The Post-9/11 GI Bill Explained
What is the Post-9/11 GI Bill?
Generally speaking, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is an education benefit for the latest generation of service members and veterans (i.e., those who served after September 11, 2001). The GI Bill traces its history back to World War II when the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act was enacted to provide education and training, home loan guarantee, and other benefits for veterans. The most recent GI Bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008 and went into effect the following year. In 2017, certain parts of the GI Bill were updated again under the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also known as the “Forever GI Bill.”
In addition to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, there was also the Montgomery GI Bill. Generally speaking, in order to qualify under the Montgomery GI Bill, you have to elect to opt in to it when you first enter the military. Once you have elected the Montgomery GI Bill, you will pay $100 per month for the first 12 months of your active duty service. While the Post-9/11 GI Bill is similar in terms of the benefits offered, it differs with regard to eligibility requirements.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements for the Post-9/11 GI Bill?
Aside from receiving an honorable discharge, at least one of the following must be true in order to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill:
- Served at least 90 days on active duty (either all at once or with breaks in service) on or after September 11, 2001; or
- Received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged after any amount of service; or
- Served for at least 30 continuous days (all at once, without a break in service) on or after September 11, 2002 and were honorably discharged with a service-connected disability; or
- Are a dependent using benefits transferred by a qualifying veteran or service member; or
- “Reservists who served on active duty, activated for a major disaster or emergency, or mobilized by DoD in support of combatant command, may qualify for GI Bill benefits as well, but under different criteria”
What Programs Are Covered Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill?
As mentioned above, the Post-9/11 GI Bill offers many programs to veterans and their dependents. Such programs include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Entrepreneurship training
- Flight training
- Institutions of higher learning (i.e., undergraduate and graduate degrees)
- Licensing and certification reimbursement
- On-the-job training
- Tutorial assistance
- Vocational/technical training
Additionally, maximum GI Bill eligibility enables veterans to receive up to 36 months of benefits, including the following:
Tuition and Fees
If you qualify for the maximum benefit, VA covers the full cost of public, in-state tuition and fees. However, private or foreign programs are capped at $23,671.94 per academic year. Non-college degree granting institutions are also capped at 23,671.94 per academic year. The Post-9/11 GI Bill also provides money for books and supplies up to $1,000 per school year.
Money for Housing
If you are in school more than half time, the post-9/11 GI Bill will provide a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA). The amount of MHA you receive is based on the cost of living where you take the majority of your classes. For in-state schools, the MHA is equivalent to an E-5 with dependents Overseas Housing Allowance Rate for the school’s location. For students receiving the maximum benefit who are enrolled in online courses only, they will receive $859.50 in MHA.
Yellow Ribbon Program
This program allows approved institutions of higher learning and VA to partially or fully fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the established thresholds under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Apprenticeship and On-the-Job Training
The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers apprenticeship and on-the-job training. However, the monthly rate is dependent upon your applicable MHA:
|Training Period||Monthly Rate|
|First six months of training||100% of your applicable MHA|
|Second six months of training||80% of your applicable MHA|
|Third six months of training||60% of your applicable MHA|
|Fourth six months of training||40% of your applicable MHA|
|Remaining pursuit of training||20% of your applicable MHA|
Importantly, the benefits above apply to veterans who are eligible for maximum GI Bill coverage. However, other programs (e.g., flight school) are available with varying amounts of coverage. Visit VA’s website for more information.
Time in Service vs. GI Bill Benefit Amount
The amount of benefit a veteran or dependent is eligible for under the GI Bill depends on the amount of time the veteran served in the military. According to VA, GI Bill benefit amounts are as follows:
- 0-90 days of service – no benefits
- 90 days to 6 months of service – 50% of GI Bill benefits
- 6 to 12 months of service – 60% of GI Bill benefits
- 12 months or more of service – 100% of GI Bill benefits
Additional Benefits for STEM Fields
If a veteran is training in the science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields, then they may qualify for an additional scholarship program called The Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship Program. Importantly, this scholarship program is dependent on a veteran having already exhausted their original 36 months of GI Bill benefits. If they do exhaust such benefits then this scholarship program will allow veterans to apply for up to $30,000 in additional benefits. However, unlike the original 36 months of GI Bill benefits, which can be transferred to a dependent, this scholarship cannot be transferred to dependents. Instead, only the veterans can use it.
In order to apply, veterans must be enrolled in a STEM degree program and have completed at least 60 semester credit hours (or 90 quarter credit hours). Importantly, the Yellow Ribbon Program referenced above may not be used with this extension. Schools may apply Yellow Ribbon funding, but VA cannot match it. The following fields of study qualify for the STEM scholarship:
- Agriculture science or natural resources science program
- Biological or biomedical science
- Computer and information science and support services
- Engineering, engineering technologies, or an engineering-related field
- Health care or related program
- Mathematics or statistics
- Medical residency (undergraduate only)
- Physical science
- Science technologies or technicians
Do GI Bill Benefits Expire?
If your service ended before January 1, 2013, your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits will expire 15 years after your last separation date from active duty military service. In other words, you must use all of your benefits by that time or you will lose whatever is left.
If your service ended on or after January 1, 2013, your benefits will not expire due to the Forever GI Bill – enacted in 2017. Other important changes from the Forever GI Bill legislation in 2017 include:
- GI Bill benefits are restored to veterans whose school shut down mid-semester
- STEM Scholarship Program (see above)
- Post-9/11 Purple Heart Veterans are eligible regardless of length of service
Applying for GI Bill Benefits
There are a number of different ways in which veterans can apply for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits:
- Online using VA.gov;
- Call VA and request a form be sent to you, then mail that form to your local Regional Office;
- In person at your local VA Regional Office
- With the help of a VA-accredited representative
The application form will ask you for information regarding your military background, educational history, and the school you want to attend. It also ask for personal identifying information such as your social security number and your bank account numbers. This is important because while the tuition and fee payments go directly to the school you are attending, the housing and textbook allowances go straight to you. VA takes an average of 30 days to process these claims for benefits.
Transferring Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits
Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, those on active duty or select reserve may transfer unused benefits to eligible dependent children or a spouse. Transfer requests can only be submitted and approved while on active duty using a Transfer of Entitlement with the Department of Defense (DoD), not VA. Furthermore, at least one of the following conditions must be true:
- You have completed at least 6 years of service on the date your request is approved and you agree to add 4 more years of service; or
- You have completed at least 10 years of service on the date your request is approved, cannot commit to add 4 more years of service because of either a policy or statute, but agree to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed
The dependent must have enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).
Transfer Rules for Spouses and Children
Spouses are allowed to use the benefit right away. Moreover, they can use the benefits while the veteran is on active duty or after they have separated from service. However, spouses do not qualify for the MHA while the veteran is on active duty. Finally, spouses may use the GI Bill benefits for up to 15 years after the veterans’ separation from active duty service.
Dependent children on the other hand may start to use the benefit only after the veteran has finished 10 years of service. Once the 10-year period has passed, dependent children can use these benefits while the veteran is on active duty or after separation from service. Additionally, dependent children may not use the benefit until they have received a high school diploma (or equivalent), or have reached 18 years of age. Unlike spouses, dependent children qualify for the monthly housing allowance even while the veteran is on active duty. Finally, dependent children do not have to use the benefit within 15 years of the veteran’s separation from active duty service; however, they cannot use the benefit after they have turned 26 years old.
If the dependent that received the veteran’s Post-9/11 GI Bill passes away, the benefits can be transferred to another living dependent.
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