If you are an active duty service member, veteran, or reservist, you may be eligible for military education benefits that cover the full cost of tuition, books and other related expenses. In some cases, these benefits extend to immediate family members, like spouses or children.
The government offers a variety of military education benefits, but a commonly recognized benefit is the GI Bill®. The eligibility requirements for each program vary, so it's important to understand the ones you may qualify for to help ensure you reach your educational goals.
The History of the GI Bill®1
The GI Bill® was originally formed after World War II in response to the many soldiers returning to post-war civilian life. The government, recognizing that the transition from military service was challenging, introduced the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, which provided favorable terms for housing as well as stipends to cover the cost of a college or trade school education.
The act, informally described as the GI Bill®, has undergone a number of changes since its inception. Most significant was its revamp in 1984 by former Mississippi Congressman Gillespie V. "Sonny" Montgomery, which inspired the renaming of the bill to the "Montgomery GI Bill®." Later, in 2008, the bill was once again revised following the events of September 11th, enhancing the benefits offered to veterans with active duty service post-9/11.
Understanding Your GI Bill® Benefits
The GI Bill® is administered and managed by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs ("the VA"). Depending on eligibility, this education benefit can be granted to active duty service members, veterans, reservists and their immediate family members. The two most commonly used education benefits – the Montgomery GI Bill® and the Post-9/11 GI Bill® – are described below.
Montgomery GI Bill®
The Montgomery GI Bill®, also known as Chapter 30, is given to eligible service members and veterans with at least two years of continued enlistment. To be eligible for this benefit you must:
- Have an honorable discharge
- Have a high school diploma or GED, or in some cases 12 hours of college credit
- Meet specific requirements related to your benefit category
The Montgomery GI Bill® may provide you with up to 36 academic months of education benefits. This may be extended to up to 48 months if you are eligible for more than one VA education benefit. The benefit is paid directly to you monthly based on the type of education you receive, the length of your service, your category, your eligibility for other college funding, and whether you contributed to the $600 buy-up program. Generally, this benefit is available up to 10 years after your last day of active duty, but may be limited depending on your specific situation.
As an extension of this bill, a selected reserve program also provides education and training benefits to eligible members of the Selected Reserve, including the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve, and the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, and has its own eligibility requirements.
Post-9/11 GI Bill®
Starting in 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, commonly called Chapter 33, offered enhanced benefits to eligible military students, offering a monthly housing allowance, as well as a stipend for books and supplies. To receive this benefit, you must:
- Have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001
- Still be on active duty or have been honorably discharged
It's important to know that if you choose to accept the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, you will be required to make an irrevocable election in writing, which means you cannot change to any other military education benefit program after receiving the Post-9/11 GI Bill®.
Once approved, Post-9/11 GI Bill® gives you up to 36 months of education benefits, which is generally available for 15 years following your release from active duty. If the university you choose to attend participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program you may have additional funds available to pay for your education. Benefit payments are paid directly to the school you're attending, with the exception of the housing and books stipends, which are paid directly to you.
Spouse and Family Members Benefit Too
The GI Bill® can cover educational expenses for your spouse or members of your immediate family, like children. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 25 percent of those benefiting from VA education programs are non-veterans. The VA offers two programs to support survivors and dependents of veterans pursuing a college degree. Dependents may also qualify for assistance in the form of scholarships, such as the Wounded Warrior Scholarship, from select universities.
A college degree can help in your transition from your military career to a job in the private sector. And with the GI Bill®, the opportunity to fund that education is possible. To learn more about how you might take advantage of your military education benefits, get in touch with a CTU Military Education Benefits Specialist today.
1. History and Timeline, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/history.asp (retrieved 12/19/14)
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.