Understanding the G.I. Bill: History and Overview

You’ve sacrificed your time and more to protect this country. Now it’s time to boost your educational experiences and become a college graduate to protect your own financial future. Be a G.I. Bill genius, and learn about your educational benefits so you can use them to the fullest. The benefits pertain to almost all active-duty service members, enlisted personnel, or to honorably discharged veterans who served at least two years on active duty with a completed high school education or an equivalency certificate. Read on to learn more about the G.I. Bills and their histories as well as your eligibility, benefits, and alternatives.

The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill

New GI BillThe Post 9/11, also known officially as the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, became law through an Act of Congress on June 30, 2008. The bill expands educational benefits for military veterans who served since September 11, 2001. This law was passed in an effort to pay for veterans’ college expenses, similar to how the G.I. Bill paid for many veterans’ college tuition after World War II.

The original Post 9/11 GI Bill’s provisions went into effect on August 1, 2009. The main provisions of the act include funding 100 percent of a public four-year undergraduate education to a veteran who has served three years on active duty since September 11, 2001. The act also provides the ability for the veteran to transfer benefits to a spouse or children after serving (or agreeing to serve) ten years.

In December 2010, Congress passed the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010. The new law, often referred to as GI Bill 2.0, expands eligibility for members of the National Guard to include time served on Title 32 or in the full-time Active Guard and Reserve (AGR).

Main benefits include:

  • Qualified individuals enrolled in approved programs are entitled to receive education benefits equal to 36 months (four years of college equivalent) to pay for living expenses, tuition, fees, and other costs incurred while attending college, but these figures vary by state.
  • The “GI Bill Kicker” provides an additional amount of money if you signed up for the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps College Funds.
  • Additional tuition at more expensive private schools under the “Yellow Ribbon” program allows colleges and universities to share the cost with the federal government up to 50 percent, with the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) matching the amount. The 2011 schools are listed on the VA website.
  • A benefit eligibility period of 15 years after leaving active duty (compared to 10 years in the current Montgomery G.I. Bill — see below).
  • The monthly housing stipend is paid based on the monthly basic allowance for housing (BAH) payable for a military member with dependents in pay grade E-5 residing in the same ZIP code for the school where the individual is enrolled. Active duty members and individuals training at 1/2 time or less are not eligible for a housing stipend. The housing stipend is subject to prorating based on the number of credits being taken and number of months served on active duty.
  • International education programs outside the US are eligible with requirements similar to US schools.
  • Students who are on active duty may still receive education benefits up to the maximum in-state established charge at the most expensive public school in that state. However, benefits are not available for a housing allowance or books.

If you currently are on active duty, you may be eligible for one of the Armed Forces Tuition Assistance programs. Although you can use G.I. Bill benefits for which you are eligible while you are on active duty, it is generally a good idea to wait until after your military service to draw from them. This is because Tuition Assistance will pay for some or all of the tuition costs of college courses that you take while on active duty. Tuition Assistance benefits are separate from your G.I. Bill benefits and do not count against them.

The Montgomery G.I. Bill

GI Bill TransferableThe Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB), enacted in 1985, remains alive today with changes. Active duty members can enroll voluntarily and pay $100 per month for 12 months. They then are entitled to receive a monthly education benefit once they have completed a minimum service obligation. Benefits under the MGIB generally end 10 years from the date of the veteran’s last discharge or release from active duty, but some extenuating circumstances qualify for extensions. You can learn more about the MGIB rates offered through September 30, 2012 at Military.com.

The MGIB encompasses:

Other Programs

Other Educational BenefitsThe G.I. Bills can help you get the most out of your service to the U.S., but other programs exist as well. Take a look at the following list to see if you can gain help from these offerings:

  • Reserve Educational Assistance (REAP): This program requires that some reservists may contribute up to additional $600 to the G.I. Bill to receive increased monthly benefits. For an additional $600 contribution, you may receive up to $5400 in additional GI Bill benefits. You must be a member of a Ready Reserve component (Selected Reserve, Individual Ready Reserve, or Inactive National Guard) to pay into the “buy-up” program.
  • Survivors & Dependents Assistance (DEA): This program provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training.
  • Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP): VEAP is available if you elected to make contributions from your military pay to participate in this education benefit program. Your contributions are matched on a $2 for $1 basis by the Government. You may use these benefits for degree, certificate, correspondence, apprenticeship/on-the-job training programs, and vocational flight training programs.
  • Educational Assistance Test Program: Benefits from this program are available to individuals who entered on active duty after September 30, 1980, and before October 1, 1981 (or before October 1, 1982, if entry was under a delayed enlistment contract signed between September 30, 1980, and October 1, 1981).
  • National Call to Service Program: This program requires a participant to perform a period of national service to be eligible for benefits. A three-tiered service requirement exists to qualify for incentives.
  • Veterans Retraining Assistance Program: Congress passed, and the President has signed into law, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. Included in this new law is the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) for unemployed Veterans. VRAP offers 12 months of training assistance to unemployed Veterans. Learn how to qualify through the link to this program.

Get Your Maximum Benefits

Always consult your Education Service Officer or Navy College representative before attempting to use any G.I. Bill program to receive your maximum benefits. Those officers and representatives are trained to provide you with the best counseling for your situation, and they can save you time and wasted money.

Also, learn about schools that provide VA-approved training or education. Most regionally and nationally accredited colleges and universities have VA approved programs, but those programs also vary by state and institution. Also, learn more about your benefits through a trusted source — the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs web page for the G.I. Bills. They offer resources, support, and information on how to apply and receive all benefits provided to veterans and active-duty personnel.

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