The GI Bill® is an education benefit managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and made available to military members and veterans. While most of the GI Bills are aimed toward currently serving members and veterans, the Post-9/11 GI Bill can also be used by spouses and dependent children under certain situations, which will be discussed later in this guide.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA). More information about educational benefits offered by the VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Forever GI Bill
Who is eligible?
Eligibility for each GI Bill differs slightly as noted below, however two traits they all share is that a service obligation is needed to qualify and a specified amount of time to use the benefits. The Forever GI Bill eliminated the time limitation to use Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Also known as Chapter 30, it is a paid program meaning enlistees must choose the program at the time of enlistment and agree to pay $100 per month for their first 12 months of service. In return, they can get up to 36 months of a monthly education benefit, provided they meet the minimum service obligation which depending on the enlistment is at least 24 or 36 months.
With three years or more of qualifying service, the current monthly pay rate for a full-time student is $1,928 for up to 36 months. With less than three years of service, the full-time student amount drops to $1,566 per month; Under some extenuating circumstances, the service time can be less than 24 months; in those cases, the number of months of coverage is typically based on one month of benefit for one month of service.
Under Chapter 1606, Selected Reservists going to school full-time can get up to $375 per month for 36 months in exchange for a six-year enlistment; MGIB-SR does not have an initial cost like the MGIB-AD. This GI Bill does not have any residual benefit after separation, so its benefit must be used while in the Selected Reserve and usually within the first 14 years of service. Selected Reservists using the MGIB-SR typically also qualify for Federal Tuition Assistance and even some State Veteran Education Benefits depending on their state of residence.
Under both Montgomery GI Bills, students are paid a flat rate each month and must pay their own tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses from these funds, out-of-pocket or through other education funding sources, such as scholarships and grants.
When Chapter 33 came out it was a radical departure from all the other GI Bills before it. Under this GI Bill, a minimum of 40 percent eligibility is authorized with as little as 90 days of service. From there, coverage incrementally increases 10 percent based on each additional six-month period of service, with eligibility topping out at 100 percent with 36 months of service.
Also, this GI Bill uses a different payment system. Up to this point, veterans were paid a fixed amount monthly when going to school. Under the New GI Bill, the VA pays the student’s tuition (at the resident rate) and certain fees directly to the school and the student receives a book stipend and a monthly housing allowance. More on how that works in a minute.
Can I combine GI Bills?
Many veterans coming out of the military today (both active duty and from the Selected Reserves) have both MGIB and Post-9/11 GI Bills. While veterans with both GI Bills and having at least three years of service do not end up with 72 months of education benefits (36 months from each GI Bill), they can get up to 48 months of combined benefits, provided they use them in the correct order.
The way to maximize combined GI Bill benefits is to first exhaust all 36 months of the MGIB and then switch to the Post-9/11 GI Bill to collect the additional 12 months. The process does not work in reverse – using the Post-9/11 first and then the MGIB.
Of course, there is a tradeoff using combined benefits as the MGIB does not pay nearly as much as the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Some veterans use their MGIB first to get their four-year bachelor’s degree and the additional 12 months to help pay for a graduate degree. Since graduate degree tuition can cost as much as three times the cost of a bachelor’s degree, using it this way maximizes the benefit.
What does the GI Bill pay for?
Under both MGIBs, students get paid a flat rate and can use the money as they wish. As noted earlier, students are responsible to pay their own tuition, fees, books, and other education-related expenses. Once set up, all that is required to get paid on a monthly basis is for the student to check in once a month through the VA’s notification system to let them know they are still enrolled in school.
Also noted earlier, under the Post-9/11GI Bill there are three different payments: tuition/fees, book stipend and monthly housing allowance.
This expense is paid by the VA directly to the school and includes common fees applicable to all students. If attending a public school, 100 percent of the resident tuition is paid provided the veteran is at the 100 percent tier. If at the top tier and attending a private or foreign school, then the tuition and fees are capped at $23,671.94 per year, based on the 2018/2019 academic year. If the student is not at the top tier, then the amount paid by the VA is prorated down to the percentage tier matching the equivalent months of service.
The table below better explains the relationship between months of service and tier percentage.
|Aggregate months of active duty service after September 10, 2001
|At least 36 months
|Service-connected disability with at least 30 continuous days of eligible service
|At least 30 months, but less than 36 months
|At least 24 months, but less than 30 months
|At least 18 months, but less than 24 months
|At least 12 months, but less than 18 months
|At least six months, but less than 12 months
|At least 90 days, but less than six months
: Disabled veterans, whose disability is service-connected, are 100 percent tier qualified provided they have at least 30 days of continuous service. All other months of service relate directly to a tier percentage.
The book stipend is paid directly to a student towards the beginning of a semester. At the top tier it pays $41.67 per credit taken, but is subject to a $1,000 per academic year cap. Consequently, it usually is enough to cover two 12-credit semesters per year. Students at a lesser tier have their per credit book stipend amount and yearly cap prorated down based on their months of service as shown in the table above.
This payment too is paid directly to the student, but monthly instead of by semester. It, too, is also calculated using the tier percentage, along with the zip code of the school and paid at the rate of an E-5-with-dependents according to this BAH chart
. Students going to school on either the East or West Coast get paid more per month than if going to an interior school like in South Dakota or Wyoming due to the difference in BAH rates which are driven in part by the cost of living.
A feature of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, it can be a great way to maximize benefits for some students. The students advantaged by the Yellow Ribbon Program are the ones that fall into a non-resident status for tuition purposes.
Several years ago, the VA changed the rules schools must follow if they want to accept GI Bill students. If a veteran has been out of the military for less than three years, the school must accept him as a resident student and charge resident tuition rates regardless of the student’s resident status in that state.
Typically, non-resident tuition rates are much higher than resident students. When a student has been out longer than three years and is not a resident in the state where the school is located, the VA tuition rate becomes an issue. Then they must pay the higher tuition rate, which is where the Yellow Ribbon Program comes into play as explained below.
Keep in mind that the Post-9/11 GI Bill only pays up to the resident rate at public schools or up to $23,671.94 per year at private schools. But for schools having a Yellow Ribbon Agreement
with the VA, up to 50 percent of the difference between what the VA initially pays and the school charges can be waived. Under the Agreement, the VA agrees to pay an equal amount, so in theory the entire unpaid balance could be waived. If the schools choose to waive less than 50 percent according to their Agreement, then of course the VA pays less, and the student could incur out-of-pocket costs.
Use the Yellow Ribbon link above to check a school’s program to see:
- how many students they can accept.
- which degree plans and school divisions are included.
- the maximum contribution per student per year.
The information on each school enrolled in the program will give students an idea of how difficult it could be to get into a particular school’s Yellow Ribbon Program.
How long can the GI Bill be used?
With the MGIB-AD, the number of months of benefits must be used up by the 10th anniversary of the veteran’s discharge date. For the MGIB-SR, as noted earlier in this guide, it must be used up while still serving before the end of the 14th year of service. However, for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the time was recently stretched out to 15 years from the discharge date. This changed under the Forever GI Bill for some veterans as noted below.
In the case of Post-9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits, spouses can start using their transferred benefits right away and are usually constrained under the same 15-year limit as the serving member making the transfer. Dependent children can start using their benefits once the serving member has reached at least 10 years of service and the child in question has reached 18 years of age or graduated from high school, whichever comes first; they must finish using their benefits by age 26 or lose them. Unused benefits, regardless of whether the holder is a veteran, spouse or dependent child, will be lost at the end of these constraint periods; in the case of transferred benefits, they can be revoked and reallocated as explained below.
Can you use your parents’ GI Bill?
Under either MGIB, education benefits cannot be passed to spouses or dependent children. However, under certain conditions, Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are transferable. Generally, the transfer request must be made while the military member is still serving, has served for at least six years and agrees to serve an additional four years. While the member’s 36 months of benefits can be divided in any way, the smart way to maximize the use of these benefits is to transfer at least one month to a spouse and at least one-month to each dependent child. This is why:
After separation from the military, a transfer of benefits cannot be made to a family member not having already received a transfer of benefits while the member was serving. After getting out, veterans can revoke and reallocate to another eligible family member or keep the revoked benefits for their own use.
So, if one family member needs more benefits, or one is not going to use their benefits, the unused benefits can be moved around to a family member already having received a transfer of benefits. Which brings up another point … children born or adopted after the member gets out are not eligible for a transfer of benefits. A transfer of benefits, which is done while the member is serving, is different from a revoke and reallocate after the member gets out; these terms are sometimes confusing and should not be used interchangeably as they mean different things.