Fact #1. You have 10 - 15 years to use your GI Bill benefits.
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 time limit, you should know that if you rejoin active-duty service for more than 90 days before your time limit expires the clock resets. In other words, you get 10 - 15 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 twelve years remaining on her GI Bill clock. At that point, the clock is reset at the 15-year mark when she leaves the active duty service again, at which point the 15 year clock will start ticking again. She now has a fresh 15 years left to use ALL of her benefits or she will lose her remaining balance, which then returns to Uncle Sam.
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.
Note: Although un-taxable, GI Bill benefit payments reduce the amount of student financial aid you are eligible to receive.
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 $1000 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 $1,928, 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 vets.gov 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!