GI Bill Educational Benefits Simplified
What is the GI Bill?In 1944, Congress enacted legislation providing educational benefits to service members and veterans. This is known as the GI Bill and was created to assist those veterans returning from World War II in obtaining a bachelor's degree. This Department of Veterans Affairs education benefit is designed to help eligible veterans and service members cover the cost associated with obtaining training or education. Those who meet the requirements of certain categories qualify to receive educational benefits depending on eligibility and duty status.
Eligible veterans can use the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) to further their education, but must meet specific criteria and need to understand the limitations of this benefit. This program provides up to 36 months of benefits that can be used for college, high-tech training, flight training, vocational courses or correspondence courses in addition to some others. Several categories set forth the requirements for receiving these benefits.
Who Is Eligible for GI Bill Benefits?Those who are currently or previously served on active duty or are in selected reserves or National Guard units, earn education benefits under the GI Bill. In some cases, the families of these veterans are also eligible for benefits. The Post-9/11 GI Bill was established after the events of September 11, 2001 and provides financial support for education to those with service of at least 90 days following September 10, 2001. The benefits also apply to those discharged because of a service-connected disability if they had served at least 30 days.
Any veteran applying for educational benefits must have received an Honorable Discharge from duty in order to qualify. The MGIB initially provides 36 months of continuous benefits. Under the Post-9/11 Bill, those who qualify can receive an additional 12 months of benefits, which can total 48 months with two GI Bills. These benefits can be used to obtain a degree or training, but cannot be used for any remedial or refresher courses unless pre-approved.
Do GI Education Benefits Expire?One of the most misunderstood aspects of taking advantage of educational benefits earned through the military is that there is an expiration date for eligibility. The ability to use benefits for active duty personnel begins immediately after leaving active duty and expires after 10 years. However, those who return to active duty later and remain on duty for at least 90 consecutive days are allowed extra time. The 10-year period starts over and resets when this active duty ends.
Are GI Educational Benefits Considered Financial Aid?Receiving benefits under the GI Bill is not considered traditional financial aid because they are not paid to the financial aid office at the school, but are paid directly to the recipient. The financial aid office at the school may require the student to sign a promissory note prior to enrollment. Receiving GI Bill benefits does not exclude eligibility for scholarships or Pell Grants. The benefits received under the GI Bill will however reduce the amount of any other financial sources.
Do I Have to Be Continuously Enrolled to Keep GI Educational Benefits?Students do not have to remain in school continuously in order to receive full benefits. Recipients of educational benefits through MGIB are allowed to attend classes for any period and then take time off. It is possible to take advantage of this option and then re-apply to use it again later. The misconception that they must be continuously enrolled sometimes causes unnecessary stress for students who must hold down a job while attending classes.
In order to receive benefits on a monthly basis, it is required that recipients verify enrollment status every month. Monthly direct deposits of benefits will only be received with verification. Because some are eligible for more than one educational benefit, the veteran must choose which one to receive. Only one can be received at one time.
Those interested in using the MGIB to further their education should keep in mind the time limit restrictions and apply for the earned benefits before it is too late. The many advantages offered through the MGIB are well-worth the time invested in completing the simple application to start the process.
About Author: Scott Belford writes on topics related to business, entertainment, and education - such as the military-friendly education programs offered at Redstone College, which provides education for veterans seeking to gain job skills to help start or advance their careers.