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4 Life Hacks for GI Bill Benefits

The GI Bill is one of the best benefits of being a military member and a primary reason many join the military! These programs were designed to help service members, Veterans, and families reach their education goals. As your transition out of the military approaches, determining your full education benefits and how you want to use them should be a top priority. We’ve provided key insights from transitioned Veterans and spouses on helpful hacks to make this process easier.

Know Your Career Path

The Post-9/11 and Montgomery GI Bills offer 36 months of education benefits, but that time goes by quickly! We suggest mitigating the headache of changing majors several times during your education by having a solid understanding of your career path. The last thing you’ll want to do is get mid-way through your benefits to realize you aren’t satisfied with the career program you originally selected! VA’s Education and Career Counseling program is a great opportunity for Service Members, Veterans and dependents to get personalized counseling and support to help guide their career paths.

HACK ALERT: The VA also offers an aptitude test at no cost to all eligible benefit recipients. CareerScope can be used by Veterans to determine the best career path for transition to civilian life. You will be provided with an assessment of your interests and aptitudes, and given recommendations about which careers you may enjoy and be successful doing, along with suggested courses and trainings associated with those careers. By using these helpful tools, you can ensure the most effective use of your VA benefits and achieve your goals.

Find Out Which VA Benefits You are Eligible

Some might find they’re eligible for several types of VA education and training benefits, but there are many things to consider before applying for a GI Bill program. The most popular option is the Post-9/11 GI Bill, offered to those who have served on active duty for 90 or more days after Sept. 10, 2001. To qualify for the full benefit a Veteran must have served at least three years of active duty after September 10, 2001. The payment rate depends on how much active duty time a member has in service. The second most popular education benefit option is the  Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD) This is offered to active duty members who enroll and pay $100 per month for 12 months and are then entitled to receive a monthly education benefit once they have completed a minimum service obligation. It is important to note that if you’re eligible for more than one education benefit, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill, you must choose which benefit to receive, a decision that’s final and cannot be changed.

HACK ALERT: The VA offers a GI Bill Comparison Tool to make it easier to research colleges and employers approved for the GI Bill. By answering a few questions about yourself and the intended educational institution you’re considering, you’ll receive an estimate of your GI Bill benefits; providing you with information about the facility’s value and affordability.

Transfer to Dependents

Spouses and family members may also be eligible for education and training assistance. In fact, 25 percent of those benefiting from VAs education programs are non-Veterans. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, servicemembers are able to transfer all or some unused benefits to their spouse or dependent children. While in the armed forces, servicemembers can transfer their benefits using the Transfer of Education Benefits (TEB) website to designate, modify, and revoke a Transfer of Entitlement (TOE) request.

HACK ALERT: The request to transfer unused GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents must be completed while serving as an active member of the Armed Forces. All transfer requests are submitted and approved while the member is in the armed forces.  Please do not wait until you are on Veteran status to make this change! You will not be able to transfer benefits after transitioning to your civilian career.

Yellow Ribbon Schools

For those of you who decide to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit, it’s important to note that your actual tuition & fees may exceed the amount paid for by the GI Bill; especially if you are attending a private school or are attending a public school as a nonresident student. The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays only the lower of the actual tuition & fees or the national maximum per academic. To mitigate these extra fees, several Degree Granting Institutions (colleges and university) participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program to make additional funds available for your education program without an additional charge to your GI Bill entitlement. These institutions voluntarily enter into a Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA and choose the amount of tuition and fees that will be contributed. The VA matches that amount and issues payments directly to the institution. To receive benefits under the Yellow Ribbon Program you must be eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

HACK ALERT: Many Yellow Ribbon schools have a VA Benefits coordinator within their registrar office. These coordinators are employed by the university to support and encourage all students using VA education benefits. They can also assist you with military call-ups, leave of absences, and transferring credit for military service; plus promote Veteran-focused events on campus.