified Professional
Certain areas of the country do not have a VA regional claims office nearby, so you may want to find a trained professional to help you with your GI Bill application if you live in one of these areas. These professionals can be accredited attorneys, claims agents or Veterans Service Officers (VSO). You can search for a representative through the eBenefits website. As certified professionals, these individuals had to pass an exam, a background check and they must continue to take education courses to be accredited by the VA. Therefore, you can rest assured that they will be able to assist you with any of your GI Bill needs.
How much are GI Bill benefits?
Depending on the specific program, you may get a varying amount of GI Bill benefits. If you are a beneficiary of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, you can get anywhere between 40 percent and 100 percent of the maximum national average tuition. You will be eligible for a higher percentage the more time you served in Active Duty. For every six months you serve, your benefits will increase by 15 percent until you reach the maximum tuition amount after two years. Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits may also cover your BAH and even offer a one-time relocation fee if you have to move to attend school. In most cases, you will get 36 months of benefits that can be used at any point within a 15-year period after you retire from Active Duty.
Note: Since the passing of the Forever GI Bill there is no GI Bill expiration date on benefits if your service ended on or after January 1, 2013.
For the Montgomery GI Bill, your benefits will vary depending on your enrollment status (whether you are a full-time, half-time or a part-time student). If you are on Active Duty, you will only be able to get reimbursement for the actual cost of tuition and expenses. Once you retire, you will get the full payment rate no matter how much your tuition costs.