How to Use Your GI Bill Benefits
When transitioning out of the military, some veterans may not immediately take advantage of the GI Bill – a VA benefit that affords them along with active duty military, National Guard/Reserve members, and their dependents, the opportunity to cover the expenses of attending a community college, four-year university, graduate school, or training program such as those needed for licensures and certifications.
Most veterans want to secure employment right after their time in service instead of pursuing schooling. And, approximately 55% of veterans in transition want to do something different than what they did in the military, says Sarah Roberts, head of Military and Veteran Programs at LinkedIn, in an interview with The New York Times.
But the GI Bill is more than just an educational outlet. With the GI Bill, a veteran can crack the code to achieving his or her career goals too.
Understanding the Types of GI Bill Programs
Before attempting to use the GI Bill, take some time to familiarize yourself with each of the GI Bill benefits. The primary types of GI Bill programs are:
- Post 9/11 GI Bill;
- Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD);
- Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR);
- Veterans Education Assistance Program (VEAP); and
- Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA).
You may have also heard about the Forever GI Bill, passed by Congress in 2017, that expanded the benefits and include lifetime availability for veterans and service men and women who were discharged on or after January 1, 2013.
For more information, see the text of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017.
In addition to the GI Bill other educational tools include the Yellow Ribbon Program, the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program if you have a service-connected disability that limits or prevents your work abilities, and Tuition Assistance.
To learn more about the other types of education benefits, check out the GI Bill comparison chart.
For purposes of this article, we will focus on the Post 9/11 and Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty because they are the most widely known.
Differences Between the Post 9/11 GI Bill and MGIB
Unfortunately, some veterans go without using their benefits because of the complex nature of the information involved.
Before using this type of assistance, it’s important to determine whether you’re eligible to use the benefits and, if so, which GI Bill benefit is best for you.
The Post-9/11 and the Montgomery GI Bill have varying differences. The differences that you should look for and compare include:
- The amount of tuition paid;
- The duration of the benefits;
- Monthly Housing Allowance or Basic Allowance for Housing (MHA or BAH);
- Book stipend;
- The approval of the training and educational programs;
- How payments are issued; and
- Transfer of benefits to a family member, such as a spouse or child.
Some service members are introduced to the ins and outs of the GI Bill during the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) Pre-Separation Briefing where they learn the benefits they have available and the resources they need to access after separating from the military.
With TAP’s lengthy process, it’s easy for transitioning military and veterans to forget how to apply their educational benefits to the civilian world that can lead to a prosperous career.
Today, Empire Resume will break down the Post-9/11 and Montgomery GI Bill and show you how to apply for these resources.
Breaking Down the Post-9/11 GI Bill and How to Apply for It
You qualify to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill if you have at least 90 days of service on active duty after September 10, 2001 and were honorably discharged.
The Post-9/11 provides coverage of up to 100% of your tuition (up to roughly $25,000 per academic year), and up to $1,000 for your monthly rent, depending on how many months of active duty you’ve served. If you served at least 36 months of active duty you can receive 100% of the benefit.
Tuition payments are sent directly to your school of choice while the housing allowance and book stipend is sent to your bank account.
This benefit allows you to transfer your unused benefits to a family member such as a spouse or child, or combination of both.
Keep in mind, if you decide to transfer some or all of your unused benefits to a dependent, as of January 12, 2020, you must transfer them while on active duty and you can only have less than 16 years active duty or reserve service.
What’s the catch?
If you transfer the benefit, you must agree to an additional service obligation of four years. Once you leave active duty, your ability to transfer the Post-911 GI Bill ends.
You should also note that the 911 GI Bill will not cover two bachelor degrees or two master’s degrees. Make sure you’re choosing your educational opportunities wisely.
When you’re ready to apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, visit the how to apply page of the official website of the VA.
You can also apply by phone at 1-888-GI Bill, via mail, and in person at your regional VA office. The education center on your military installation is also a great resource.
Make sure you have your social security number, bank account and routing number, education and military history, and the information about the school or training program you want to attend handy.
Breaking Down the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty and How to Apply for It
For starters, you can get Montgomery GI Bill benefits if you served active duty for at least two years and were honorably discharged, have a high school diploma or 12 hours of college credit, and meet other Montgomery GI Bill requirements.
The Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty provides up to 36 months of full-time payments per month to the service member, with a maximum of more than $72,000.
Any outstanding tuition, room and board and books are the responsibility of the veteran.
According to the VA’s Montgomery GI Bill fact sheet, the benefit will cover:
- College degrees, non-college degrees, technical or vocational school;
- On-the-job training and apprenticeship programs;
- Licensure or certification costs;
- Correspondence courses;
- National tests; and
- Flight training, in some cases.
To determine the rates you may receive, review the Montgomery GI Bill monthly rate sheet.
If you’re looking to transfer the benefit to a family member, it is important to remember that the Montgomery GI Bill does not have a transferable option attached to it, unlike the Post-911, which is the most generous benefit of all the GI Bill programs.
To apply for the Montgomery GI Bill, you can visit the educational officer at your local military installation, apply online, by mail or in person at the VA’s office. The VA Education Call Center is available Monday through Friday at 1-888-442-4551.
Meeting Multiple Eligibility Requirements for the GI Bill
Determining GI Bill eligibility is a process. If you find that you qualify for more than one type of GI Bill, don’t worry. Being eligible for more than one benefit is common.
The VA notes that if you’re eligible for more than one, you must choose the one you wish to receive. Unfortunately, once you choose, the decision cannot be changed.
Additionally, if you’re eligible for the Post-9/11 and two or more benefits, you must forfeit one of the extra benefits. The good news in this instance is the fact that you remain eligible for the benefit(s) that you did not give up.
For more detailed insight regarding the education benefits through the VA’s registered trademark, the GI Bill ®, visit its official government website and review the videos, factsheets, and handouts at the Handouts and Forms page.
Using Your GI Bill to Unlock the Door to Your Professional Career
When you’re ready to pursue one of the GI Bill options, your first plan of action is to estimate the benefits with the GI Bill Comparison Tool before taking the necessary steps to complete the application.
Don’t forget to put your military training and education to good use. Request a copy of your Joint Services Transcript or Community College of the Air Force (CCF) and convert it to college credit. This document can definitely help you get ahead.
Once you’ve applied for your chosen educational benefit, it takes about 30 days to process your claim, according to the VA. After your application is approved, you’ll receive a Certificate of Eligibility in the mail.
Take the award letter to the certifying official at your school such as the Registrar and you’ll be well on your way to getting the education and training you need and using it to land the job you deserve.
Turn Your Education into Your Dream Job with Empire Resume
You can also use your benefits to kick off your professional career by gaining a trade or skill by using your GI Bill benefits to participate in on-the-job and apprenticeship programs.
Once you’re close to reaching your educational objectives, you can begin updating your resume to highlight your new education credentials, be it a degree, licensure, or certification.
For assistance with your military to civilian resume, contact our certified resume writing professionals. And, be sure to stop by our military to civilian blog, the military and veterans’ source for transitioning into the civilian world and career planning.
Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.