The GI Bill has been helping servicemembers earn their educations since 1944, when it was created by Congress to provide assistance to veterans returning from World War II. The first versions of the GI Bill were designed to assist veterans who had served our country during times of war and, in 1966, a version of the bill was passed which gave GI Bill benefits to all veterans, including those who served during times of peace.
Over the years, there have been many provisions in the various versions of the GI Bill, but the GI Bill has primarily provided military education benefits, assistance with home loans, and assistance with business loans.
What are GI Bill Benefits?
The two versions of the GI Bill that are used most today are the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The two versions of the bill provide assistance for active duty service members, veterans, reservists, military spouses, and military dependents. The versions differ as to the military education benefits they provide, and some individuals may be eligible for both versions, but they must make a choice as to which program they use for their veterans education benefits.
What is the Montgomery GI Bill and What Benefits Does It Provide?
There are several categories which determine eligibility for the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) for active duty service members and veterans, but in general you may be eligible if:
- You are on active duty, and have served at least three years on active duty after June 30, 1985
- You elected to enroll in the MGIB program and have $100 deducted from your monthly pay for a year
- If you are a veteran, you must meet the above two eligibility requirements and have received an Honorable Discharge and have a high school diploma or GED
If you have a question as to your eligibility, contact a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) office to determine if you meet the qualifications for the MGIB.
The MGIB provides up to 36 months of military education benefits to eligible active duty service members and veterans that may be used for:
- College Tuition and Fees
- Technical School
- Vocational School
- Correspondence Courses
- Online Education
- Apprenticeship/Job Training
- Flight Training
- High Tech Training
- Licensing and Certification Tests
- Certain Entrance Examinations
Service members may use the MGIB education benefits while on active duty if they:
- Sign up for the MGIB program upon entering their branch of service, and have $100 deducted from their monthly pay for their first year of service
- Have served on active duty for at least two years
The MGIB program currently pays military educational benefits up to a maximum of $1,321 for 36 months. Service members and veterans usually reach eligibility for maximum benefits after serving three years of active duty. The maximum benefits can be increased if you participate in the "Buy Up" program while on active duty. Doing this could add as much as $5,400 to the total amount of benefits available.
Military education benefits normally must be used within 10 years of your discharge from active duty with the MGIB.
What is the Post-9/11 GI Bill and What Benefits Does It Provide?
Service members who have served at least 90 days of active duty after September 10, 2001 are eligible to participate in the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial assistance to attend any approved school, university, or vocational center that offers a degree program.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is very beneficial for active duty service members as it can pay all tuition and fees to attend any approved undergraduate or graduate school while pursuing a degree. Degree programs may be on campus or through an online degree program.
If you are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the amount of your benefits is determined by the length of time you spent on active duty, where you live, the school you are planning to attend, and the type of degree you are planning to purse. A veteran who is eligible for the maximum benefits may receive:
- Funding for up to 100 percent of the tuition and fees charged by the most expensive in-state public school undergraduate degree rate in the state in which the veteran resides
- A housing allowance
- A book stipend
The Post-9/11 GI Bill also has a provision called the Yellow Ribbon Program. Colleges and universities that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program agree to pay a portion of costs over and above the maximum allowed under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The participating school may pay up to 50 percent of the costs over the maximum, and the VA matches their contribution. This is very helpful if you are:
- Pursuing a graduate degree through classroom attendance or an online education program
- Thinking of attending a private school
- Thinking of seeking a degree as an out of state student
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is used primarily for approved degree programs, and does not provide benefits for many of the education programs covered under the MGIB. In most cases you must use your Post-9/11 veterans education benefits within 15 years of your final discharge date.
What are the Benefits for Spouses/Dependents?
The MGIB Program does not provide military education benefits for spouses/dependents. There are cases where the individual military branches have offered the ability to transfer MGIB benefits to spouses/dependents as a reenlistment incentive.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill does offer the ability to transfer education benefits to spouses/dependents. The service member/veteran sponsor must meet the criteria of the Post-9/11 Transferability Provision, and the spouse or dependent must meet VA eligibility requirements. The service member/veteran may transfer all unused months of benefits to which they are entitled, and the spouse/dependent receives all of the benefits of the program that the service member/veteran would have. Transfers may take place while the service member is on active duty or after separation from service.
What are the Differences Between the New and Old GI Bills?
The primary difference between the MGIB and the Post-9/11 GI Bill is that the Post-9/11 GI Bill is designed to provide veterans education benefits when pursuing a degree from an institution of higher learning or vocational/technical school. It can often pay for a larger percentage of the tuition costs than the MGIB, and may also pay some housing and book costs.
The MGIB offers more options to service members and veterans in the type of educational programs it covers, but you are limited to $1,321.00 per month in maximum benefits, and the benefits may only be used for tuition, fees, and some other school related expenses for classroom or online education.
Who is Eligible for Both Versions of the GI Bill?
If you entered the military prior to September 10, 2001, and elected to participate in the MGIB by having $100 deducted from your monthly pay for a year, and served on active duty for at least two years, you may be eligible for the MGIB.
If you also have over 90 days of active duty after September 10, 2001, you may be eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Veterans/service members eligible for both GI Bills must commit to one prior to using benefits. Once committed to a GI Bill you may not use the veterans education benefits of the other program.
Veterans eligible for both GI Bills are encouraged to compare the benefits provided under each program for the educational goal they are pursuing before committing to one of the veterans education benefits programs. You may find it helpful to discuss your individual situation with a VA representative.