GI Bill: Top 5 Things to Know

(U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew C. Duncker)

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1. You May Have No Time Limit on Using Your GI Bill

Depending on your military separation date, you may not have a time limit on using your GI Bill.

If you left the military after Jan. 1, 2013, you have no time limit on using your GI Bill.

Those discharged prior to that and using the Montgomery GI Bill had 10 years from their discharge date to use all their GI Bill. Those discharged prior to Jan. 1, 2013, and using the Post-9/11 GI Bill have 15 years from their discharge to use all their GI Bill.

2. The Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bills Are Different

The older Montgomery GI Bill requires service members to pay $100 a month for their first 12 months of service. Then when a student is attending college, it pays a set dollar amount per month directly to the student.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn't require an upfront contribution and covers tuition at public colleges and universities, paying the school directly, and up to a certain amount at private institutions. It also provides a housing allowance.

3. You Can Stop and Start Using Your GI Bill as Needed

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 your 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 #1).

You can also use it as you progress toward your education goal. If you use your benefits wisely, your GI Bill benefits can help you finish your associate degree, work on your bachelor's, and later, complete your master's degree.

4. A 'Month' of Benefits Doesn't Always Mean a Month

The GI Bill benefits provide 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 the Post-9/11 GI Bill:

If you go to classes full time for either one month or 30 days, you use one month worth of benefits. For example, if your classes go from February 1 to March 15, you use 1.5 months of benefits (one month for February since it is a calendar month and half a month for March since you were in classes for 15 days).

For the Montgomery GI Bill:

If you are a veteran, you are basically charged one month of entitlement for each month of full-time training you take. 

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. 

If you are using your GI Bill for training other than college or vocational training, there are different rules. See our Flight Training, Apprenticeship/On-the-Job Training, or National Testing Programs pages for specific information.

5. The Post-9/11 GI Bill Pays According to the Number of Credits You Take and How Much Active-Duty Service You Have

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 credits pursued. If you are attending a public school, the Post-9/11 GI Bill can pay your full tuition directly to the school. You will receive a monthly housing allowance and up to $1,000 a year for books and supplies. The housing allowance is paid at a percentage based on your active-duty service and your credit load. See our Post-9/11 Overview page for detailed information.

The Montgomery 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 $2,358, while a half-time student will only get half that amount. Learn more about how GI Bill Payment Rates work.

You can apply for the GI Bill online by going to the VA's website and completing an online application. For more details, see the Post-9/11 GI Bill Application Process and get started using your benefits today!

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GI Bill Benefits