What is the GI Bill and What Benefits Do You Qualify For?


There are a variety of educational aid programs available for active-duty military personnel, veterans, and reservists. Some programs may cover tuition, while others provide funding for books and additional materials—in some cases, unused benefits may even be transferable to spouses and children. One of the most commonly utilized (and longest-running) military aid programs is the GI Bill, which offers a number of available benefits depending on one’s eligibility and current military status.



What is the GI Bill?


Officially called the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the GI Bill was designed to provide support for service members returning home following WWII. In the original version of the bill, veterans could apply for three types of benefits: tuition for college or vocational training, guaranty for home loans, and unemployment pay. Most service members who took advantage of the GI Bill applied for housing and education benefits, with nearly half of eligible WWII veterans having enrolled in some kind of school or training program by 1956.1


By providing stipends for housing and education costs, the GI Bill was intended to aid in the transition from active duty back into civilian life. Today, the bill has been revised and expanded to cover not just veterans, but also active-duty service members and members of the Selected Reserve. While most benefits apply to education and job-training costs, certain programs may provide housing stipends for eligible applicants.

 


What Are GI Bill Benefits?


Benefits are administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the benefit programs for which you qualify will be based on current military status, time served on active duty, and (depending on the program) some additional eligibility requirements.

The types of GI Bills currently providing benefits—as well as information to help you identify which program(s) you qualify for—are outlined below:


Montgomery GI Bill


Also referred to as Chapter 30, the Montgomery GI Bill refers to provisions outlined in a revamped version of the bill passed in 1984. There are two versions of the Montgomery GI Bill, both of which may provide up to 36 months of education benefits. The Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD) is available for eligible service members and veterans who served at least 2 years on active duty, while the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) offers benefits for currently enlisted members of the Selected Reserve


Who is eligible?


  • Veterans or service members with at least 2 years of active duty (MGIB-AD)2
  • Selected Reserve members currently serving a 6-year obligation who have completed their initial active duty for training (MGIB-SR)3
  • Must have a high-school diploma or GED
  • Must have received an honorable discharge (MGIB-AD) or be in good standing with the Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)

 

To qualify for benefits, most service members must have enrolled in the program and had their military pay reduced by $100 per month for the first 12 months of service or by one lump-sum of $1,200 during active duty **Click here to learn more about the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty's four eligibility categories and any additional requirements that may apply to you.


What benefits are available?


Up to 36 months of education funding for:


  • College degree and certificate programs
  • Technical or vocational courses
  • Flight training
  • Apprenticeships or on-the-job training
  • High-tech training
  • Licensing and certification tests
  • Entrepreneurship training admissions and assessment exams)
  • Correspondence courses

 

Benefits are paid directly to you and are based on the type of education/training program in which you enroll, as well as any additional eligibility factors that may apply.


Service members who contributed to the $600 Buy-Up Program during active duty may be eligible for up to $5,400 of additional benefits.


How/When can you apply for benefits?


Montgomery GI Bill benefits are typically available for 10 years after being honorably discharged from active service (MGIB-AD), or during your six-year obligation period with the Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR).



Post-9/11 GI Bill


In 2009 the Post-9/11 GI Bill began offering expanded benefits, providing a monthly housing allowance and a yearly books-and-supplies stipend in addition to up to 36 months of education benefits. Significant differences from the Montgomery GI Bill include eligibility requirements, the way in which benefits are disbursed, the benefits-availability window, access to the Yellow Ribbon Program, and the option to transfer unused benefits to spouses or dependents (restrictions apply).


It is also important to note that if you accept Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, you may no longer be eligible for any other military education benefit programs.


Who is eligible?


  • Service members with at least 90 days of aggregate active-duty service after Sept. 10, 2001
  • If not still on active duty, must have received an honorable discharge
  • Discharged with service-connected disabilities may also be eligible4


What benefits are available?


The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides up to 36 months of education benefits for:


  • Independent and distance learning
  • Institutions of higher learning (undergraduate and graduate degrees)
  • Vocational/technical training (non-college degree programs)
  • National testing reimbursement
  • Licensing and certification reimbursement
  • Correspondence training
  • Cooperative training
  • Entrepreneurship training
  • Flight training
  • On-the-job training
  • Tuition assistance top-up
  • Tutorial assistance


Additional benefits may include:


  • Monthly housing allowance
  • Annual books and supplies stipend
  • One-time rural benefit payment
  • Yellow Ribbon Program (available at participating colleges and universities)

For those attending public institutions as in-state students, all tuition benefits will be paid to the college or university. Students attending private or out-of-state schools will have benefits capped at the national maximum levels, and may be subject to resident rate requirements.


How/When can you apply for benefits?


Benefits are typically available for up to 15 years following active duty with an honorable discharge. In order to receive any benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you must submit an irrevocable election in writing—once Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits have been claimed, no other benefits programs are available.


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Can I Pass My GI Bill on to My Kids?


If you choose to enroll in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you may be able to transfer all or part of any unused education (and sometimes housing) benefits to spouses and children. Benefits can only be transferred under certain conditions in which additional eligibility requirements are met. The Department of Defense must approve all benefits you wish to transfer before they can be used by dependents, and anyone receiving transferred benefits must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS).


Once approved, benefits can typically be transferred to spouses, children, or a combination of both. In order to transfer benefits, you must meet one of the following sets of eligibility requirements:


  • Have served at least 6 years in active duty and/or the Selected Reserve
  • Commit to an additional 4 years of service (from the date on which benefits were elected

 

OR

  • Have served at least 10 years in active duty and/or the Selected Reserve
  • Are prevented from serving an additional 4 years (due to standard policy or statute), but commit to the maximum allowable amount of additional service

 

OR 

  • Have reached retirement eligibility
  • Commit to an additional 4 years of service (from the date on which benefits were elected)5

 

Requests to transfer benefits must be made during active service. It is also important to note that there are distinct restrictions on when spouses and children can access transferred benefits.


 

Looking for more information about enrolling in college following military service? Learn about AIU's commitment to military students.


1U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, "History and Timeline," on the internet at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/history.asp (visited January 24, 2016).


2U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, "Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty," on the internet at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/mgib_ad.asp (visited January 24, 2016).


3U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, "Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve," on the internet at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/mgib_sr.asp (visited January 24, 2016).


4U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, "Post-9/11 GI Bill," on the internet at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp (visited January 24, 2016).


5U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, "Transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill to Spouse and Dependents," on the internet at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_transfer.asp (visited January 24, 2016).