Following World War II, the United States Government began offering benefits to Veterans leaving the military to give them the opportunity to attend college.
The GI Bill can pay for job training, college, or graduate school for qualifying Veterans for 36 months of classes.
The GI Bill is NOT considered Federal Financial Aid due to the fact that it is normally paid directly to the veteran. This means that, on top of the benefits of the GI Bill, you are eligible for scholarships, student loans, and Pell Grants.
This means that it is entirely possible to have your schooling completely paid off while also receiving the money needed to live during your time in school.
When used correctly, the GI Bill is truly one of the greatest benefits of your time spent in-service.
There are two different GI Bills
You may qualify for the GI Bill under one of two categories. Either the Montgomery Bill or Post-9/11.
The Montgomery GI Bill is the original GI Bill signed into law following World War II.
You may qualify for this GI Bill if:
- You contributed $100/month for the first 12 months of acctive service, or you qualify under VEAP conversion
- You have completed High School or an equivalency certification
- You have served at least 2 years of active duty
The Montgomery GI Bill benefit for those who served over three years is currently up to $2,050 a month for full-time students.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is available to any service-members who served their time in the military after September 10, 2001.
Any veteran who has served at least 90 days of active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces and received an honorable discharge qualifies. To qualify for the maximum amount you must have served at least 3 years of active duty.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill directly pays the school the entire tuition and fees for an in-state school. Students attending a private or foreign university will have a cap of $21,970 to use during the academic year.
On top of that, the Post 9/11 GI Bill offers a housing allowance that currently averages $1,789 a month for full-time students, but can exceed $2,700 depending on the location of the school.
Also offered is the benefit of $1,000 per year for books and supplies.
Finally, those who do not have their full tuition covered may also qualify to receive a Yellow Ribbon benefit, which will cover the remaining amount of tuition for the school.
How long do I have to use my GI Bill?
Previously there were 15 years of eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, however, in August 2017 President Trump signed into law the “Forever GI Bill” which waived the time eligibility requirement. Now, so long as you left the military after January 1, 2013, you can use your benefits anytime during the rest of your life.
Montgomery GI Bill gives you ten years after you complete service.
With both bills you have 36 months of benefits, and they do not have to be consecutive. For the Montgomery Bill, so long as you fit within the 10 years (after your last 90 days of service), you can leave school and come back as many times as you would like.
If you re-join the military into active-duty service, more than 90 days before your benefits expire, you are eligible for your GI Bill to essentially “renew.”
Tips to use the GI Bills fully
Your GI Bill is eligible for you to use for 36 months of schooling. It is not based on the amount of money used; it goes off of how many months you are in school. So if your school is only $2,000 a month, you will still be using the same amount of your Bill as if you went to a university where tuition was $7,000 a month.
Since it can only be used for 36 months, make sure to decide on a major early! This way you are not wasting credits on classes you don’t need.
Take extra classes if you can handle the course load. 12 hours is considered full-time for most colleges, but take more courses if you can!
Your GI Bill will qualify for online classes! You must take one course on campus, but the rest can be online. This could be a good alternative if you have a family or a busy work schedule.
Try to plan ahead for which books you will need each semester for the best use of your stipend. Look into used books stores and websites such as Amazon Textbooks and Chegg. Both will give you options to rent your books and have both new and used options.
Can I use both bills?
It is possible to use both the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post 9/11 Bill, but with some limitations.
First of all, the combined use of both do not extend to 72 months (36+36) but is capped at 48. So the use of both offers an extension of 12 month.
Secondly, in order to use both, the Montgomery GI Bill must be the first used. Only when it is fully exhausted may you receive 12 months of the Post 9/11 GI BIll.
Because it is easy to make mistakes in trying to use both, it is recommended that you do your research and receive guidance in attempting to do so.
Ready to apply?
Before you apply, make sure you have these things available.
- Social Security number
- Bank account direct deposit information
- Education and military history
- Basic information about the school or training facility you want to attend or are attending now
Ready to apply for your GI Bill? You can fill out the application here.
Are you trying to figure out how much the VA will pay for in schooling? The VA has a comparison tool you can reach here.
Are you not rated? Get the service connection and rating you deserve here!