Everything You Need to Know About the GI Bill

Does the GI Bill cover all of your college costs?

In general, the GI Bill is an education benefit provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to help military service members complete their education. But, there isn’t a specific GI Bill definition since each person’s benefits will vary.

For a quick bit of GI Bill history, it was passed for the first time in 1944 to assist soldiers coming from World War II in getting a quality education. Since its inception, the GI Bill has helped millions of service members earn degrees and certifications that have helped them secure a brighter future that might otherwise not have been possible. The GI Bill continues to grow and change with the current political and military climate and countless military members use these benefits each and every year.

There are two different GI Bills that you may be eligible for in order to help pay for your education: Montgomery GI Bill vs. Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The first thing to know is that if you qualify for both benefits, you’ll have to choose which one you’d like to receive. You’ll be unable to change your mind once you’ve made your decision, so choose carefully.

 

How Much Does the GI Bill Pay per Month?

The exact amount that your GI Bill will pay per month varies depending on which type of GI Bill you’re receiving.

The amount you’ll receive if you qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill (also known as the Chapter 33 GI Bill) depends on your educational program or institution, the amount of time you’ve spent serving in the military, and how many credit hours you are pursuing in school. The amount of money you’ll receive is calculated based on a percentage of the maximum benefits you’re eligible for.

If you qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you’ll receive 36 months of benefits including:

  • Tuition and fees that covers the full cost of public, in-state schools and pays up to the cap for private and foreign schools
  • Money for housing (if you’re in school more than half-time) made possible by the GI Housing Allowance Bill. In many cases, you’ll be able to qualify for funds to cover housing based on the cost of living where your school is located
  • Money for books and supplies
  • A one-time payment of $500 to help you move from a rural area to get an education, if you qualify

As far as the percentage you’ll receive from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a brief breakdown is as follows:

  • If you’ve completed 90 days of service, you’ll receive 40% of the maximum value of the Post-9/11 GI Bill before August 1, 2020
  • On or after August 1, 2020, if you’ve completed 90 days of service, you’ll receive 50% of the maximum
  • If you’ve completed three years of service, you’ll receive 100% of the maximum benefits

If you’re receiving benefits from the Montgomery GI Bill, you’ll be paid for 36 months based on:

  • Your length of service
  • The type of educational or training program you’ve chosen
  • The category in which you have GI Bill eligibility
  • Whether or not you qualify for a college fund or kicker
  • How much you’ve paid into the $600 Buy-Up Program

You might also be wondering, is GI Bill taxable income? The short answer is no and your GI Bill payments should not be reported as income on your taxes. This also means that you won’t be able to take deductions or credits for expenses paid for with the benefits of your GI Bill.

 

How Much Does the GI Bill Pay for College?

Now that we’ve talked about everything that GI Bill funds can be used for, let’s talk about how much it will actually pay for college. This number will be different for everyone, but it’s good to have an idea about what’s covered.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

Again, the amount of benefits you’ll receive for college depends on how much your education institution charges for credit hours, how long you’ve served in the military, and whether you are studying full-time or part-time. There are maximum benefits, though, that are updated every year.

If you plan to attend a private college or an out-of-state school and need more funds, you can apply for the Yellow Ribbon Program which may present you with the additional money you’re looking for.

Here’s a list of scholarships you may be eligible to apply for.

In 2019, if you qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, the maximums are:

  • Tuition and fees 100% covered at a public, in-state college
  • Up to $23,671.94 per academic year for private or foreign educational institutions as well as for non-college degree-granting institutions
  • For training for an apprenticeship or on-the-job training, you’ll receive
  1. Up to 100% of your applicable Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) for the first six months of training
  2. Up to 80% of your applicable MHA for the second six months of training
  3. Up to 60% of your applicable MHA for the third six months of training
  4. Up to 40% of your applicable MHA for the fourth six months of training
  5. Up to 20% of your applicable MHA for the remaining pursuit of your training
  • Up to $13,526.81 per academic year for vocational flight schools
  • Up to $11,497.78 per academic year for correspondence schools
  • Up to $1,000 per year for books and supplies based on enrollment
  • A one-time rural relocation benefit of $500
  • The Monthly Housing Allowance for those enrolled in full-time study with rates varying from:
  1. $1,650 for foreign school
  2. Current Overseas Housing Allowance Rate for an E-5 with dependant for schools in U.S. territories
  3. $825 for online school with no classroom instruction

Montgomery GI Bill

Similar to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the amount paid for college will depend on various factors including your length of service and your education program.

Effective as of October 1, 2018, the maximum benefits that the Montgomery GI Bill for Active Duty are as follows.

If you’ve completed three or more years of service and are enrolled in institutional training, you’ll get:

  • Up to $1,994.00 per month for full-time training
  • Up to $1,495.50 per month for ¾ time training
  • Up to $997.00 per month for ½ time training
  • Up to $997.00 per month for less than ½ time but more than ¼ time training
  • Up to $498.50 per month for ¼ time or less training

If you’ve completed three or more years of service and are enrolled in an apprenticeship or on-the-job training, you’ll get:

  • Up to $1,495.50 per month for the first six months of training
  • Up to $1,096.70 per month for the second six months of training
  • Up to $697.90 per month for the remainder of your training

If you’ve completed three or more years of service and are:

  • Enrolled in correspondence or flight school, you’ll get an entitlement charged at the rate of one month for each $1,994.00 paid
  • Enrolled in cooperative training, you’ll get up to $1,994.00

If you’ve completed less than three years of service and are enrolled in institutional training, you’ll get:

  • Up to $1,619.00 per month for full-time training
  • Up to $1,214.25 per month for ¾ time training
  • Up to $809.50 per month for ½ time training
  • Up to $809.50 per month for less than ½ time but more than ¼ time training
  • Up to $404.75 per month for ¼ time or less training

If you’ve completed less than three years of service and are enrolled in an apprenticeship or on-the-job training, you’ll get:

  • Up to $1,214.25 per month for the first six months of training
  • Up to $890.45 per month for the second six months of training
  • Up to $566.65 per month for the remainder of your training

If you’ve completed less than three years of service and are:

  • Enrolled in correspondence or flight school, you’ll get an entitlement charged at the rate of one month for each $1,619.00 paid
  • Enrolled in cooperative training, you’ll get up to $1,619

Finally, for those who have additional entitlements under Chapter 34 of Title 38, U.S.C. Chapter 30 Category II, these are the maximum rates, effective October 1, 2017.

For those enrolled in institutional training, you’ll receive:

  • Up to $2,182.00 per month without dependents, $2,218.00 per month with one dependent, $2,249.00 per month with two dependents, and $16 more per month for each additional dependent if you’re studying full-time
  • Up to $1,637.00 per month without dependents, $1,663.50 per month with one dependent, $1,687.00 per month with two dependents, and $12 more per month for each additional dependent if you’re studying ¾ time
  • Up to $1,091.00 per month without dependents, $1,109.00 per month with one dependent, $1,124.50 per month with two dependents, and $8.50 more per month for each additional dependent if you’re studying ½ time
  • Up to $1,091.00 per month regardless of how many dependents you care for if you’re studying less than ½ time but more than ¼ time
  • Up to $545.50 per month regardless of how many dependents you care for if you’re studying ¼ time or less

For those enrolled in an apprenticeship or on-the-job training, you’ll receive:

  • Up to $1,598.25 per month without dependents, $1,610.63 per month with one dependent, $1,621.50 per month with two dependents, and $5.25 more per month for each additional dependent for the first six months of training
  • Up to $1,153.08 per month without dependents, $1,162.43 per month with one dependent, $1,170.13 per month with two dependents, and $3.85 more for each additional dependent for the second six months of training
  • Up to $721.70 per month without dependents, $727.83 per month with one dependent, $732.55 per month with two dependents, and $2.45 more for each additional dependent for the third six months of training
  • Up to $709.80 per month without dependents, $715.58 per month with one dependent, $720.83 per month with two dependents, and $2.45 more for each additional dependent for the remainder of your training

For those enrolled in cooperative training from October 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019, you’ll receive up to $2,182.00 per month without dependents, $2,218.00 per month with one dependent, $2,249.00 per month with two dependents, and $16 more per month for each additional dependent.

Those enrolled in correspondence training will receive 55% of approved charges and those enrolled in flight school will receive 60% of approved charges.

Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve

The Montgomery GI Bill also has a section for those serving in the Reserves. If you qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve and are enrolled in institutional training, you’ll receive:

  • Up to $384.00 per month if studying full-time
  • Up to $287.00 per month if studying ¾ time
  • Up to $191.00 per month if studying ½ time
  • Up to $96.00 per month if studying ¼ time

For those enrolled in an apprenticeship or on-the-job training under the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve, you’ll receive:

  • Up to $288.00 per month for the first six months of training
  • Up to $211.20 per month for the second six months of training
  • Up to $134.40 per month for the remainder of your training

Be aware that these rates do adjust so make sure you’re keeping up to date with any changes to the GI Bill maximums.

 

What Are My GI Bill Benefits?

There are quite a few ways you can use the benefits of your GI Bill but they’re all related to getting your education. You’ll be able to use your funds in a variety of ways that can set you on the path to success.

For starters, you can start working toward an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree with your benefits. With the Post-9/11 GI Bill you’re also offered a tuition assistance top-up program and tutorial assistance (yes, the VA can help pay for a tutor) and you’ll be on your way to a bright future.

You may also be eligible to receive funds for foreign education programs or accelerated payments for high-technology programs.

Plus, you can even take classes from home. The GI Bill benefits can cover correspondence training or independent and distance learning as well.

The GI Bill also allows you to train in a specific trade, industry, or career if you choose to do so. This might include vocational/technical training and non-college degree programson-the-job training and GI Bill apprenticeshipentrepreneurship training, GI Bill flight training, a VET TECH program, and can help with the fees to take standardized tests. College isn’t for everyone and these other benefits and GI Bill certification options can certainly open doors to a plethora of opportunities.

In other cases, your GI Bill could help you pay for remedial courses, deficiency courses, and refresher courses, too.

Your GI Bill benefits might also go toward opportunities to work while you’re studying which include co-op training and work-study programs.

 

Do You Have to Pay Back the GI Bill?

No, the GI Bill is paid directly to you based on your circumstances and won’t be paid back. In fact, you’ll be eligible to apply for additional financial aid and grants for education since the GI Bill isn’t considered financial aid in the first place. The military can also help pay back the student loans you’ve incurred prior to or after serving.

The only reason you might have to pay back your GI Bill benefits is if you receive a non-punitive grade, meaning you dropped the class before you received a grade that counted towards your degree. These grades don’t count for or against you meaning that the VA will want that money back. It’s as if you never took a class in the first place which can be a good thing for your GPA but you’ll have to repay that money since you didn’t get any credit.

 

GI Bill Contact Information

There’s a lot of information out there about the GI Bill and it’s easy to get confused. There are a few ways to get in contact in order to get your questions answered.

Compare your GI Bill benefits based on the school you attend. This GI Bill benefits calculator helps determine what benefits you might be entitled to.

You can also send an email with your questions through the GI Bill website online question tool.

GI Bill Phone Number

Looking for a simple phone number to call for questions about your GI Bill? No problem. Contact the VA by calling 888-GIBILL-1 (888-442-4551) Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET.

 

FAQs

What does the GI Bill pay for?

The GI Bill pays for qualified service members to receive an education for 36 months which can include covering tuition and fees, training programs, apprenticeships, and more while also often including housing, books and supplies, test fees, and in some cases, relocation.

Who is eligible for the GI Bill education benefits?

To be eligible for the Post-911 GI Bill you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • You served at least 90 days on active duty, either all at once or with breaks, on or after September 11, 2001
  • You received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001 and were honorably discharged after any amount of service
  • You served for at least 30 continuous days on or after September 11, 2001 and were honorably discharged with a service-related disability
  • You’re a dependent child using benefits transferred from a qualifying Veteran or service member
  • In some circumstances, you may also be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill if you’re a member of the Reserves who lost educational benefits when the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) was discontinued in November 2015

To be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill you must fall into one of these categories:

  • Category I
  1. You have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit
  2. You entered into active duty for the first time after June 30, 1985
  3. You had your military salary reduced by $100 per month for your first 12 months of service
  4. You must also have served continuously for either 1) three years, 2) two years, if agreed upon at the time of enlistment, or 3) four years if you entered the Selected Reserve within a year of leaving active duty
  • Category II
  1. You have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit
  2. You entered into active duty for the first time before January 1, 1977 (or before January 2, 1978, under a delayed enlistment program contracted before January 1, 1977)
  3. You served for at least one day between October 19, 1984 and June 30, 1985, and stayed on active duty through June 30, 1988 (or through June 30, 1987 if you entered the Selected Reserve within one year of leaving active duty and served four years)
  4. Had at least one day of entitlement left under the Vietnam Era GI Bill (also known as the Chapter 34 GI Bill) as of December 31, 1989
  • Category III
  1. You have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit
  2. You don’t qualify for Category I or II
  3. You had your military salary reduced by $1,200 before separation
  4. You also must have been on active duty on September 30, 1990, and involuntarily separated after February 2, 1991; involuntarily separated on or after November 30, 1993; or chose to voluntarily separate under either the Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI) program or the Special Separation Benefit (SSB) program
  • Category IV
  1. You have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit
  2. You had you military salary reduced by $100 per month for 12 months or made a $1,200 lump-sum contribution
  3. You also must have been on active duty on October 9, 1996, had money left in a VEAP account on that date, and chosen the Montgomery GI Bill before October 9, 1997; or have entered full-time National Guard duty under title 32, U.S.C. between July 1, 1985 and November 28, 1989 and chosen the Montgomery GI Bill between October 9, 1996 and July 9, 1997

To be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve you must:

  • Agree to serve in the Selected Reserve for six years or you are an officer in the Selected Reserve and you agreed to serve an additional six years to your original service obligation (in both cases, your obligation of service must have started after June 30, 1985, or, for some types of training after September 30, 1990
  • Complete your initial active duty training
  • Get a high school diploma or certificate of equal value (12 hours of college credit cannot be used for this requirement)
  • Stay in good standing while serving in an active Selected Reserve unit unless discharged due to a disability

There aren’t grade requirements necessary to be eligible for the GI Bill and your benefits will pay for you to retake the class if you fail. Obviously, it’s not ideal to fail a class since it will then take longer to complete your degree and some schools can kick you out after failing too many times. But on the other hand, dropping a class means you’ll have to repay the VA for those credits.

If you’re eligible for the GI Bill, apply either by mail, in person, or with the help of a VA professional. Once you apply, it usually takes around 30 days for the VA to process your claim.

How much do you get with the GI Bill?

Actual payments from the GI Bill vary depending on your educational program, years of service, hours enrolled, and other factors.

Find the full breakdown of the most current GI Bill rates here.

How many years is the GI Bill good for?

In most cases, the GI Bill is good for 36 months of education and the benefits expire depending on when you were discharged from active duty.

For Post-9/11 GI Benefits:

  • If your service ended before January 1, 2013, your benefits will expire 15 years after your separation date.
  • If your service ended on or after January 1, 2013, your benefits won’t expire thanks to the Forever GI Bill – Henry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act.

For Montgomery GI Bill Benefits, you’ll usually only have ten years to use them but this may change depending on your situation.

If you’ve been awarded GI Bill benefits, you’ll receive a GI Bill Statement of Benefits where you can find out how much of your benefits you’ve used and how much is left.

Do you have to pay back the GI Bill?

In most cases, no. The GI Bill is not considered financial aid and is instead paid directly to you. You might be required to sign a promissory note or apply for a student loan paid for with the GI Bill funds, but, in general, the GI Bill is a payment, not a loan.

You will have to pay back the GI Bill if you drop a class that your benefits had paid for.

Can the children of a veteran use the GI Bill to pay for college?

Yes, it is possible for a GI Bill transfer, but only with the Post-9/11 GI Bill. If you qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you can transfer all or a portion of your benefits to a spouse or child to use on their education. All types of Montgomery GI Bills are not transferable.

Why is my GI Bill payment late 2019?

GI Bill payout dates are monthly and are scheduled to be paid after each month of school that you complete.

To find out your projected GI Bill payment dates, you’ll want to use the next business day after your transaction date of your GI Bill WAVE Certification Transaction page and use this 2019 GI Bill payment schedule to determine when you should receive funds.

Contact the VA if you believe you’ve still received a late payment of your GI Bill benefits.

 

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