Once you have separated from the service you have 10 years to use all of your benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill and 15 years to use your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Although separating from service "starts the clock" on your 10-year time limit, you should know that if you rejoin active-duty service for more than 90 days during the 10- year period, your 10-year clock is reset. In other words, you get 10 years from your last discharge.
Example: Seaman Smith left active duty and joined the Navy Reserve. Three years later she returned to active duty with seven years remaining on the MGIB clock. At that point, the clock is reset at the 10-year mark when she leaves the active duty service again, at which point the 10 year clock will start ticking again. She now has a fresh 10 years left to use ALL of her benefits or she will lose her remaining balance, which then returns to Uncle Sam.
The GI Bill is not considered Financial Aid in the traditional sense. College and University financial aid departments do not consider the GI Bill financial aid because it is normally paid directly to you, not the school. Most schools will require you to sign a promissory note or apply for student loans to pay them upfront. You will then be required to pay these loans - hopefully with your GI Bill payments.
This also means that you are eligible for student loans, scholarships, and Pell Grants along with the GI Bill.
Note: Although un-taxable, GI Bill benefit payments reduce the amount of student financial aid you are eligible to receive.
Unfortunately, many people believe that once you apply for benefits you have to remain enrolled in school to get the full benefit. Thankfully that's not true; you can use the GI Bill for any period of time. Take time off and re-apply to use it again at a later date (keeping in mind fact number one).
You can also use it as you progress towards your education goal. If you use your benefits wisely, your GI Bill benefits can help you finish your associates, work on your bachelor's, and later, complete your master's degree.
The GI Bill benefit provides 36 months of education benefits. The term "months" can often be confusing. The "36 months" of benefits does not mean you have only 36 months to use it, nor does it mean you must use it all in one 36 month period.
There are two ways the term month is used. One way is for active duty, and the other is used for veterans. The following should help you to better understand this aspect of the GI Bill.
For Veterans: Every time you use the current maximum "payment rate" of MGIB benefits, you use a month of your 36 months of benefits. In this example a "month" doesn't really mean a month.
Here is what the VA says:
"If you are a veteran and you receive $5,284, and your full-time MGIB rate is $1,321, divide $5,284 by $1,321. Your entitlement charge is four months.
However for active duty:
If you are on active duty and you go to school full-time for four months, but your tuition is only $1,000, you will still be charged for four months of your 36 month entitlement. In this example a "month" actually does mean a month.
The GI Bill payment rates are based on several factors, the biggest being your credit load. For example a full-time student using the Montgomery GI Bill will get up to $1,564, while a half-time student will only get half that amount. Learn more about how GI Bill Payment Rates work.
It is also important to know that the MGIB Payment rates increase every year. See the current GI Bill payment rate tables to view the details and this year's payment rate.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays according to several factors, the main factors being number of months served on active duty and the number of credit pursued.
You can apply for the GI Bill by filling out and following the instructions on VA Form 22-1990, Application for Education Benefits. For more details, see the Post-9/11 GI Bill Application Process and get started using your benefits today!
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