Broadly, the GI Bill is a federal program that helps qualifying veterans cover the cost of education. The amount and scope of this benefit varies depending on the type of military service you have completed. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there is a distinct program within the GI Bill to assist active duty, Selected Reservists and those who served after September 11, 2001.
Active Duty GI Bill
The Montgomery GI Bill for active duty military personnel provides a monthly stipend for a maximum of 36 months to help cover the costs of your education program. The benefit helps finance tuition for traditional degree programs, flight school, correspondence courses and certificate programs. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the GI Bill is valid any time within 10 years of leaving active duty service.
To qualify for the GI Bill stipend, you must enlist in any U.S. branch of military service. In addition, the VA requires you to contribute $100 every month for 12 months while you are on active duty. Once you complete the contribution period, you are eligible to receive the education benefit upon fulfilling the term of your enlistment.
You may be eligible for education benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve if you are part of the Selected Reserve component of the following services: Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard or Army. The Selected Reserve GI Bill also provides a monthly stipend to cover the cost of tuition of a college degree, flight training and certificate or vocational programs.
To qualify for GI Bill benefits under the Selected Reserve program, you must enlist for at least six years in the Selected Reserve. If you are an officer, the program requires you to serve six years in the Selected Reserve in addition to your original service obligation. Enlisted members and officers remain eligible for benefits if they remain in good standing until service is complete or are discharged as a result of disability. You lose eligibility if you are discharged for misconduct.
Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers the most comprehensive package of benefits for qualified veterans. The program covers tuition and fees and a housing and book allowance if you attend a college or university. In addition, a single rural benefit is available for certain veterans.
According to the VA, the tuition benefit is paid directly to the school and limited to the highest in-state tuition rate at a public university. The housing benefit is based on the allowance of an E-5 and dependents. In addition, the book allowance is $1,000 if you are enrolled full-time.
Since November 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is available to veterans with at least 90 days of military service performed after September 11, 2001, and discharged with an honorable discharge. If you are discharged as a result of a disability associated with military service, you must serve a minimum of 30 days to qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.