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 is not available for anyone using the Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve program..
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 a 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 using 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)
- If you are using 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.
A copy of the Tuition Assistance Authorization form for the course that has been signed by an authorized military official will be required by the school and the VA. You must apply for GI Bill using the VA's VETS.GOV website before using the Top-up benefit.
Frequently Asked Top-up Questions
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 GI Bill benefits?
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 the VA can only go back one year from the date your claim was/is received.
Q: What should I do to apply for Top-up?
A: 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, using the VA's VETS.GOV website.
- 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.
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.