- As of November 2019 -
Education benefits are some of the most valuable benefits available to active service members and Veterans. Specifically, the Post-9/11 (Chapter 33) GI Bill gives the most support to eligible students. It is the top used GI Bill benefit, with 708,069 reported beneficiaries in FY 2018. The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays tuition, books and supplies, monthly military housing allowance (MHA), and a one-time rural benefit payment (if applicable).
Since many variables are involved, it’s hard to quote the exact total benefits you can receive from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. But the combination of tuition, books stipend, and MHA for a student in a four-year program receiving the maximum benefit amount could be approximately $166,312! That’s a very valuable benefit considering it takes the average student 20 years to pay off college debt.
If you dread the thought of completing a lengthy application with tons of attachments, don’t worry. Applying for this benefit is simple and the process has been streamlined over the years. Many schools have excellent Veteran Representatives that make the process nearly effortless on the student’s part.
Here’s the basic information you need to know.
Who’s Eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill?
To be eligible, you must have 90 days of Total Active Duty Service (TADS) after September 10, 2001. This doesn’t include basic training. For Reserve and Guard members, active duty time includes Title 10 for contingency operations, Title 32 for operational or national emergency service, and active duty for service-related medical reasons.
You can use benefits while on active duty or after you've left service.
Your length of service determines how much benefit you'll receive. To receive the full 100%, you’ll need to have served at least 36 months TADS. The benefit is incrementally less as you move down to the 90-day minimum. You can see the full table here.
Purple Heart recipients after September 11, 2001, automatically receive 100% of the benefit, no matter how long they served. This changed recently due to the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, or commonly known as the Forever GI Bill.
The time limit to use benefits has also been removed. Veterans who left service prior to January 1, 2013, need to use the benefit within 15 years. Veterans who left service after that date have no time limit to use benefits.
Breaking It Down
You may be entitled to benefits through another chapter of the GI Bill. Once you select the Post-9/11 benefit, you can’t use the others. You’ll most likely receive more financial benefits from the Post-9/11 but check out the others to be sure. The VA has a comparison tool to help you decide.
The school receives tuition payments directly. All tuition and fees are fully paid for in-State students at a Public School. If you’re an out of state student at a public school or attending a private of foreign school, the current annual cap is $24,476.79 for the academic year (current as of 2019-2020 school year). This cap varies so be sure to check for current rates on the VA’s website.
You may qualify for funding through the Yellow Ribbon Program if your non-resident public school or private school tuition is more expensive than the annual cap. Participating schools make an agreement with the VA to cover the additional costs at no cost to the student. You must be receiving the maximum 100% benefit to be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program. Note, service members on active duty are not eligible. Children using transferred benefits are eligible, but spouses are not (more on dependent further down)
You’ll get MHA payments monthly and books and supplies stipend per semester. The MHA is a real lifesaver for Veterans who need supplemental income after transitioning from service. These rates can change from year to year, but usually not drastically. You can always check for current rates on the VA’s website.
The allowance for books and supplies is distributed based on enrollment and caps at $1000 per academic year.
The rural benefit is a one time $500 payment for students in counties with 6 or less people per square mile and who need to relocate 500 miles or more to attend school or travel by air because no land travel options exist.
Your school’s certifying official must certify your attendance for payments to be released. Most schools are on top of this, but it’s good to be aware if you’ve noticed you haven’t received your benefit. It’s paid for the month prior, so you’ll be attending school for a month before your MHA kicks in.
You must attend courses at a physical location in order to receive the full MHA rate. If you take classes online, you’ll still get a portion of the MHA. Consider a combination of in-classroom and online classes to get the full rate.
Lastly, you need to know how your grades and attendance affect the benefit. Withdrawing from the course after it has begun will result in benefit repayment. If you complete the course but receive a failing grade, no money will be recouped. However, the class will count against your available benefits months. You may or may not have enough funds left to cover tuition for retaking the course if it’s a graduation requirement.
The following are the approved used of the Post 9/11 GI BILL from the VA Benefits site:
Transferring to Dependents
The most distinctive part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the ability to transfer benefits to your spouse, children, or a combination of both. It’s important to note the specific service requirements for doing so.
You must have served at least 6 years TADS but no more than 16 years. Also, note that you incur a 4 year active duty service commitment after completing the request to transfer the benefit. To expand, if you do not 'elect' to transfer your benefits until 10 years in, your 4 year commitment timer starts at THAT point. However, if you are shape-forced out after only 2 of those 4 years, your dependent still receives the transferred benefits since the service cut the commitment short. You can’t transfer benefits after you have left service but can makes changes to how you’ve distributed them among your dependents. In other words, any children you may have after you get out will not be able to use the benefit since they were not listed as a qualified dependent with an assigned distribution percentage while you were still serving.
Spouses can use the benefit immediately and are entitled to the same benefits that their service member would receive if they were using it. For this reason, spouses are not entitled to MHA if the service member is on Active Duty. The time limits to use the benefit are the same as noted above for service members.
Your children can use the benefit after you’ve served at least 10 years and regardless if you are still on active duty or not. The MHA/Active Duty exclusion does not apply to children, so they’ll receive MHA if you’re on Active Duty. Children can’t use benefits after they’ve reached the age of 26.
You’ve earned this benefit, now go out and use it!
Whether you choose the Post-9/11 GI Bill or another GI Bill component, be sure to use the educational benefits that you have earned through service to your country. It would be similar to not using leave days or giving back your clothing allowance. Who would do that?
If you already have an undergraduate degree, consider getting a graduate degree. This benefit pays for both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. As noted above, the GI Bill also pays for technical training, flight training, apprenticeships, and professional certifications. Don’t let your hard-earned benefits go to waste!
*Written in Coordination with Heather, Retired Army Veteran*
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