The U.S. Congress passed the first GI Bill legislation in 1944. America was a different place after World War II and Congress recognized the need to assist returning service members who were about to be discharged from their military service. Roosevelt's sweeping legislation paved the way for a new generation of veterans to train to become lawyers, doctors, scientists and more.
Today, the two most common GI Bills include the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill. Both provide military education benefits for the vast majority of active-duty service members, their dependents and veterans. In addition to the GI Bill, there are many other education benefits for service members--these include Military Tuition Assistance and Tuition Top-Up.
Military Tuition Assistance. Military Tuition Assistance (TA) is a great benefit, if you are on active duty. Paying up to $250 per credit and having an annual $4,500 cap, you can take 18 credits per year at little or no cost to you.
Tuition Top-Up. Tuition Top-Up is a military education benefit used with TA. If your tuition exceeds what TA pays, you can use Top-Up to pay the difference. How it works is your service branch pays all of your tuition and the VA reimburses your branch for the amount that Tuition Assistance does not cover. In turn, the VA converts this dollar amount into months and days of entitlement and reduces your GI Bill Benefits by that amount. Top-Up is a great way to extend your GI Bill benefits.
The GI Bill: Montgomery GI Bill and Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) is the older of the two most popular GI Bills; however, depending on your educational goals, it may be the best option for you. The MGIB is traditionally more liberal in the types of programs it covers. Aside from post-secondary programs, the Montgomery GI Bill also covers programs and certifications such as:
With three years of service, you qualify for 36 months of military education benefits. With less than three years, you get a month of benefit for each month served.
Post-9/11 GI Bill is the newest benefit-packed GI Bill for service members, veterans and families. With three years or more of active duty after September 10, 2001, you get 36 months of military education benefit.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill also includes the Yellow Ribbon Program. If your school participates in the Yellow Ribbon program, the university can pay up to half of the difference not paid by the Post-9/11 GI Bill, with the VA paying an equal amount. This substantially reduces the balance that you have to pay. Both veterans and family members with transferred benefits may use this program.
GI Bill Rates
With the MGIB, you get paid a fixed amount that is dependent on your rate of pursuit:
With less than three years of service, each amount is reduced by approximately 19%. In either case, you are responsible for paying for your tuition, fees and any other education-related expenses.
With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the VA pays your tuition and eligible fees directly to your school, up to the VA maximum amount. This amount traditionally varies because the covered amount is based on tuition rates at your state's most expensive public school undergraduate program.
With the GI Bill, you can also receive a housing allowance based on an E-5 with dependents pay grade. There are some exceptions to getting the housing allowance and you may not receive the allowance if you are:
Your other payment is a book stipend, up to a yearly amount of $1,000 payable at $41.67 per credit hour. Like the housing allowance, you cannot receive a book stipend if your spouse is on active duty.
Applying for Benefits
To use either GI Bill, you have to apply for benefits in one of two ways:
Veterans submit VA Form 22-1990 while dependents use VA Form 22-1990e. In return, you get back a Certificate of Eligibility that you will need when you enroll in school. Once the school's Certificate of Enrollment matches up with your certificate at the VA, your payments begin.