GI Bill: Top 5 Things to Know

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

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Fact #1 - You May Have No Time Limit On Using Your GI Bill

Depending on when you get out of the military 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 have 10 years from their discharge date to use all their GI Bill or they lose it. 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.

Fact #2 - The GI Bill Is Not Federal Financial Aid

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.

Fact #3 - You Can Stop And Start Using The 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 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.

Fact #4 - A "Month" Of Benefits Doesn't Always Mean A Month

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 the Post-9/11 GI Bill:

If you go to classes full time for either 1 month or 30 days you use 1 month worth of benefits. For example, if your classes go from February 1 to March 15 you use 1.5 months of benefits (1 month for February - since it is a calendar month, and 1/2 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. In this example a "month" actually does mean a month. 

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.

Fact #5 - The 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 credit 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 $2,210, 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