The GI Bill

If you have served time as active-duty military, you likely are eligible to receive certain benefits. Specifically, the GI Bill grants service members financial assistance for the pursuit of higher education.

As of 2018, there were approximately 18 million veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces in the United States; however, many veterans don’t fully take advantage of the benefits provided to them.

Serving in the military is a significant sacrifice, which is why Congress created benefits such as the GI Bill. This bill works to reestablish members of the military in the civilian world after their years serving our country.

What is the GI Bill?

The GI Bill provides veterans and active-duty military (and in some cases, family members) funds that they can use toward higher education. The program is designed to make education more attainable for those who have served.

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt took to Congress to create a better way for veterans returning from war to assimilate into civilian life. In 1944, Congress and the President drafted and signed into law the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944.

This new law contained the provisions that have come to be known as the GI Bill. In the following 10 years, nearly eight million service members took advantage of the benefits provided by the GI Bill.

Even though Congress has changed the GI Bill over the years, it continues to provide thousands of servicemen and women with access to higher education that they may not otherwise have.

What is the Post-9/11 GI Bill?

Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress expanded the GI Bill to give veterans even more educational benefits, legislation known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

This new version of the law allows any military member to receive education benefits as long as they have completed at least 90 days of active duty, subject to some time constraints.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is also the first iteration of the GI Bill to give qualifying military members the option of transferring all or a portion of their benefits to their spouse or dependent children.

In addition to the added benefits, the Post-9/11 GI Bill created the Yellow Ribbon Program. This program grants service members a certain amount of financial assistance that they can use toward tuition and fees at private schools.

Prior to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, service members could not receive funding for private universities, so this new provision has been popular with students who are set on attending certain private schools.

Who is eligible for the GI bill benefits?

The VA states that there are new requirements that service members must meet to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The main requirements are the following:

  • You must have served on active duty.
  • You must have served for at least 90 days.
  • The 90 days served do not have to be consecutive.
  • You must have completed your service after September 2001.
  • You must have been honorably discharged.

You may be able to take advantage of GI Bill education benefits if you meet these requirements.

What does the GI Bill cover?

The GI Bill covers many of the costs of higher education, including:

  • Full tuition and fees for any state universities
  • Partial tuition and fees for private universities
  • A monthly housing allowance
  • A $1,000 stipend for textbooks and supplies
  • Vocational or technical training fees
  • Apprenticeship program fees

The longer you serve, the more benefits you can receive through the GI Bill. For example, if you have served on active duty anywhere between 30 months and 36 months, you will receive 90 percent of the maximum GI Bill benefits.

Transferring GI Bill Benefits to Your Family

Some veterans are not interested in using the benefits provided by the GI Bill because they do not want or need to go back to school. In those cases, service members can transfer the benefits to their dependents.

In order to transfer your benefits to your dependent, the VA requires that you have served for at least six years and that you will be able to serve four additional years after the Department of Defense approves the transfer.

There is an exception for active-duty military members who have received a Purple Heart distinction; those with a Purple Heart can transfer their GI Bill benefits to family members at any time.

It is important to note that some conditions apply to family transferred benefits.

For example, children can only receive benefits after the service member has served for at least 10 years. They cannot use the benefit while their military parent is on active duty. Furthermore, the benefit only applies to higher education; the child may not use the benefit until they’ve received a high school diploma or are over 18.

Spouses, however, have many different requirements. Spouses may use the GI Bill benefits immediately after the transfer and can use the benefit while the service member is on active duty.

How can you apply for the GI Bill?

If you have access to the internet, you can apply for GI Bill benefits online. Another option is to apply in person at a VA regional office, or you can call 888-GIBILL-1. The VA can answer any questions you have and mail you a copy of the application.

Applying for GI Bill benefits is generally a straightforward process. You will fill out a form with details about your military experience and academic background, along with information regarding which school you would like to attend.

Some information that you will need readily available is your Social Security number and the details of your bank account, where you will receive the stipend for housing and supplies.

Once you have decided which school you would like to attend, the college administration staff can be a great resource. They will guide you through the process: how to apply for benefits, what information you need and how to get your benefits sent to your desired school. You can find a GI Bill benefits counselor in many schools’ financial aid offices.

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