Understanding the GI Bill
The GI Bill provides veterans and their family members with education benefits in exchange for their service. These GI Bill benefits can help qualifying students to pay for a variety of educational opportunities, including college, professional training courses and apprenticeships. As part of this bill, several different education programs are available to eligible veterans and their families. However, specific benefit amounts vary depending on the particular program, learning institution and several other factors.
Two popular programs are the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery Bill. While the Post 9/11 option benefits those who served on active duty after September 10, 2001, the Montgomery Bill is broader. It covers any military members who served on active duty for at least two years. Additionally, the Montgomery Bill is available to qualified members of the Selected Reserve. Read on to learn more about these education benefits for veterans and their family members.
What is the GI Bill?
The Post 9/11 and Montgomery GI Bill are two types of education programs that can help service members pay for their schooling and professional training. In general, these benefits can be applied towards a variety of expenses, including:
- College tuition and fees.
- Housing costs.
- Books and supplies.
- Relocation fees, if moving from a rural county to attend a participating learning institution.
Under certain circumstances, benefits are also used for deficiency, remedial and refresher courses. Each program typically provides benefits for up to 36 months. When choosing between the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery Bill, it is important to note that the latter is actually made up of two education programs. These include:
- The Active Duty Bill (MGIB-AD). Recipients must serve a certain amount of time in active duty to qualify.
- The Selected Reserve Bill (MGIB-SR). These Montgomery GI Bill benefits typically end after veterans separate from the Selected Reserve. However, some military members may continue to qualify for these education benefits for up to 14 years from the date of their first six-year obligation.
What are the requirements for the Post 9/11 and Montgomery GI Bill?
According to Montgomery GI Bill eligibility requirements, you may be able to obtain benefits under the MGIB-AD program if you served on active duty for at least two years before you were honorably-discharged from service. Alternately, to receive benefits under the MGIB-SR program you must be a member of the Reserve for the Army, Air Force, Army National Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard or Air National Guard. To qualify for Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, at least one of the following statements must be true:
- After Sep. 11, 2001, you served on active duty for at least 90 days
- On or after Sep. 11, 2001, you received a Purple Heart award and were honorably discharged from military service
- On or after Sep. 11, 2001, you served in the military for at least 30 consecutive days before you were honorably discharged due to a service-connected disability
- You are the dependent child of a qualifying service member
Depending on your specific situation you may need to meet additional GI Bill eligibility requirements. Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at 888-442-4551 if you have any questions about your eligibility for these education programs.
How to Apply for GI Bill Benefits
To complete the GI Bill application process, qualifying servicemembers and their families may apply online through the VA’s website, by mail or in person at a regional VA benefit office. If applying in person, claimants may obtain the application directly from a VA employee.
If applying for GI Bill benefits by mail, claimants may request a paper application by calling the VA during business hours. After completing the application, claimants must mail it to the Regional Processing Office (RPO) that serves their state of residence. The following information is required on each application:
- A Social Security Number (SSN)
- Banking information
- Information about their education and military history
- Basic information about the school they wish to attend
There are three RPOs across the country that help process GI Bill applications. For example, the Buffalo, NY RPO serves many northeastern states, including Connecticut, Delaware and Maine, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands. The address for this facility is as follows:
Buffalo, NY Regional Processing Office
P.O. Box 4616
The St. Louis, Missouri RPO handles GI Bill claims for many states across the Midwest, including Colorado, Illinois and Indiana. The address for this office is as follows:
St. Louis, MO Regional Processing Office
P.O. Box 32432
St. Louis, MO
The Muskogee, Oklahoma office processes GI Bill benefit claims from a variety of other states, including Alabama Alaska and Arizona, as well as the Philippines. To submit applications, the following address is needed:
Muskogee, OK Regional Processing Office
P.O. Box 8888
Learn About GI Bill Expiration
It is important for beneficiaries to keep expiration dates in mind in order to make the most use of their benefits. Active Duty Montgomery GI Bill expiration may vary by situation, though in most cases benefits must be used within 10 years.
Veterans discharged from the military prior to Jan. 1, 2013 must use their Post 9/11 education benefits within 15 years from the end of their active duty service. If these beneficiaries do not use their award before the GI Bill expiration date, they will lose any remaining benefits.
However, different circumstances apply for those who served after Jan. 1, 2013. Around this time, the VA instituted the Forever GI Bill, which sought to expand these educational benefits. Among other updates, this bill states that benefits for service members who are discharged after this date do not expire.
If I qualify for GI Bill benefits, how much money can I receive for college?
Generally, GI Bill benefit amounts vary by education program and whether students wish to enroll in a public or private school. For example, Post 9/11 benefits cover all tuition and fees for in-state students attending a public institution. Those enrolled in an apprenticeship can expect varying degrees of coverage depending on the length of the program.
Additionally, the amount of GI Bill benefits offered depends on whether students qualify for the full program benefit amount, or a percentage of the maximum payable benefit. The amount of time spent enrolled is also a factor. For example, students receiving MGIB-AD benefits who are enrolled full-time in 2019 can obtain a monthly benefit rate of $1,994. Full-time students who receive MGIB-SR benefits can obtain $384.
Note: You can use the VA’s online GI Bill Comparison Tool to help you find the best education program for you and/or your family’s needs.