Tuition Assistance 'Top-Up' Program

Tuition Assistance

Top-Up is a program that allows GI Bill participants' to use the GI Bill to supplement the tuition and fees not covered by tuition assistance. The amount of the benefit can be equal to the difference between the total cost of a college course and the amount of Tuition Assistance that is paid by the military for the course.

Top-Up Eligibility

To be eligible for the Top-Up benefit, you must be approved for federal Tuition Assistance by a military department and be eligible for GI Bill benefits. To be eligible you must be an GI Bill participant, still on active duty, and must have served at least two full years.

The amount of the benefit is limited to the amount that the person would receive for the same course if regular GI Bill benefits were being paid. In no case can the amount paid by the military combined with the amount paid by VA be more than the total cost of the course.

If you receive the Top-Up benefit, your regular GI Bill benefits will be reduced. The amount of entitlement charged for Top-Up payments as follows:

  • If you are utilizing the Montgomery GI Bill your entitlement is charged based on the dollar amount of benefits VA pays you. You will be charged one month of entitlement for each payment you receive that is equal to the full time monthly rate for the GI Bill.
  • If you are utilizing the Post-9/11 GI Bill your entitlement is charged based on the training time you are enrolled in. If you are going to classes at the 1/2 time training level you will be charged 1/2 month of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for each month you are enrolled and receiving GI Bill benefits - (it does not matter how much money you are reimbursed)

The benefit is available for all courses that began on or after October 30, 2000. A copy of the Tuition Assistance Authorization form for the course that has been signed by an authorized military official will be required. People who have not requested MGIB benefits before should submit a VA Form 22-1990 to establish eligibility.

The application and other evidence should be sent to one of the VA's four education processing offices in Atlanta, Buffalo N.Y., Muskogee, Okla., or St. Louis.

The Top-Up program is not available at this time to persons who are eligible for the GI Bill for Selected Reserve program.

Frequently Asked Top-up Questions

Q: Can VEAP converters and service members eligible for MGIB based on Vietnam Era service receive the Top-up?

A: Yes, anyone who is eligible for MGIB - Active Duty (not MGIB - Selected Reserves) can receive the Top-up benefits.

Q: Is this a good deal for me?

Using Top-up is a good deal if you plan to use TA to complete a degree program while on active duty, and don't plan to continue your education after service. Top-up can also be helpful for just taking a few courses with TA while on active duty. Then you can save most of your MGIB to use after service to complete your education program.

You need to consider carefully your own situations, and check with your education officer or counselor, before applying for Top-up. For example, if you plan to take expensive courses using Top-up, you need to consider whether you'll take additional training after you're discharged from active duty. If so, you need to understand the effect of using the Top-up. You can then calculate whether your remaining benefits will cover the additional training you might need. 

Q: Is there a limit to the amount of Top-up I can use?

A: Yes, Top-up is limited to 36 months of payments.  For example, if you are paid Top-up for a 3-month course, you use 3 of the 36 months of Top-up.

Q: Does this mean if I use 36 months of Top-up, I've used up all my MGIB benefits?

A: Probably not.  The 36-month limit for Top-up is based on 1 month used for each month of Top-up paid no matter how much is paid.  Your regular MGIB entitlement is based on your full-time monthly rate.  For example, if your full-time rate is $1000 and you are paid $500 in Top-up, you only use 1/2 month of your MGIB ($500 is 1/2 of $1000).

Q: Can the Top-up apply retroactively, to training already received?

A: Yes, the Top-up can apply retroactively, but you must be eligible for the GI Bill, and we can only go back one year from the date your claim was/is received in VA and only for training in terms that began on or after October 30, 2000, which is the effective date of the law.

Q: What should I do to apply for Top-up?

A: If you want to use Top-up for winter term 2001 or later, go ahead and file the claim following the instructions below.

If you haven't previously filed a claim for GI Bill, you should do the following:

  • Request TA from your branch of service. See your education services officer or education counselor.
  • Complete an application for VA education benefits, VA Form 22-1990
  • Indicate "Top-up" on the VA application.
  • Send your TA approval form, along with the application for VA education benefits, to the VA Regional Processing Office that handles your claim. The address is on the form.
  • If you've previously filed a claim for MGIB and weren't denied benefits, simply submit your signed TA approval form to the VA Regional Processing Office that handles your claim.

Important: These claims are handled differently from claims for GI Bill without TA. For Top-up claims, you won't need to check in with the school official who certifies VA benefits. We won't need an enrollment certification on VA Form 22-1999. You won't need to check for approval of the program for VA benefits; approval isn't an issue. That's because Top-up is payable for any course for which TA is payable under DOD criteria.

VA determines your eligibility for GI Bill. If you're eligible for GI Bill, the TA approval form establishes your eligibility for Top-up. No certifications from the school are needed.

Q: What about the signatures on the TA approval form?

A: The TA approval form must be signed by the approving DOD officials. Some branches of service require the commanding officer's signature; some require the education service officer's signature.

Related Topics

GI Bill Benefits Tuition Assistance
 
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill
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