The Active Duty Montgomery GI Bill: User's Guide
Active Duty Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) benefits are available for servicemembers to help with education and training costs, you can become eligible if you are an active duty member who enrolls and pay $100 per month for 12 months. You are then entitled to receive a monthly education benefit once you have completed a minimum service obligation.
This guide includes the following topics:
- A MGIB Benefit Overview
- Step-by-Step Application Instructions
- Related GI Bill Programs
Note: MGIB benefits differ greatly from the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Click here to learn more about Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33).
Your GI Bill can be used to pay for many different programs including the following:
- College, Business Technical or Vocational Courses
- Distance Learning including Correspondence Courses
- Certification Tests
- Apprenticeship/Job Training (Veterans and Reserve Only)
- Flight Training
The Montgomery GI Bill is an education benefit which can be worth over $66K. This amount is based on the monthly full-time student payment rate of $1,857 multiplied by the 36-month limit. This "payment rate" automatically increases on the first of October each year. You get the annual increase no matter when you became eligible or begin using it.
The term "36 months of benefits" refers to academic months - time actually enrolled at the full-time rate of pursuit. This means you will have up to 8 semesters (four years) of traditional academic education.
Note: Your actual benefits may be higher if you signed up for the Army, Navy or Marine Corps College Funds.
You qualify for the GI Bill if:
- You contribute $100 a month for the first 12 months you are on active duty.
- You have completed High School or have an equivalency certificate before you apply for benefits.
- You have served at least 2 years on active duty.
Check out the GI Bill Eligibility Fact Sheet for more details.
Your MGIB Payment Rate - How much you get
Your GI Bill monthly payment rate is determined by two factors: your student status (full time, half time, or part time) and your duty status. In most cases you would be considered a full time student if you are taking 12 or more credits per semester.
If you are on active duty the GI Bill will only reimburse you for the actual tuition and expenses. But once you leave active duty service the GI Bill will pay the full payment rate no matter how much the tuition costs.
Click here to see the current GI Bill payment rates.
When To Use The GI Bill
You can begin using your benefit after 2 years of service, however before you choose to use the GI Bill you should know that it is usually not a good idea to use it while on active duty, because VA administers the Montgomery GI Bill differently for active duty and veterans. For instance a veteran is charged one month of benefits for each $1,857 - the current GI Bill "payment rate" - in education benefits used .
Example - If a veteran receives $7,428 and the current full-time payment rate is $1,857, divide $57,428 by $1,857. The veteran will be charged 4 months of the 36 months of benefits.
However if you are on active duty and go to school full-time for 4 months, you will still be charged 4 months of benefits even if your tuition is only $1,000.
Considering this, it only makes sense to use your GI Bill on active duty if your tuition costs are high or you use your "GI Bill Top-up" benefit.
The GI Bill has a time limit - expiration date. Once you have left the service you have ten years to use it. Any benefit remaining after the tenth anniversary is lost, and you will lose your $1,200 initial contribution.
Note: You should ALWAYS consult your Education Service Officer before using your GI Bill or taking any college classes. They are trained to give you the counseling that will help you avoid wasting your time and benefits.
How to Apply - Step-by-Step Application Instructions
Although the GI Bill application process can be time consuming it is relatively easy. In most cases the process will take you 4 steps, or less!
Find a school that has VA approved training or education programs. Be sure to ask the admissions counselor if the school meets the requirements to use the GI Bill.
Note: Most regionally and nationally accredited colleges and universities have VA approved programs.
Apply online using the VA's VONAPP program you can attach copies of your DD214 or any other documentation you think is necessary when you submit your online application.
Tip: You should speak to a counselor in your Voluntary Education Services Office to determine if you are eligible to participate in the GI-Bill Buy-up program before you start using your GI Bill. It could be worth up to an extra $5,400 in benefits.
Wait. It normally takes 4-8 weeks to hear back from the VA regarding your eligibility decision. You will eventually receive a declaration of eligibility and a letter explaining your GI Bill benefits. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon to get a letter from the VA requesting more information. You will have to answer the Department of Veteran's Affairs requests to be determined eligible and complete the process.
Once you begin receiving your benefit checks (Direct Deposit) you will have to complete the VA's Web Automated Verification of Eligibility (WAVE) process each month to continue to receive your monthly benefits payments.
The WAVE is a simple process that requires you to either log-on to the VA WAVE website or call their toll-free number at 877-823-2378. It only takes a couple of minutes, but you will not get your monthly payment until you do.