The Benefits And Eligibility Of The GI Bill

By Angela Stringfellow. May 7th 2016

For the past several years, the military has been using its GI Bill as a way to recruit qualified soldiers and officers. The popular advertisements for the Bill show a young person making the choice to sign up for military service in return for having their college education paid for. But what exactly is the GI Bill and how does it really work?

Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944

At the end of World War II, it became apparent that an estimated 15 million men and women serving in the armed forces would find themselves unemployed when they returned home from battle. With these staggering statistics in mind, the National Resources Planning Board began studying the need for postwar retraining and education. With the Board’s recommendations in hand, the American Legion devised a program called the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act that was designed to aid veterans readjusting to civilian life and offer assistance in the purchase of homes and businesses, medical care and education.

In 1944, just days after the D-day invasion in Normandy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill into law to help broaden the opportunities for military personnel returning from the war. The Act, which has come to be known as the G.I. Bill, laid the ground work for the current version that is still in place today.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most current version of the government’s readjustment program. Today, this is the largest government program providing educational assistance to military service members. To qualify for the program, an individual must meet one of the following length-of-service criteria:

  • 90 days of aggregate duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001
  • 30 days of consecutive service on or after Sept. 11, 2001, if discharged for disability

In addition to meeting one of the above criteria, the individual must have been honorably discharged in order to be eligible.

The original Post-9/11bill was signed into law on Aug. 1, 2009 and has undergone several amendments since its introduction. The Act now provides tuition assistance or reimbursement for those pursuing a college degree, on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs, flight training programs and correspondence courses.

Eligible service men and women are entitled to:

  • A percentage (determined by the length of active duty service) of full tuition and fees for all public schools to in-state students. For private schools, the tuition reimbursement is capped at $17,500 per academic year except in nine states where a larger annual reimbursement is possible. Those attending out of state public schools or more expensive private schools may also be eligible for additional reimbursement.
  • A stipend of up to $1,000 for books and supplies in each year of enrollment.
  • A monthly housing allowance for those enrolled in full-time training programs. Housing stipends are prorated for students enrolled more than part-time, but less than full time.
  • A one-time payment of $500 for individuals relocating from highly rural areas.
  • Reimbursement for national entrance exams such as the SAT, ACT, GMAT and LSAT.
  • Reimbursement for licensure or certification exams.

Amount of Benefits

The amount of benefits available through the post 9/11 GI Bill is directly proportional to the length of active duty military service. For example, active-duty veterans who have completed at least 36 months of service are eligible for 100 percent of the maximum allowed benefit, whereas someone serving between 12 and 18 months is eligible for just 60 percent. Military.com has developed a Post 9/11 GI Bill calculator to help individuals understand benefits and eligibility requirements.

In addition, the rate of benefits is also relative to the “rate of pursuit.” In other words, benefits are prorated for part-time enrollment.

The Montgomery GI Bill

Most veterans will be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. However, some veterans may also be eligible the previous version of the program, depending on when they served. The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) provided financial assistance for service men and women who enlisted and subsequently discharged prior to the enactment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Currently enlisted active duty and reserve service members who qualify for both the MGIB and the Post-9/11 GI Bill must make an irrevocable decision to choose one program over the other.

Although the benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill seem to significantly outweigh those of the MGIB, there are a few instances in which the MGIB would be a better choice than the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Therefore, soldiers meeting eligibility requirements for both programs should discuss their options with a representative of the Veterans' Administration before making a final decision.

Benefit Transferability

For service members choosing not to further their own education, the VA has devised a program which allows the transfer of benefits to a spouse or children. To qualify, the service member must have served at least six years and agreed to serve an additional four years. After the tenth year of service, the individual may elect to transfer their benefits to a qualified dependent.

Service men and women put their lives on the line to serve and defend their country. The experience and education gained via the military service is invaluable. Unfortunately, the skills gained don’t always easily transfer into the non-military working world. The GI bill helps those who have served to bridge this gap through the sponsorship of additional education. If you have proudly served your country, don’t overlook this important opportunity.

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