By Elizabeth Exline
One commonly cited benefit of serving in the military is the notion that the government will “pay for college.” To some extent, this is true. But why? How? And what exactly is involved? Let’s take a look!
The first GI Bill was passed in 1944 based on the estimate that some 16 million service members would be unemployed after World War II. Concern arose that so many people looking for a job at once would flood the market and cause another economic depression. The solution? The GI Bill, which provided job counseling, employment services and tuition assistance (among other benefits) for honorably discharged veterans.
The GI Bill expired in 1956, and not much happened with it until 1984. That’s when Mississippi Representative Gillespie Montgomery introduced legislation to extend veteran benefits during peacetime. This became known as the Montgomery GI Bill, and it still helps pay for education and training programs for eligible candidates, although it will expire in 2030. (One requirement is that service members have spent at least two years on active duty.)
In 2008, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, or Post-9/11 GI Bill, was signed into law. It expanded benefits for military service members who served on active duty after September 10, 2001.
The bill also created the Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps fund higher education for qualifying service members at out-of-state institutions, private schools, foreign schools and graduate schools by covering fees and tuition that the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t pay for.
The Post-9/11 Bill had a deadline built into it: Veterans had 15 years to either use their benefits or transfer them to their dependents. In 2017, that timeline was eliminated as part of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, or the Forever GI Bill.
Each bill offered or offers qualified service members and veterans a path forward to higher education. And that can be life changing for some. As Eric Ryan, senior director of military operations at University of Phoenix, notes: “Education can be the difference-maker for a veteran looking to transition into a meaningful and rewarding career after service. I personally feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to use my GI Bill benefits to earn a bachelor’s degree after completing my military service. It was instrumental in achieving the success that I have found in my career.”
To be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you must:
Some service members and veterans are eligible for the full education benefit of the Post-9/11 GI Bill while others may receive a percentage. The deciding factor? How long you’ve been in service after 9/11.
Those who have served on active duty for at least 36 months, who served on active duty and received a Purple Heart on or after Sept. 11, 2001, or who were discharged because of a service-connected disability after 30 or more days of continuous service are all eligible for 100% of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers the kind of assistance that can make a difference for adults considering higher education. Education benefits, including the full cost of public school, in-state tuition, is covered by the bill, while private and foreign school tuition is covered up to a certain limit. (Rates are updated each year.)
Additional funding is provided for:
The Post-9/11 GI Bill can be applied to other endeavors as well. Vocational training, apprenticeships, flight training, test fees, entrepreneurship training and other options are available to qualifying veterans and service members.
While the Forever GI Bill eliminated the 15-year deadline previously included in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, it only applies to veterans whose service ended on or after Jan. 1, 2013. For those whose last discharge predates 2013, the use-it-or-lose-it provision applies.
Qualifying service members may also elect to transfer all or some of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a spouse or dependents. Some higher education institutions, such as University of Phoenix, also offer military rates to service members and their spouses.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Forever GI Bill offer compelling incentives for military service members and veterans to pursue higher education as they transition into civilian life. While the details can become specific, especially about service in the Reserves, the payoff can be well worth the research.
For more information about benefits or the monthly housing allowance or to check eligibility, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by the VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.
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