Use it or Lose it

Graduation cap on a book next to a degree.

The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) is named after the former Rep. G. V. "Sonny" Montgomery. Rep. Montgomery was known for his bipartisanship and strong advocacy for our men and women in uniform.

The active-duty MGIB program (Chapter 30) provides up to 36 months of education benefits. Participating servicemembers take a $100 per month pay reduction during their first year of enlistment to be eligible. These contributions are not refundable. Benefits are payable for a 10-year eligibility period, called the delimiting period. While proposed legislation could eventually extend or eliminate the delimiting period, the 10-year clock currently starts upon discharge from active duty.

I am struck by the fact that nearly 30 percent of those contributing to the MGIB never use their MGIB benefits! Additionally, of the 71 percent of veterans that use their benefits [within the 10 year period], the average person used less than half (16.5months) of their full benefits (36 months)!

If I told you that 29 percent of people contributing $1,200 to a 401K account (like the Federal Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) never saw that money again - you might find it unbelievable. Yet the present underutilization of the MGIB is tantamount to this loss. This represents hundreds of millions of dollars of lost education benefits. We can do better.

Servicemembers participating in the MGIB should be reminded of the present 10-year delimiting period, after which time their MGIB benefits are forever lost. And they should be encouraged to make a plan to use this great benefit.

Participating servicemembers need to remember, when it comes to the GI Bill - USE it or LOSE it!

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