U.S. Army Education Benefit: The GI Bill
When it comes to veterans’ education benefits, soldiers and veterans often think they know all about "the" GI Bill. What many don't know, however, is there are now two primary GI Bills—and some may be eligible to for both versions.
The Old and New GI Bills
The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) was the go-to benefits for decades for soldiers looking to earn degrees. Under the MGIB (also known as the "old" GI Bill or Chapter 30), soldiers signed up during their enlistment and paid the $1,200 contribution during their first year of service.
In August 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect. Also known as the New GI Bill or Chapter 33, this version of the GI Bill differs from its older sibling in important ways, such as:
Soldiers don't need to sign up or pay into this program
All members of the Army who served a minimum of 90 days on or after September 11, 2001, are eligible
It applies to both enlisted and officer personnel
Selected Reserve personnel qualify, based on the number of days of mobilization or deployment
Comparing the Two GI Bills
The benefits of the two programs are vastly different. The MGIB pays you a fixed monthly amount; you pay your own tuition and fees and your benefits expire ten years from your discharge date.
Under the New GI Bill, the VA pays your school directly for your tuition and fees. It also has a tiered level of benefits. Ninety days of service qualifies you at the 40 percent level, three years or more entitles you to 100 percent. At the highest level, the VA pays up to the maximum in-state public school undergraduate program rate. New GI Bill eligibility expires fifteen years from the discharge date.
Transfer of Veteran Education Benefits to Dependents
One long desired benefit, now found in the New GI Bill, is the ability to transfer education benefits to your spouse or dependent children. To do so, you must:
Have at minimum of six years of military service and make a commitment to serve at least four more
Have served for at least ten years and be near retirement, or prevented by regulation from serving an additional four years, in which case you may qualify for a shorter additional period of service
Transfer your benefits while still on active duty
Who Is Eligible for the GI Bill?
To receive full education benefits under either GI Bill, you must serve at least 36 months, however, you can become eligible for the minimum New GI Bill benefit with as little as 90 days of service. Some veterans with service-connected medical separations qualify with as little as 30 days of service. Additionally, you must still be serving or have an honorable discharge to remain eligible.
Using Your GI Bill Benefits
When you start to use your MGIB, you must log onto the VA's GI Bill WAVE page to verify you are still enrolled in courses. This triggers the VA to pay you; the New GI Bill does not require you to verify enrollment though GI Bill WAVE.
While working to provide the same end-goal, these GI Bills have different sets of rules, benefits, and eligibility requirements. The first step to deciding which one is right for you is to understand your veterans education benefits.