You’ve served your contract in the armed forces. Now, it’s time to start the next phase of your life with a new civilian career. Veterans education benefits may be the key to getting that new career on the road.
There are over 18.8 million veterans in the US. Most of them are eligible for some form of educational benefits. But, which program is right for you?
Read on to find out how you can use your VA education benefits.
Your Complete Guide to Veterans Education Benefits
There are many VA education benefits offered to veterans of the armed services. But, they’ve changed over time. This guide provides details on the most common VA education benefits and programs.
What you qualify for depends on several factors. Time in service, contribution to a specific program and even your disability status can make you eligible for different education benefits.
You’ll also need to choose a college, trade school or institution that is approved by the VA.
These are the most common education benefits offered to veterans. Read the descriptions for more information on each program.
Montgomery GI Bill – Chapter 30
Until 2008, the Montgomery GI Bill was the main program offered to active duty and select reserve service members. The program pays a specific amount directly to the veterans while they attend an approved college program.
There are two different programs, one for Active Duty and one for Select Reserves. They each work a little differently and have their own set of requirements and benefits.
Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty
Here are some details about the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty.
- A veteran must have paid around $1,200 into the program during active duty
- 2 years of active duty service required to qualify
- 36 months of payments direct to veteran
- Must attend an approved program and college
- Use within 10 years of leaving active duty service
- The Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty pays out for the following type of training.
- College and University degrees
- Approved Vocational and Trade School Programs
- Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training
- Flight Training Programs
- Certification Exams
Your enrollment status determines your payment amount. If you are a full-time student, the current payment amount is around $1,800. The payment is decreased if you are a 3/4 or 1/2 time student and can be impacted by other factors.
You can even go to school online, but your enrollment status still applies.
On the job training and apprenticeships pay differently. In the first six months, you’ll receive just over approximately $1,500 a month. The amount reduces to around $1,000 for the next six months of training.
You can actually use your Montgomery GI Bill while still on active duty, but it only pays out the cost of tuition and fees.
Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve
The Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve is a little different. Here are some details about the program.
- Eligible with a 6-year commitment
- Complete initial active duty training
- Serve actively with a Selected Reserve drill unit
Are you a reservist in an apprenticeship or on-the-job training program? You’ll receive a monthly payment of around $276 for approximately the first 6 months. Then, the payment reduces to around $200 for the 6 months after.
Post 9/11 GI Bill – Chapter 33
In 2009, the Post 9/11 GI Bill program was implemented. It works quite differently than the Montgomery GI Bill.
Service members who paid into the original GI Bill became eligible for this program. They were eligible for a refund of any payments made into the old program.
Here are the details of the Post 9/11 GI Bill:
- Pays 100% of tuition to in-state college or institution
- Can use as active duty or veteran
- Start using some benefits after 90 days of service
- Full benefits in effect after 36 months of service
- Pays 36 months of education benefits
- Includes monthly living stipend based on E-5 pay grade
- Pays $1,000 towards books and supplies per year
- Use within 15 years of military service
Vocational Rehabilitation – Chapter 31
Do you have a service-connected disability of 10% or more? You may be eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation educational benefits.
It pays differently than the GI Bill programs. You’ll need to apply and then see a veterans representative for specific details.
If you’d like to see if you qualify, go here.
The Yellow Ribbon Program
The Yellow Ribbon Program is one that pays in addition to your GI Bill. Not all schools participate in this program, and it’s determined on a case-by-case basis. It offers a significant benefit to veterans.
The program helps pay for costs outside of what the GI Bill programs cover. The VA matches what the college pays dollar for dollar. It’s a great program for veterans considering out of state colleges and universities.
Other Programs and Assistance
There are even more education benefits to help veterans go to college. It’s a good idea to visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website. You can read about and apply for any training and education benefits you may qualify for.
The GI Bill Kicker is a supplement program. It is used in conjunction with your GI Bill. It pays up to about $980 in addition to your GI Bill benefits.
Not all veterans have this benefit. It is usually offered as a signing incentive on your initial service contract. It can also be received in a re-enlistment package.
Tuition Assistance and Tuition Assistance Top-Up are programs used by active duty service members. Tuition Assistance pays 100% of tuition directly to the institution.
The Top Up program is designed to supplement Tuition Assistance. It pays some of the additional costs that Tuition Assistance doesn’t cover.
Work study is a fantastic program that is run through the college or university. Are enrolled in classes at least 3/4 time? You can apply to work for the work-study program through your veteran representative’s office.
You’ll need to sign a contract for a specified number of work hours, and it pays about $11 an hour.
Using Veterans Education Benefits
There are some basic steps to follow in order to use your benefits. See this list below for an easy guide to the process.
Step 1: Apply to College or Trade School
Before you can use benefits, you’ll need to be accepted into a college or trade school. You’ll select an educational program to apply for, too. Make sure you review all the information before you start. Most colleges have specific information for veterans on their website.
Every college application is different, but you’ll need your personal information for them all. Have all your personal information ready before you start the application. You’ll likely need your social security number and DD214 to prove you’re a veteran.
There will be an application fee. If you are a disabled veteran, some colleges allow you to waive it. Check the details on their website!
Step 2: Order Military Transcripts
These are just like college transcripts, only they detail your education from the military. You can actually get college credit for some of your training in the military. The more credit you get, the more you save on tuition! Here’s how you request them. You will need to provide college transcripts for any college or university you attended outside of military school as well.
Step 3: Meet Campus VA Representatives
Colleges and universities have a Veterans Affairs office or designated person right on campus. There will be at least one representative to help you through the process of using your benefits. They will be a great resource during your time in college.
Bring your DD214 and all college acceptance materials with you. Make a list of questions to ask. You want to fully understand your education benefits.
Step 4: Prepare Your Financial Aid Package
You may be eligible for financial aid programs outside of your veterans education benefits. And when you’re a student, any assistance helps!
All colleges require you to do a FAFSA application, so you’ll already be on track for looking at additional eligibility. Be aware of deadlines related to financial aid! Stop at your financial aid office for more information.
Step 5: Plan Your Budget and Expenses
Using veterans educational benefits and being a full-time student can mean you are living on a fixed income. Besides to school expenses, you’ll need to live. And, if you have a family, you may have even more costs to consider.
Budgeting with fixed income is a little different than a weekly paycheck. You’ll need to consider your payments over time.
Do a budget for the school year based on your expected payments from your VA education program and financial aid. Keep in mind that you might not get paid during those months you’re not attending school!
Do your budget before school starts. You’ll be busy trying to finish assignments and take exams. You don’t need the added stress of money problems.
Start Using Your Benefits Now
You’ve earned your veterans education benefits. Now, it’s time to get started!
Don’t wait! Find a college or trade school, and start using your education benefits, today.
Looking for more advice? Contact us, here.